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The Bradley Manning Conundrum



There’s a whole lot more to being a woman than just putting on a dress and makeup and walking down the street window shopping. 

Sometimes the news media provide good blog material. I have decided to come out today—I mean share some thoughts—on the desire of Pfc. Bradley Manning to become the transgender Chelsea Manning. 

First, I would like to say that I feel compassion for the boy—he really seems to be a boy—and maybe that’s because I’m female, which he would like to be, or maybe is. I think the world is a murky place for him, and he has helped murk it up for us. He has been harshly treated for revealing that we are bad guys when we thought we were the good guys. 

Kind of bad guys, I mean. I’m getting confused. Reality is shifting moment by moment, and to paraphrase Daniele Bolelli, author of Create Your Own Religion, life is beginning to feel like a math problem. 

We like to think our country is humane, enlightened, and mostly dedicated to doing the right thing in large matters, if we can just figure out what that might be. So what should be done about Bradley Manning’s request to begin receiving hormone therapy while imprisoned at Fort Leavenworth? Whoever thought this would come up? 

Bradley Manning as Chelsea Manning

Of course Manning has an attorney who says he will do everything in his power to make the Army provide this therapy. I can see many attorneys getting involved in this issue before it’s over. Maybe we should begin to stabilize reality by reducing the number of attorneys. 

After all, this issue offers many opportunities for further litigation. First of all, consider the potential psychological unease this sex-change therapy could create among the other prisoners at all-male Fort Leavenworth. As they observe Manning slowly beginning to acquire the refined skin and curves of the cute Chelsea, what psychological distress might this create? I can imagine some poor guy counseling himself in his bunk at night: 

“You’re all right, Bud. You feel this way about Bradley because he’s turning into a girl. This is perfectly normal. Just stay cool. You’re OK. Everything is OK. Just hang in there until she, I mean he, leaves; and in the meantime don’t touch him, I mean her, I mean . . .” 

But what about the collective stress, the sexual confusion, the enduring psychic damage? Maybe the inmates could file some kind of class action suit or claim damages when they are released. I mean, they have legal rights even when they’re prisoners.   

The Army says it doesn’t do “gender-reassignment surgery,” so over the seven years that he’s taking hormones and before he qualifies for parole, Manning would be caught in a sexual limbo. Maybe his attorney could file a suit claiming cruel and unusual punishment and get the Army to finish the job. If the Army doesn’t have physicians expert in this procedure, though, the job could be botched. Nevermind. Manning could sue. 

If I were he, I would want to go to a prison for women, but he has initially declined that possibility. He says he just wants Chelsea “to be comfortable in her skin and to be the person that she’s never had an opportunity to be.” 

But really, if the women in a prison didn’t seek legal representation to forestall an oddity in their midst, they might be very helpful, even essential, to Manning’s passage to femininity. At a luncheon with two other women yesterday, I heard of evidence that women in prison can be kind and compassionate and create something like family groupings that protect inmates from harm. 

And perhaps Manning doesn’t understand what it’s really like to be female. There’s a whole lot more to being a woman than just putting on a dress and makeup and walking down the street window shopping. The main thing about being feminine is the range of things we talk about and the depths at which we relate to one another. We really know how to communicate. 

So if Manning is going to turn into a female, he will have to learn how to talk about a lot more than sports and politics, and that is going to take an awful lot of practice. The odds are high that he would develop better conversational skills when housed with women. 

However, there may be enough male left in him that he would not only continue to reject the possibility but also consider it a step down. I guess his attorney could sue to prevent or delay such a move until Manning is ready to sue to make it. 

After all, the macho guys or the homosexuals in denial in Fort Leavenworth might assault Manning for one reason or another. But maybe they too could be given just a little dab of female hormones or a daily Valium to make them passive until Chelsea is “done” one way or another. On the other hand, if word of that subterfuge leaked out, more lawsuits would be filed. 

But let’s go back a few steps. Suppose Manning’s lawyer is successful in getting both the hormone therapy and gender-reassignment surgery. Now Chelsea Manning is online, so to speak, but the crime was committed by Bradley Manning. She has become a totally different person; and with the help of her attorney, she could probably get a new Social Security number. In fact, since she is no longer Bradley, the case could be made that she is unjustly confined. 

I bet Manning’s attorney, David E. Coombs, has thought through some of this. Remember that name. He will become very famous.

2 Responses to “The Bradley Manning Conundrum”

  1. Maggie M

    What a great perspective on this crazy person’s situation that has infringed on our lives…..and your humorous twists and wordings are terrific! My thoughts drifted to your final point regarding who is really guilty–Bradley, Chelsea or both? Is this even a legal question?
    Bottom line we as taxpayers should not be paying for an individual’s decision regarding their personal choice. For me it parallels paying a murderer his salary and even giving him a raise while he awaits his trial & then goes through his trial. We are such big hearted Taxpayers.

  2. Lynn

    Bradley Manning knowingly broke the law and was convicted of violating the espionage act, I think he has no right to medical care above and beyond that of any other prisoner. I don’t care if he wants “to be comfortable in her skin and to be the person that she’s never had an opportunity to be.” He should have thought of that before he committed a felony. The idea that my tax dollars might be used for his gender reassignment/hormone therapy is heinous to me.