Military prisoner Chelsea Manning, who was born Bradley Manning, has asked courts for the right to be identified as a female by legally changing her name and beginning a course of hormone therapy in prison, Time reported. The controversy has people wondering how the U.S Army will treat America’s most famous transgender prisoner. If the courts rule in her favor, it may mean that the U.S Army has to revise its stance on transgender soldiers and prisoners.
The Army private was convicted of sending military and diplomatic secrets to WikiLeaks. Manning was diagnosed by an Army behavioral specialist as having gender dysphoria, or gender identity disorder. Transgender is defined as "a spectrum of individuals whose identity or lived experiences do not conform to the identity or experiences historically associated with sex at birth," according to the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online. However, military prisons do not currently provide resources for transgender inmates.
Manning not only wishes to both have her name legally changed to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning but is also asking to receive hormone treatment while serving out her sentence. Civilian federal prisons are required to provide an evaluation to determine if treatment is necessary. Transgender inmates are also allowed to dress and live in the gender they choose, as long as it is in compliance with their medical treatment plans. The 1976 case of Estelle v Gamble is the main grounding for treatment of transgender prisoners in civilian prisons. It ruled that not accommodating to a prisoner’s serious medical needs is a violation of an inmate’s 8th amendment to be free from cruel and unusual. However, because the Pentagon does not allow transgender soldiers to serve in the armed forces, military prisons do not allow inmates to receive hormone treatment.
On April 23rd a hearing of whether Pfc. Bradley Manning will be legally allowed to change her name to Chelsea. Afterward, if necessary, Chelsea will go to court with her request to receive hormone treatment and challenge the constitutionality of the U.S Army. “Today the gay and lesbian people are accepted. Their families are welcome where they serve. This is not so for transgender people in anyway,” Alyson Robinson former executive direct at OutServe-SLDN said in an interview posted on PBS. However, the outcome of this case could not only affect the treatment of transgender people in the army, but throughout America as well.
Source: Simopoulos EF, Khin Khin E. Fundamental Principles Inherent in the Comprehensive Care of Transgender Inmates. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. 2014.