Army court orders military to stop calling Chelsea Manning a man

U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning (Reuters / Handout)
The Army Court of Criminal Appeals has ordered the military to stop referring to jailed WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning as a man in court papers and orders.

Manning, a US Army intelligence analyst currently serving a 35-year prison sentence for passing classified documents and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, had previously asked the military to stop using male pronouns when referring to her, but the request was fought in court. Manning, 27, was born Bradley Manning but came out as a transgender woman in 2013.

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The court ruled on Thursday that “future formal papers filed before this court and all future orders and decisions issued by this court shall either be neutral, e.g., Private First Class Manning or appellant, or employ a feminine pronoun.”

Nancy Hollander, Manning’s lead attorney, applauded the court's decision.

“This is an important victory for Chelsea, who has been mistreated by the government for years,” she said in a statement. “Though only a small step in a long legal fight, my co-counsel, Vincent Ward, Captain Dave Hammond, and I are thrilled that Chelsea will be respected as the woman she is in all legal filings.”

In a Feb. 9 brief to the court, Army Capt. Daniel Goldberg argued for the government that Manning had provided no explanation of how her request would “serve the interest of justice.” Goldberg said the government wished to continue referring to the appeals case by the title of “Private First Class (E-3), BRADLEY E. MANNING (nka CHELSEA E. MANNING).”

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American Civil Liberties Union attorney Chase Strangio, who is representing Manning in her efforts to get medical treatment for gender dysphoria, also praised the court’s decision.

The court rightly recognized that dignifying Chelsea’s womanhood is not the trivial matter that the government attempted to frame it as. This is an important development in Chelsea’s fight for adequate medical care for her gender dysphoria,” said Strangio.

That fight continues but at least the government can no longer attempt to erase Chelsea’s identity by referring to her as male in every legal filing."

Last month, Manning was started on a regimen of hormone therapy – treatment that has been deemed medically necessary by medical professionals for over a year. However, the military continues to deny Chelsea’s request to grow her hair, a request consistent with the standards for female prisoners.

The ruling also comes at a time when military leaders may be poised to revisit the ban on transgender troops. Just weeks into his job, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said last month that he's “very open-minded” about transgender military personnel. The White House later endorsed Carter's comments.

An estimated 15,500 transgender people are already serving in the military in secret, according to a 2014 Williams Institute report.