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"Empowering, So Brave": Trans Activists Praise Chelsea Manning, Raise Fears over Prison Conditions

Manning's announcement has raised many issues about how she will be treated in military prison, whether she will have access to hormone therapy and broader issues about transgender rights.
 
 
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Photo Credit: http://gawker.com/army-releases-photo-of-wikileaker-bradley-manning-in-wi-1149171595

 
 
 
 

The following content originally appeared on Democracy Now!

One day after a military judge handed down a 35-year sentence for leaking classified U.S. files to WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning announced a gender transition to female under the name Chelsea Manning. "As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me," Manning said. "I am Chelsea Manning. I am a 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." The announcement has raised many issues about how Manning will be treated in military prison, whether she will have access to hormone therapy and broader issues about transgender rights. We’re joined by two guests: Lauren McNamara, a transgender activist in Florida who became an online confidant of Manning in 2009 and later testified at the military trial; and Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

Amy Goodman: We turn now to the case of Chelsea Manning, the Army whistleblower known to the world up until yesterday as Bradley Manning. One day after a military judge handed down a 35-year sentence, Manning announced plans live as a woman under the name Chelsea Manning. Manning said, "As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use [the feminine] pronoun."

The announcement has raised many issues about how Manning will be treated in military prison, whether she will have access to hormone therapy and broader issues about transgender rights. A spokeswoman at Fort Leavenworth said treatment for transgender prisoners does not extend beyond psychiatric care. Kimberly Lewis said, quote, "The Army does not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for gender identity disorder."

To talk more about Chelsea Manning’s decision and its significance, we’re joined by two guests. In Orlando, we’re joined by Lauren McNamara, a transgender activist in Florida and online confidant of Private Manning. In 2009, McNamara and Manning spent about 15 hours chatting with each other online over the course of six months after Manning came across McNamara’s YouTube channel. McNamara later testified at Manning’s trial. She recently wrote a  blog post called the "The Humanity of Private Manning." And we’re joined by Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project.

Lauren and Chase, we welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let’s begin with Lauren. So you have known Chelsea when she was Bradley. Talk about how you first got in touch, Lauren, and the relationship that you had online.

Lauren McNamara: Well, she first got in touch with me in February of 2009 after viewing my videos on YouTube. She contacted me first, and we spoke over AOL Instant Messenger for a period of several months. She was mostly interested in my videos about politics, religion, LGBT issues, and she felt we shared a similar mindset on these issues. And so, we spoke at length about that. She opened up to me about her history, her dealings with her family, her troubles in school, and her decision to join the military and her role as an intelligence analyst. And we spoke at length about that job and how she enjoyed it and how it was working out for her.