Chelsea Manning: a Potent Symbol for Transgender Americans | NBC Southern California
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

Chelsea Manning: a Potent Symbol for Transgender Americans

Dean Spade, a transgender law professor at Seattle University School of Law, hailed Manning as "an immensely important figure for the trans movement"

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Army Pfc. has received a sentence of 35 for leaking US secrets (Published Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014)

    For most Americans, Chelsea Manning has been a hero or villain based on how they view her decision to leak classified material. For transgender people, she has another dimension — serving as a potent symbol of their struggles for acceptance.

    With Tuesday's commutation of her prison sentence by President Barack Obama, she's now due for release in May, when she will re-enter a society bitterly divided over many aspects of transgender rights.

    New Orleans to Remove Confederate-Era Monuments

    [NATL] New Orleans to Remove Confederate-Era Monuments

    The city of New Orleans will remove four statues of Confederate-era events and figures in an effort to divorce itself from symbols that some see as problematic. The first statue, the Liberty Place Monument, was taken down early Monday morning. 

    (Published Monday, April 24, 2017)

    Known as Bradley Manning at the time of her 2010 arrest, Manning came out as transgender after being sentenced to 35 years in an all-male military prison. Under Army rules, she was barred from growing her hair long while incarcerated, and only after litigation by her legal team was she approved for hormone therapy.

    She spent long stints in solitary confinement, and twice tried to kill herself.

    Chase Strangio, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney who filed the medical-care lawsuit, said Manning has viewed herself as a transgender-rights activist even in the isolation of her confinement at Fort Leavenworth.

    "She's always been a hero to me," said Strangio, a transgender man. "Her story really does reflect so much of the systemic discrimination that transgender people face — struggles growing up, suppression of her gender that prompted her to join the military ... and facing particularly egregious conditions in prison."

    Driver Flees Traffic Stop, Dragging Police Officer

    [NATL-DFW] Driver Flees Traffic Stop, Dragging Police Officer

    Body camera footage shows a Florida police officer being dragged by a driver attempting to flee a traffic stop.

    Police said Frank Wetzel, 61, was pulled over after blowing through a stop sign. Police said he started fidgeting with something next to him, making the officer suspicious. He was allegedly later found with a machete and handgun.

    (Published Monday, April 24, 2017)

    "She's an incredibly thoughtful and devoted person," Strangio added. "She's felt a sense of responsibility to the transgender community and wanted to be someone who contributed to the fight for transgender justice."

    Jennifer Finney Boylan, a transgender author who teaches at Barnard College in New York, expressed hope that Manning would remain an activist and share her experiences. In an email, Boylan depicted Manning as "a woman who's been trapped both physically and metaphorically, finding herself smack in the middle of national disagreements about both the meaning of our war in Iraq as well as the ongoing national conversation about gender."

    "She is seen as a very public face for the complexity of gender, particularly the injustice facing anyone doing time in a facility for men who is surely, by the measure of her own heart, a woman," Boylan wrote.

    Dean Spade, a transgender law professor at Seattle University School of Law, hailed Manning as "an immensely important figure for the trans movement and for the broader LGBT movement." Manning faced conditions in prison that denied her gender, Spade said, and "the world has watched her go through this."

    A cautionary note was sounded by Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, who said there was no consensus about Manning among transgender Americans.

    "The community is divided on her actions, and parading her around as a hero will not only negatively impact her," and exacerbate the split among transgender people, Beyer wrote in an email. "Manning as the face of the trans community would be very dangerous."

    Manning was convicted of leaking many thousands of classified government and military documents to WikiLeaks while serving as an intelligence analyst in Iraq. There was testimony at her trial about her erratic behavior and emotional stress during her Army service.

    Among those denouncing the commutation of her sentence was Jerry Boykin, a retired Army general who is now executive vice president of the conservative Family Research Council.

    Flight Attendant's Behavior Questioned Following Altercation

    [NATL-BAY] Flight Attendant's Behavior Questioned Following Altercation

    One day after an American Airlines flight attendant became entangled in an altercation with passengers, his employer is investigating whether or not he was out of line. Thom Jensen reports.

    (Published Sunday, April 23, 2017)

    "President Obama chose political correctness over our national security," Boykin said in a statement that referred to Manning with male pronouns and decried the legal efforts to compel the Army to pay for gender-transition procedures.

    The Pentagon recently adopted a policy of allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military. Some conservatives are suggesting a reversal of the policy after President-elect Donald Trump takes office, although Trump's pick for defense secretary, James Mattis, told the Senate Armed Services Committee he has no such plans.

    However, many transgender activists fear that Trump's administration will abandon the Obama administration's efforts to enable transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice at public schools. And in Texas, Republican legislators are pushing a bill that would limit transgender people's bathroom access.

    Among the many problems faced by transgender Americans, their treatment in the criminal justice system is of particular concern to activists. Many juvenile detention centers are ill-equipped to handle transgender teens, and corrections officials in many jurisdictions have sought to avoid paying for sex-reassignment surgeries for adult inmates.

    Drive-Thru Pot Dispensary Opens in Colorado

    [NATL] Drive-Thru Pot Dispensary Opens in Colorado

    When you think of a drive-thru, fast food probably comes to mind. But what about marijuana? Tumbleweed Express Drive-Thru in Parachute, Colorado, is the first of its kind. After nearly a year of preparation, the drive-thru pot shop opened for business on 4/20. 

    "Their timing couldn't have been better in my opinion, I mean everybody wants to celebrate," said Kyle Steele, a customer at the drive-thru.

    (Published Friday, April 21, 2017)

    After Manning's release, the Army will be off the hook for the costs of any further gender-transition medical care that she receives. However, Chase Strangio, the ACLU attorney, said the matter of cost was not paramount. "She can finally navigate her medical care on her own terms," he said.

    Shannon Minter, a transgender man who serves as legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said activists rallied behind Manning partly because her experience epitomized many of their community's problems.

    Her case "has shed a light on the serious abuses that transgender people — and in particular, transgender women — suffer daily in our nation's prisons and jails," Minter said. "While Chelsea's experience is extraordinary in many respects, the abuses she has experienced as a result of being transgender are commonplace and deserve far more attention."