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Some think Bradley "Chelsea" Manning is a "gay hero", as this poster reads.  (Source: Truth Dig)
Manning's lawyer says gender issue is medical treatment, to deny request would be unethical

He's been convicted of one of the biggest leaks of confidential government information in the history of the U.S.  He's been sentenced to 35 years in prison, with the possibility of parole in 6 and 1/2 years, with time served.  But even as the debate over the young former U.S. Private First Class (PFC) continues, Mr. Manning has issued a statement triggering a brand new debate.

I. Manning: Call Me Chelsea

At a press conference after the sentencing, David Coombs, Manning's lawyer remarked, "[And we are looking into] ensuring that a soldier who is in confinement who has gender dysphoria gets treatment."

That subtle comment might have been lost amidst the interest in his flashy comments about Manning's innocence and his bid for a presidential pardon.  But on Thursday Mr. Coombs read a statement from Manning revealing just how serious the leaker is about his desire to undergo gender reassignment.


His attorney read the letter on NBC's TODAY show, which read in part:

I am Chelsea Manning. I am female.  Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition.

I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility).  I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.

He signed the letter "Chelsea E. Manning"

Bradley Manning sign
Convicted leaker Bradley Manning, asked to be refered to as Chelsea and want taxpayer funded sex change surgery while he/she is imprisoned. [Image Source: BradleyManning.org]

It should be noted that Mr. Manning, openly gay since his teen years, was bullied over his sexuality in the military and at the time of his 2010 arrest was reportedly pursuing sex change options.  He cited the bullying and his gender confusion as part of his motivation for leaking military secrets in a February plea deal, while asserting that his primary motivation was a belief that the leaks would help change the world view on U.S. public policys.  He admitted in an apology on Wednesday that his actions were naive and had unintentionally harmed the nation he vowed to serve.

II. Does Eighth Amendment Require Taxpayer Funded Sex Changes for Inmates

To say that Mr. Manning's request is controversial is an understatement.  Even some transgender advocates are decrying the request, as it would give the dishonorably discharged convicted criminal privileges that the U.S. military denies those who are serving and are honorably discharged.

Currently, the U.S. Military's policy is not to pay for the actual operative part of gender reassignment.  It does provide discrete sexuality counseling, and since President Obama's rollback of "don't ask don't tell" has allowed gay/transgender individuals to enlist.  The Department of Veterans Affairs additionally provides hormone treatments for honorably discharged soldiers -- an elective procedure not offered to to active servicepeople.

But in the general U.S. prison system there's some momentum to force taxpayers to pay for inmates sex reassignment surgeries.  With some experts claiming it's a simple matter of medical ethics, the fight is likely to eventually be taken up by the Supreme Court.  The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which sets precedent for South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia in January overturned a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia to toss Virginia inmate Ophelia Azriel De'Lonta's lawsuit seeking gender reassignment.  

Ophelia De'Lonta
Ophelia De'Lonta, a Virginia inmate who was born male and identifies as a female, won his/her case to have a Viriginia Federal Court reconsider overturning a state ruling that sex reassignment should be taxpayer funded. [Image Source: AP]

A state judge had previously order that the inmate -- who threatened to seriously injure himself/herself otherwise via self-castration if sex reassignment was not provided -- receive the requested surgeries/therapies.  But the federal court tossed the case.  Now it will be forced to debate the issue on the grounds of the finalclause of the Eight Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

De'Lonta is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

According to The Encyclopedia of Surgery a male to female sex reassignment costs between $7,000 to $24,000 USD, while a female to male sex reassignment costs over $50,000 USD.  Other expensive inmate surgeries have been paid for by taxpayers for over two decades, such as plastic surgery.

Prison population  U.S. prison population
The U.S. is number one in imprisonment. [Image Source: Prospect.org]

Any new treatment allowance to inmates is a big deal from a taxation and federal budget perspective, as the U.S. imprisons a higher percentage of its citizens than any other nation in the world.

Sources: Bradley "Chelsea" Manning, NBC TODAY Show



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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By Master Kenobi (blog) on 8/22/2013 8:48:15 PM , Rating: 2
Not surprising. The Army isn't going to bend over backwards for this clown, his lawyer is barking up the wrong tree if he thinks he can force them to give this guy what he wants.

He is a prisoner.
He is serving a prison sentence for his crime.
He will serve that sentence for up to 35 years.
He will not get any sort of special treatment.
He can have his gender change AFTER he serves his time for his crime.


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