By Michael Nam
The imprisoned Chelsea Manning has had some victories lately. The U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals has just ordered the military to stop using male pronouns or the soldier’s former name in reference to Manning. While the court did state it would retain old references as a matter of historic fact, it did specify how Manning is to be addressed going forward.
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.
The U.S. government had insisted on referring to Manning by masculine pronouns, even going so far as submitting a challenge to the motion just upheld by the Army Court. The attorneys for the government stubbornly submitted that “unless directed otherwise by this honourable court, the government intends to refer to [Manning] using masculine pronouns.”
Manning’s attorney, Chase Strangio, addressed the government’s challenge in a statement.
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. 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.
Despite the hostility of the military, Chelsea Manning also fought for and won the right to receive hormone therapy as part of her transition. The two concessions that Manning has been able to wrestle from the military come in light of the difficulties transgender individuals face throughout much of the nation, as Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, stated:
As our national study shows, discrimination is pervasive and severe toward transgender and gender non-conforming people. The alarming personal stories and stats show that transgender people face injustice everywhere and in many ways.