Thursday morning, Chelsea Manning came out as a transgender woman. Following her announcement, a military spokesman stated that the Army will not provide gender affirming healthcare for Ms. Manning, which raises significant constitutional concerns. The national ACLU writes:
"Gender dysphoria is a serious medical condition in which a person's gender identity does not correspond to his or her assigned sex at birth, and hormone therapy is part of the accepted standards of care for this condition. Without the necessary treatment, gender dysphoria can cause severe psychological distress, including anxiety and suicide. When the government holds individuals in its custody, it must provide them with medically necessary care."
You can read more by ACLU staff attorney Chase Strangio here.
The military's immediate and public declaration that Ms. Manning will not be able to access appropriate healthcare is a reflection of systemic transphobia. One need not look far to find examples of transphobia entrenched in our society. Indeed, most news outlets reporting the Manning story today used male pronouns to refer to Ms. Manning while simultaneously quoting her statement specifying her preference for female pronouns. (See: Reuters, New York Times, the BBC, Politico, the Wall Street Journal, NPR and the Bangor Daily News to name a few.)
Public discussion of Ms. Manning's decision to come out quickly trivialized the timing of her announcement as "convenient" - implying that Ms. Manning came out as a ploy to land in a women's prison. It is important to recognize that trans people face escalated levels of violence and harassment in prisons, both at the hands of fellow inmates and correctional staff. Many trans people find themselves thrown in solitary confinement in the name of their own safety.
Finally, there was much media and public fascination with what medical treatment Ms. Manning might seek as a trans woman. Like with any other medical care, Ms. Manning's decision whether or not to pursue any course of treatement, related to her gender or not, is properly between Ms. Manning and her provider - no matter who is footing the bill. Just as other inmates have the right to recieve or refuse medical interventions for physical and mental health issues, so does Chelsea Manning.