Manning receives prison sentence, audience for identity crisis
Bradley Manning wrote a letter to the president this week. The dishonorably discharged private first class also received a jail sentence, a pardon date and an audience for an identity shift.
“As I transition into this new phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me,” Manning wrote. “I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female.”
Surprise. It’s a statement she’d intended to make before her actual sentencing, but her lawyer figured Manning should’ve kept to herself. And it’s hard to blame him. While Manning certainly isn’t the first soldier to be diagnosed with gender identity disorder, it’s safe to say she’s the most high-profile American defendant pending an appeal after multiple charges of espionage to request a transgender identity overhaul.
Morality issues for her leaks aside, the gesture’s pretty significant. Imagine you’ve been tasked with determining the fate of a person deemed the largest leaker of government documents in the millennium. You’ve had more than three years to garner your evidence and gather your bearings. There’s a decision to be made, and you’ve taken your time getting there. But come court time, you find the one thing you took for granted wasn’t exactly stable after all. The accused defendant is a woman.
On the other hand, it’s also a testament to the fault in assumptions. In April 2010, Manning sent an email to a sergeant saying, “This is my problem. I have had signs of it for a very long time.” She sent it with a photograph of herself in a blonde wig and lipstick (a copy of which is more than readily available around online). Manning was arrested a month after the testaments, and found herself convicted of espionage, fraud and theft.
Manning’s been sentenced to serve at Fort Leavenworth. Its spokesman, George Marec, has said hormone therapy isn’t something she should plan on. Incidentally, “The Army doesn’t provide sex reassignment surgery or hormone therapy.”
Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, told the “Today” show he would consider seeking suit for the therapy. Jeffrey Parsons, a psychology professor at Hunter College, has posited that Manning might be better off seeking a transfer to a civilian prison elsewhere, and Marec compounded his statement with the notion that Manning would officially remain Bradley until a legal distinction was acquired.
Whether Chelsea, Bradley, Bennett, or Brandy, Manning has a sentence to serve. How she self-identifies is not the issue. The issues were her actions, which have been addressed in a court of her peers. With her transgressions established, how one addresses an individual should be determined by the individual in question, irrespective of your personal convictions.
That’s called respect. Imagine if it were you.
Senior staff columnist Bryan Washington is an English junior and may be reached at [email protected]