Chelsea Manning, the Wikileaks superstar we used to know as Bradley Manning, will now be referred to as “she” or a gender-neutral pronoun in all future court proceedings.
Josh Wolford reported earlier today on the court ruling that means that the U.S. military must stop referring to Manning as “he” or male.
“This is an important victory for Chelsea, who has been mistreated by the government for years,” said Manning’s attorney Nancy Hollander in a statement. “Though only a small step in a long legal fight, my co-counsel, Vincent Ward, Captain Dave Hammond, and I are thrilled that Chelsea will be respected as the woman she is in all legal filings.”
Manning fought for hormonal treatment in her transition to womanhood. She won that only after filing a lawsuit in September of last year.
“She brings this action to compel defendants to treat her serious medical needs consistent with their obligation under the Constitution,” said the lawsuit. Manning’s lawyers claimed that lack of hormonal treatment would cause Manning to “suffer continued pain, depression and anxiety” and that she “is at an extremely high risk of self-castration and suicidality.”
It took the DOD until February of this year to finally give in.
“After carefully considering the recommendation that (hormone treatment) is medically appropriate and necessary, and weighing all associated safety and security risks presented, I approve adding (hormone treatment) to Inmate Manning’s treatment plan,” wrote Col. Erica Nelson in a memo.
Manning’s fight — which has all but overshadowed the reason she is imprisoned in the first place — is yet another chapter in America’s struggle to find its place in the gender identity discussion. Other countries and cultures have made peace with this issue long ago. But America seems to want to fight this out on its own, as though the experience of no other cultures has any relevance to us.
One clue to America’s difficulty with gender identity issues lies in how we label it. While in the U.S. Army, Bradley Manning was diagnosed with “gender identity disorder”. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) calls this “gender dysphoria”. This term is more acceptable to transgendered persons in general because is only addresses the discontent that transgendered persons feel with the anatomical gender of their birth. Calling it a “disorder” stigmatizes and marginalizes people who honestly never felt comfortable with their own bodies.
Manning says she has felt female since childhood. This is a statement that many Americans are squeamish about. They say things like:
“If you have a penis, you are a man. End of story.”
“This must be a mental condition. Something is wrong with them in the head.”
And then there is the view of the matriarch of TV’s famous Duggar clan, Michelle Duggar, who opposed an ordinance about transgender bathroom rights be recording a robocall to voters that said transgenders are “males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female.” She said these are “men — yes I said men — [who want] to use womens’ and girls’ restrooms, locker rooms, showers, sleeping areas and other areas that are designated for females only.”
The United States in general wants to look at gender as a simple A or B choice. You’re either male of you’re female, the prevailing opinion goes. You can’t be something else, and you can’t switch and it really mean anything.
But the rest of the world is outpacing the United States on this gender identity issues.
In India, the Supreme Court recognized a third gender that is neither male nor female, stating “Recognition of transgenders as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue.”
Less than two months ago, the first transgender mayor was elected in India.
Some Native American cultures recognized, respected, and even revered third-option gender identities. These were called “two-spirited.”
Transgender and other options are recognized in Polynesian, Samoan, Thai, Laotian, and Zapotec cultures.
Perhaps the United States might benefit from looking outside its borders for some answers occasionally. Our culture may be robust and powerful, but it is incredibly young compared to some.