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Guest Post: Will Chelsea Manning Get People Talking About Trans* Issues?

The following post is a guest post from Marci. Marci is a 23-year-old transgender woman from the UK who creates music, is an equality activist, runs a support group, and a gammer in her free time. She can be found on Twitter @MarciHawkins.

If you had asked a trans* person about Manning over the last couple of years, there was a good chance they would have told you she is trans. This was confirmed on the 22nd of August when she released a statement asking to henceforth be known as Chelsea E. Manning and for female pronouns to be used. There had been reports and rumors of this for a long time. In May 2010, she told Adrian Lamo that she was pending discharge for “adjustment disorder” in lieu of “gender identity disorder.”

Not only does her trial raise questions on whistleblowing and the actions of other soldiers and the US government, it also now raises questions on the US military’s exclusion of trans* people and the ability to transition behind bars and serve time in the correct prison.

Because of the high profile of her case, many are hoping that debates on these issues will take place with the ultimate goal being to allow trans* people to transition in prison and openly serve in the military.

Manning has been sentenced to serve 35 years at Ft. Leavenworth, whose spokeswoman Kimberly Lewis said:

The Army does not provide hormone therapy (HRT) or sex-reassignment surgery (SRS) for gender identity disorder.

Hormones can completely change someone’s life. From personal experience as a trans woman, it is not just the physical effects that make them life changing, but also the changes they can make to someone’s mental wellbeing. If you are able to talk to a trans person on HRT, they will tell you what is it like to have to wait while jumping through the hoops set up by the gatekeepers of transition in the medical profession.

The thought of Manning having to spend ten to thirty five years in a male prison before the comfort of HRT is truly horrifying. Here is a person who has struggled with her identity for 25 years, who has finally come to terms with herself and expressed her desire to transition but has a long wait ahead of her. Not to mention the media coverage over the last three years using her previous name and pronouns, a decision she made as to get as fair a trial as possible and not have her trans status eclipse the war crimes she uncovered.

Despite stating her desires, the media are still mostly using her previous name and pronouns.

What sort of world will Chelsea walk out into after she has served her time? Will she be largely forgotten by the public or will she be the catalyst for social change in many different ways?

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Will is the admin of Queereka, part of the Skepchick network. They are a cultural/medical anthropologist who works at the intersections of sex/gender, sexuality, health, and education. Their other interests include politics, science studies, popular culture, and public perceptions and understandings of anthropology. Follow them on Twitter at @anthrowill and Facebook at

1 Comment

  1. August 24, 2013 at 6:02 pm —

    oh people are talking about trans issues alright

    and as usual every time this comes up, i’m not entirely sure this is a good thing 🙁

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