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"But circumstances are different in Manning's case."
May 15, 2014 11:08 AM   Subscribe

In a story first broken by the AP (heads up: link does not conform to guidelines about how to refer to trans people), Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has given approval for the Army to transfer Pvt. Chelsea Manning to a federal prison in order to allow her to access treatment for her gender dysphoria.

"No decision to transfer Pvt. Manning to a civilian detention facility has been made, and any such decision will, of course, properly balance the soldier's medical needs with our obligation to ensure she remains behind bars," said Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby. (At least they're gendering her right in the media, if not in prison.)

This move would be required to resolve the conflict between Chelsea's need for treatment and the policy of not allowing trans people to serve in the military or receive trans-related care in military prisons. Since she won't be discharged until after serving her full 35 year term, her transfer to a federal facility would allow her to get help without forcing the military to lift its ban.

Because denying trans prisoners access to trans-related health care has been considered cruel and unusual punishment in recent court cases, they have to do something. ThinkProgress has a rundown of the military's options.

One possibility is to drop the ban on trans people serving, which was left in place even with the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy for gay and bisexual service members. Earlier this year, a commission "co-chaired by former US Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders and former Coast Guard Director of Health and Safety Alan Steinman found that the ban on transgender service was not only unreasonable but empirically unsound." Earlier this week, Chuck Hagel said that he was "open" to reviewing the policy, and that "every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it.” Of course, he fell short of actually dropping the ban, which fits right in with the White House's similar failings to take executive action on LGBT issues despite rhetoric about moving forward without Congress.

Meanwhile, Chelsea's lawyer is "highly skeptical of the legitimacy of the AP's report," and has accused the Pentagon of "strategically leaking" the story in an attempt to coerce Chelsea into dropping her appeal. Because the appeals process can take years and prisoners aren't typically transferred to federal prison until it's over, the government could be setting up a Sophie's choice for Chelsea between the right to appeal and timely medical care.
posted by Corinth (11 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Slight derail: GLAAD's Transgender media guide linked above (and the trans101 overview linked to yesterday) are fantastic.

Their content is calm, neutral, reasonable, and promotes respect without downplaying the importance of the issue (or talking down to the audience). Given the troubled history of discourse regarding transgender issues, this approach is a huge breath of fresh air.

If you're unfamiliar with transgender issues, please take the ~5 minutes to read through both documents before commenting here.
posted by schmod at 11:21 AM on May 15 [7 favorites]


The AP headline writer seems to think it's a done deal, but the story itself (and other non-AP accounts) say only that Hagel has approved a request to develop a plan to transfer Manning, which is exactly what it sounds like:
"Sir, here are our three options. We think #1 is the best one, but we need to do more work to lay out more of the pros and cons."
"Okay, do that work, but don't do anything until you get back to me."
"Yes, sir."
posted by Etrigan at 11:28 AM on May 15


but the story itself (and other non-AP accounts) say only that Hagel has approved a request to develop a plan to transfer Manning, which is exactly what it sounds like:

So basically, nothing has been done, and this is just fuel for the 24-hour news cycle.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:41 AM on May 15


So basically, nothing has been done, and this is just fuel for the 24-hour news cycle.

You could also classify it as a trial balloon, but yeah, nothing has been done.
posted by Etrigan at 11:56 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


hal_c_on: "but the story itself (and other non-AP accounts) say only that Hagel has approved a request to develop a plan to transfer Manning, which is exactly what it sounds like:

So basically, nothing has been done, and this is just fuel for the 24-hour news cycle.
"

Nothing has been done, but it's still significant that Hagel has authorized the process because it's very rare for the military to transfer inmates to federal prisons before they've been discharged. It's unprecendented for the military to do it for the purpose of facilitating medical care for trans prisoners, because it's unprecedented for the military to acknowledge that trans prisoners deserve medical care. It's the first indication that anything is changing, and it comes on the back of a wave of rulings in favor of trans people in the federal prison system that seemed to have pressured the government to start working to avoid being sued over cruel and unusual punishment. Furthermore, we've talked recently about the treatment of trans prisoners, and Chelsea's lawyer's view that the government is using its own bigoted policy to try to manipulate Chelsea's legal strategy another angle on that. If she were cis they wouldn't be able to carrot-and-stick her like this. It also undermines the hope that the initial announcement fostered.

Hagel has also commented on the military's ban on transgender service members elsewhere this week. It's a big deal - the first official acknowledgment that it's finally on the table, and the first time there's been more than the bullshit "austere locations" line. The confluence of events was enough for me to figure that other people might find it interesting too.
posted by Corinth at 12:12 PM on May 15 [7 favorites]


The difficulty is that she can't actually be transferred without abandoning her appeal process, because the sentence includes a discharge. Essentially, military prisoners need to remain in military prison and are still subject to the UCMJ - which it would be ludicrous to believe federal prison would enforce, because they are way too busy with other shit. So if she is not discharged, thus still in the military, she can't be transferred while still maintaining good order and discipline.

Are there uniform standards for transgender individuals in prisons in the US? Or does it go state by state? All I've really seen of it are discussions here (which I think centered on Canadian laws) and Orange Is The New Black. Are they required to start the process, or only continue or maintain it?
posted by corb at 12:21 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


The difficulty is that she can't actually be transferred without abandoning her appeal process, because the sentence includes a discharge. Essentially, military prisoners need to remain in military prison and are still subject to the UCMJ - which it would be ludicrous to believe federal prison would enforce, because they are way too busy with other shit. So if she is not discharged, thus still in the military, she can't be transferred while still maintaining good order and discipline.

From the ThinkProgress link:
[Eugene Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School,] told ThinkProgress that even though the general rule is that military prisoners cannot be transferred to the civilian prison system until they are discharged, there is one occasional exception for medical concerns.
posted by Etrigan at 12:31 PM on May 15


Are they required to start the process, or only continue or maintain it?

The law is pretty vague on the matter. And because prison medical care isn't exactly quick to adapt most of the time, they do absolutely nothing or worse. In a recent case of an Oregon trans prisoner who in desperation self-castrated after being denied proper trans medical care, the state only offered to give the individual male hormones to replace the ones no longer being produced due to the lack of testicles.
posted by mediocre at 1:29 PM on May 15


White House backs efforts on review of trans military ban
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney signaled support on Friday for Pentagon efforts to review the ban on openly transgender service in the military, but stopped short of endorsing an end to the policy outright.
posted by Corinth at 2:39 PM on May 17


Giving Chelsea Manning Hormone Therapy Doesn't Undo Her Persecution
posted by homunculus at 8:34 PM on May 26


The four or five times I've noticed Vice addressing trans stuff in the past few months, I've been pretty impressed with them. Thanks.
posted by Corinth at 11:52 PM on May 26


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