90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Thursday, August 22, 2013

‘I Am Chelsea’: Bradley Manning Wants To Live As A Woman

This undated photo provided by the U.S. Army shows Pfc. Bradley Manning wearing a wig and lipstick. (U.S. Army)

This undated photo provided by the U.S. Army shows Pfc. Bradley Manning wearing a wig and lipstick. (U.S. Army)

Through his lawyer, Bradley Manning released a statement this morning explaining his plans to live the remainder of his life as a female.

Bradley Manning, pictured here on Aug. 16, 2013, plans to live as a woman named Chelsea. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Bradley Manning, pictured here on Aug. 16, 2013, plans to live as a woman named Chelsea. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Referring to himself as “Chelsea,” Manning wants to “begin hormone therapy as soon as possible.”

The statement comes one day after the Army private was sentenced to 35 years in prison for sending classified military and diplomatic documents, as well as battlefield footage, to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

Currently, Fort Leavenworth — the military prison where Manning will serve his sentence — does not provide hormone therapy treatment.

Lawyers had presented evidence of Manning’s struggle with gender identity during his trial.




The military is confronting gender issues. In a few minutes, benefits for same-sex married couples - they begin soon. But first, Bradley Manning has asked to spend a 35-year prison term as a woman. The Army private who leaked classified documents to WikiLeaks said in a written statement today: I am Chelsea Manning, I am female. Given the way that I feel and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible.

His lawyer, David Coombs, told the "Today" show this was just the right moment for this announcement.

DAVID COOMBS: Chelsea didn't want to have this be something that overshadowed the case, wanted to wait until the case was done to move forward to the next stage of her life.

YOUNG: Adam Klasfeld, a reporter at Courthouse News, covered the Manning trial at Fort Meade in Maryland, and joins us by Skype for a look at gender identity disorder, which - a warning - may not be an appropriate conversation for all ears.

But Adam, it was a part of Manning's defense - not gay, but someone feeling like a woman trapped in a man's body. The time will be served at Fort Leavenworth, in Kansas. What have prison officials there said about the request?

ADAM KLASFELD: Fort Leavenworth's spokesperson had announced to Courthouse News a couple days before the trial that they do not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery.

YOUNG: We should note that Fort Leavenworth is an all-male prison, and the only maximum-security military prison in the country. So this is an awkward situation for the military because they have an incoming inmate to an all-male prison, who has said she sees herself as a woman.

KLASFELD: Yes, and it presents a very difficult road for Manning. One of the things that is known about Fort Leavenworth is that more than half of Fort Leavenworth inmates are in there for sex-related offenses. This is a particular problem in transgender prison populations. There's a California study that transgender people in all-male prisons are at a heightened risk of rape.

YOUNG: OK, well, we'll take that up in a second, what that means. But meanwhile, put this in context. What is happening with this request across the country, outside of military prisons?

KLASFELD: Well, a growing number of federal jurisdictions, both in district courts and appellate courts, have found that not giving transgender inmates hormone therapy, or sex-reassignment surgery, constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. The Fourth Circuit - which is the circuit governing, in fact, Maryland, where Manning was tried - is basically subject to a recent federal court decision, Fourth Circuit decision, saying that all transgender inmates who require that surgery must be able to obtain it.

In Boston, there is a rather sensational case of a convicted wife killer who a federal judge had ordered be allowed to transition to female and obtain sex-reassignment surgery. That decision is currently being heard by that appellate court. There's another appellate court ruling in the Chicago-based circuit, which also ruled that transgender prisoners have the right to hormone-replacement therapy. It struck down the Wisconsin law that was trying to ban that practice. So there's a growing tide throughout the country, saying that such care is a basic medical right to prisoners.

YOUNG: Well, as you write, these judges that have ruled in this way say that rejecting such a treatment for transgender prisoners constitutes cruel and unusual punishment because in particular, in the case of the hormone therapy, it is seen as - well, you quote one transgender as saying it's the best antidepressant, anti-anxiety drug I've ever been on. It's seen as a medical need.

