Last August, the Army private now known as Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in military prison. A day after the trial, Manning announced plans to undergo hormone therapy and begin public life as a woman. Her coming-out shone a light on a population that media rarely discusses: transgender women in prison.
I have a fat, accordion-style file folder—each section stuffed with mangled envelopes from across the country—full of heavy-hearted, handwritten letters from women I’ve never met. Shaylanna, Venus, Prada, and Eva: every letter flaunts the industrial, pre-stamped return address of a state prison, and every signature is a transgender woman living in a male facility.
• This week Mississippi joined Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Oklahoma and Texas in passing 20 week abortion bans. Governor Phil Bryant said about the ban, which takes effect in July, “Today is an important day for protecting the unborn and the health and safety of women in Mississippi." Ugh. [Reuters]
• In more collegiate news, a group of graduate student workers in the University of California system have made a huge advance in their fight for gender neutral restrooms and lactation stations on campus. The group has reached a tentative contract agreement that calls access to such facilities a “right.” If the contract is completed it would mean that students, faculty members, and employees on all UC campuses would be required access to these facilities. [Slate]
"I am Chelsea Manning. I am female." With that announcement, Chelsea Manning begins her thirty-five year sentence with the dubious distinction of being the first openly trans woman in the U.S. military prison system.
While a new National Gay and Lesbian Task Force study shows that trans people are twice as likely to serve in the military than the rest of Americans, the military still bans openly trans folks from service and discriminates against them in a variety of ways. Manning's imprisonment has already sparked national conversation about punishing whistleblowers and treatment of trans people—now, the military is having to consider the fact that their prison system is not set up for trans service members.
In light of Chelsea Manning—formerly known as Bradley Manning—announcing her name change and preferred gender last week, news outlets were stumbling over themselves in stories reporting on the convicted Army private's transition. Only a handful, including NPR, have revised their policies to refer to Manning as a woman.