Liberally yours: Chelsea Manning deserves her rights

Liberally Yours is a regular Daily Caller column featuring Thom Hartmann in conversation with libertarians and conservatives. This week he’s joined by TheDC’s opinion editor J. Arthur Bloom, to discuss Bradley Manning’s announced name and gender change. Here’s Thom:

Private Chelsea Manning — born Bradley Manning — has announced that she wants to live her life as woman. In a letter read live this morning on the TODAY show, just one day after she was sentenced to 35 years in military prison, Manning asked all news outlets to use female pronouns when talking about her. She wrote: “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 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.”

Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, says that he hopes the U.S. military will offer his client the hormone therapy she has requested. As of yet, the military has declined. Spokesperson Kimberly Lewis told NBC News that “the army does not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for gender identity disorder.” This is wrong morally, medically, and logically. Manning is in the military’s care now and it should grant her request for hormone therapy.

Gender dysphoria, the medical term for the behavior of someone, like Manning, whose gender identity does not match their physical sex, is a recognized medical condition. Prison officials would not deny someone with diabetes their insulin shots or someone with heart disease their cholesterol pills, and they shouldn’t deny Manning the hormone therapy she needs to be healthy. Her basic human rights to medical care do not end the moment she enters Fort Leavenworth to start her prison sentence.

In fact, in 2010, the federal Bureau of Prisons was forced after a lawsuit to change its gender identity treatment policy so that inmates – like Manning – who hadn’t received treatment before they entered prison could get it once they were there. The U.S. military is under a different set of rules than the federal Prison Bureau, but it should follow suit nonetheless.

Ultimately, however, this is a moral issue.  Manning has faced enough suffering already at the hands of the U.S. government. She was tortured and she endured over 100 straight days of solitary confinement for revealing other peoples’ war crimes, and could now spend up to three-and-a-half decades in prison. The least our military and government can do is make that time in prison easier than the brutality she often experienced during the past three years.

The United States military has made broad strides towards tolerance in recent years – gay soldiers can now serve openly, and women can join their male comrades in combat roles – but tolerance does not end when a soldier enters a military prison. In convicting Manning of leaking classified information, the U.S. military assumed responsibility for her. This is who Chelsea Manning is. Bradley Manning no longer exists and arguably never really did. Chelsea Manning is her real identity. And the U.S. military should respect that.