KLASFELD: Absolutely, and the woman who I quoted there was Lauren McNamara. Now, she was a witness in Manning's defense. And she was speaking from her experience there; that this was something that she compared to denying blood pressure medication to someone with a heart condition.

YOUNG: Well, and we just want to point out that - again - Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, explained that he is not asking for the sex-reassignment surgery at this time. He is asking, he - or she, I suppose, is asking for the hormone-replacement therapy. But again, Fort Leavenworth officials say they do not provide that. What do you think happens next?

KLASFELD: It seems to be that attorney David Coombs is talking about an upcoming fight to force the prison, if necessary, to provide it. So we might see a lawsuit to see if military prisons will be the next location where we'll see prisons providing medical care to transgender prisoners.

YOUNG: Well, it's something the military is very aware of. As you point out, there are new studies that suggest that transgender civilians are twice as likely to enlist; some of them thinking that if they enlist in the military, maybe that will change the way they feel. Transgender veterans, 20 times more likely to commit suicide. And the military has organized some task forces to address the issue of transgenders in the military.

KLASFELD: This development comes at a time when the Pentagon is really trying to become more inclusive to the LGBT community. One footnote to that, a couple of months ago, the Pentagon celebrated LGBT Pride Month - with the T included. So if the Pentagon wants to assert itself as friendly to the LGBT community, it's going to have to reconsider a lot of the transgender policies that are currently on the books, both in the military and in their prisons.

YOUNG: And including that the military officially bans transgenders from serving. It's under a medical restriction.

KLASFELD: Yes, the same medical restrictions shoehorn transgender identity into voyeurism and many other categories that a lot of people in the transgender community find offensive.

YOUNG: Adam Klasfeld, reporter for Courthouse News, speaking to us by Skype on the news today that Army Private Bradley Manning now wants to be referred to as Chelsea, and wants to live out her prison time - 35 years - as a woman. Adam, thank you.

KLASFELD: Thank you so much for having me.

YOUNG: Well, the military is also responding to gay marriage. Benefits start soon for married, same-sex couple; and the military is helping couples who want to get married by giving them extra leave so they can travel to places where they can legally get married.


And by the way, Robin, each service member - according to the military - is only permitted one such marriage leave in their career. So forget about the idea of getting married, then coming back; getting divorced, and going - getting married again. It's not going to happen. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

    Woke up, it was a Chelsea Manning
    And the first thing that I heard
    Was a Robin on the radio
    And this is what she said …

  • Mark in Ohio

    Is it any wonder that many Americans feel their representatives and judicial representatives are disconnected from them, and that prisons are FAR too easy on prisoners? Courts ordering that convicts be provided optional medicines at taxpayer expense. Hormone therapy won’t keep the person from dieing. How many senior citizens can’t get LIFE SUSTAINING medicines. How many working class people forgo optional medical treatments because they can’t afford it? How many working class people put off needed medical treatments for serious issues because they can’t afford it. Treatment for mental issues is out of the realm of most working class Americans. The only way convict scum should have access to elective medicine is if they can afford it OUT OF THEIR OWN POCKET, like the rest of us! If Manning wants to live life as a woman, give him a steak knife and a band-aid, and tell him to have at it. Once a prisoner gets out, they are free to obtain whatever they can afford, but while in prison, they should be on life sustaining treatments ONLY.

    • PJ

      It is attitudes like this that give Americans a bad reputation.

    • lexpublius

      This does NOT prove prisons are easy on prisoners. It is not supposed to be a gulag. I think prisons are too harsh on people judging from stories of people wrongfully convicted and rightfully convicted. And about two decades after Jack Abbott’s book “In the Belly of the Beast,” detailing torture in prison, it’s still not too far from his portrait of prison life. WE NEED LESS PRISONers and Eric Holder (Atty-Gen, USA) is right about that.

