'We exist:' Chelsea Manning speaks for transgender people
From Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, where she is serving a 35-year prison sentence for her role with anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, Manning wrote a column published by the Guardian this week which aims to raise awareness of trans rights — or the lack thereof — currently in the US.
Since being sentenced last year following a lengthy court-martial, Manning has come out as a trans woman, legally changed her name from Bradley to Chelsea, and has authored a handful of editorials published by the likes of the New York Times and the Guardian — the very outlets that collaborated with WikiLeaks to report on the classified military and State Dept. documents pilfered by Manning while she served as a US Army intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2009 and 2010.
In her latest offering, Manning acknowledges that it's clear Americans continue to protest in cities and towns around the country to achieve equality. However, she says little has been done to preserve the rights of trans people.
In the Guardian, Chelsea Manning, whose heroism is ongoing, writes of the violations of her rights as a trans woman http://t.co/hbIgvIKpG3
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) December 8, 2014
“There’s a lot of unfinished business when it comes to protecting civil rights for many people. That fight is visible in every story about activists pushing for comprehensive US immigration reform. It’s obvious when protesters take to the streets after white police officers kill unarmed people of color and face few if any consequences, as in the recent cases of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson and Eric Garner’s death in New York,” Manning wrote.
“The fight for justice for the transgender community is largely invisible to our fellow citizens, despite the rampant systematic discrimination of trans people – those whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.”
Manning pointed out that simple administrative processes can become needlessly tangled for trans people, such as applying for basic identification cards, when their gender status cannot be defined by a simple check mark.
“Unfortunately, it seems to me that when it comes to issues affecting the trans community, most people who are cisgender – a word describing those people whose gender identity is in alignment with the sex they were assigned at birth – focus too much on the administrative, legal and medical aspects of trans identity. Such a focus on these institutional definitions of gender is constricting, and too often it leads to difficult obstacles for most trans people,” added Manning.
“Despite bureaucratic assumptions, we exist,” she added. “We shouldn’t have to keep defending our right to exist.”
— mary Grainne Uaile (@condaeanclar) December 6, 2014
Previously, Manning has written from Ft. Leavenworth for both the Guardian and New York Times about the latest war in Iraq. Manning was working outside of Baghdad as an intelligence analyst half a decade ago when she began copying classified documents from the military's computer networks that were later shared with WikiLeaks.
In Monday's column, Manning acknowledges that, although she wanted to identify then as female, trans soldiers are “banned from serving our country in the armed services unless we serve as trans people in secret.” In May, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said the Pentagon would soon consider reviewing that prohibition.