How Chelsea Manning sees herself

A petition to allow Chelsea Manning to change her legal name from “Bradley Edward Manning” to “Chelsea Elizabeth Manning” was granted by Leavenworth County District Judge David King.

Manning, who disclosed information to WikiLeaks that revealed war crimes and misconduct by American diplomats, is serving a 35-year prison sentence in a military prison in Leavenworth, Kansas. She was convicted by a military judge of committing twenty offenses, including five violations of the Espionage Act, when she provided material to WikiLeaks.

In a statement posted by the Chelsea Manning Support Network, she indicated she was excited because she had been “working for months for this change” and had wanted a new name for years.

“It’s worth noting that in both mail and in-person, I’ve often been asked, ‘Why are you changing your name?’ The answer couldn’t be simpler: because it’s a far better, richer, and more honest reflection of who I am and always have been –a woman named Chelsea,” she declared.

She explained that she felt she had to make this request in a Leavenworth district court for a name change because this is part of the major obstacles “the trans community faces.” It may seem “banal,” but appropriate “identity documentation” is critical because many laws and procedures “often don’t consider trans* people, or even outright prevent them from doing the sort of simple day-to-day things that others take for granted.”

A key question now is whether this has some effect on the military’s refusal to provide Manning with treatment for gender dysphoria, which she has been diagnosed with having by military psychologists. According to Manning, she is “waiting on the military to assist me in accessing healthcare.”

“In August, I requested that the military provide me with a treatment plan consistent with the recognized professional standards of care for trans health,” she reports. “They quickly evaluated me and informed me that they came up with a proposed treatment plan. However, I have not seen yet seen their treatment plan, and in over eight months, I have not received any response as to whether the plan will be approved or disapproved, or whether it follows the guidelines of qualified health professionals.”

Thus far, the military has refused to allow her to have hormone therapy. Emma Cape, a lead organizer for the Support Network, said earlier this month that her attorney, David Coombs, may have to exhaust all administrative and legal remedies before the military approves or denies her request.

In her statement, Manning adds, “If I’m successful in obtaining access to trans healthcare, it will not only be something I have wanted for a long time myself, but it will also open the door for many people, both inside and outside the military, to request the right to live more open, fulfilled lives.”

Just over a week ago, Maj. General Jeffrey Buchanan, the court martial convening authority, finally made his decision and approved the verdict and sentence in her case making it possible for her appeal to move forward. She now has new legal represenation—Nancy Hollander, a well-known defense attorney with a history of being involved in national security cases, and Vincent Ward, a former JAG lawyer.

Her appeal will challenge the “misuse of the Espionage Act,” the over-classification of information, the selective prosecution of individuals by the government for leaks, “unlawful command influence,” “unlawful pretrial punishment,” and violations of “speedy trial rights.”

The legal defense team recently obtained access to the record of trial so it is unknown when the first court hearing in her appeal will take place. However, her new lawyers have indicated that it could take many years for the process to be exhausted, as the appeal could be heard in two appellate courts and potentially the Supreme Court.

Sketch by Alicia Neal and from the Chelsea Manning Support Network