      The news media largely ignore the tens of thousands of prisoner petitions filed in Court in which the prisoners are routinely DENIED necessary medical care, early release due to severe medical problems, etc. And why are so many Americans imprisoned in the sham war on drugs? To siphon money into the cronies who own privatized prisons, that’s why. SHAME ON Americans for letting this go on.

      Americans are the meanest so-called ‘Christians’ when they yelp for harsher prisons and harsher sentencing. Where is the golden rule in that attitude???

      • Mark in Ohio

        I think we agree on more than you believe. I agree that we need FAR fewer prisoners, and our legal system is a broken mess. Far too many people are basically kicked out of society for minimal offenses. I personally believe our legal system is a tool of those with money or power to keep the rest of us in control, with the concept of justice only a passing acquaintance of the system (when convenient). That said, much of what is called “overly harsh” treatment is a far below a reasonable standard of harsh. In fact, I’d say it’s softer than what many Americans live with on a regular basis. Prison should be a miserable experience that you would do ANYTHING to avoid returning to.

        What I DON’T believe is that prisoners should have access to resources and opportunities that are UNAVAILABLE to the normal, working-class person. How many people can’t afford treatments for diabetes and heart disease? There is absolutely no way you can justify a convicted felon having access to medical treatments that someone working 40+ hours a week in occupations like cleaning buildings or serving food can only dream of. We should take care of their basic medical needs and maintain life, so once they leave, they are fit to work and provide for themselves. Optional and extensive medical treatments that are not needed to sustain life should only be provided if the prisoner can pay for them.

  • lexpublius

    He looks almost as ugly as Chelsea Clinton who looks like her dad, President Bill Clinton in drag.

  • PJ

    “…He or she I suppose…” Come on, Here and Now. Could you have at least tried to respect Chelsea Manning’s wishes and use female pronouns consistently? As I listened to the segment I couldn’t help but notice the blatant disregard. I expect better from NPR than the disrespectful and outright offense segment covering Chelsea Manning. I’m really disappointed.

    • rogger2

      “blatant disregard”… “disrespectful and outright offense segment” are a bit over the top.

      Robin tried to use female pronouns consistently and I only noticed one slip up which I would say is not too bad considering the fluidity of the story.

      I thought H&N was more than respectful during this segment.

  • Campbell

    Rude Robin, I can’t believe you would use your personal bias intentionally to lead listeners to disrespect people and their identity. I am totally shocked that the “he….or she …I suppose” was put into this piece. As a radio editor I know how much time is put into each segment and how critical the editing decisions are at NPR. Not a fan.

  • JonathanS

    Why the warning, “This may not be appropriate for all ears.” Unless you
    are talking about explicit sex acts or extreme violence why put the
    warning? It is a real medical disorder that is recognized by the
    APA. Would you put the disclaimer on when you are speaking
    about people
    who are depressed or bipolar and seek therapy? Just because people are
    uncomfortable with a subject matter does
    not mean that the warning should be used. In addition, it has the
    inadvertent effect of placing a negative connotation on those who are
    transgender and only further marginalize them.

  • LN

    No. Flat out~ NO. I agree with those who consider OUR tax dollars being spent on basic healthcare for prisoners…..BASIC – Voluntary surgery of any type? NO.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

September 15 26 Comments

A Call To Reject Corporal Punishment As Part Of Black Culture

An incident of child abuse by an NFL player has raised questions about the use of corporal punishment as a form of discipline in the African-American community.

September 15 26 Comments

Would You Pay To Get Your Kid Into A Top College?

A San Francisco company charges parents for a consulting package based on the odds their student will get into a certain university, with prices up to a million dollars.

September 12 9 Comments

Senator: Arab Countries ‘Need To Step To The Plate’ In Fight Against ISIS

Mark Begich (D-AK) is one of the few members of Congress speaking out against a key part of President Obama's plan for fighting the Islamic State.

September 12 Comment

Ecuadorian Drilling Damage Inspires Documentary

An American and an Ecuadorian are inspired to help Ecuador heal from decades of drilling and oil spills.