On Wednesday, April 23, transgender soldier Chelsea Manning, who is serving a thirty-five year prison sentence for leaking classified documents to the public website WikiLeaks, was formally granted a legal name change from Bradley Edward Manning to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning.
The change was granted by a Leavenworth, Kansas district court judge.
Manning announced the news on her support website. She writes, “Today is an exciting day…I’ve been working for months for this change, and waiting 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.”
In the statement, Manning mentions the three main legal struggles the transgender community faces: identity documentation, gender-segregated institutions, and access to healthcare.
The judicial order gets Manning through one of these hurdles, and the transgender soldier also hopes that she will be able to receive the military medical treatment plan for those diagnosed with gender identity disorder.
Currently, she is awaiting confirmation of the medical treatment. “In August, I requested that the military provide me with a treatment plan consistent with the recognized professional standards of care for trans* health. They quickly evaluated me and informed me that they came up with a proposed treatment plan,” she writes. (The post notes that she prefers “Trans*,” with an asterisk, “to denote not only transgender men and women, but also those who identify outside of a gender binary.”)
She adds, “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.”
Manning then speaks of the importance of transgender issues in the US, stating, “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.”
The Department of Defense bans transgender people from serving and routinely discharges service members who begin hormone therapy. Because Manning is serving thirty-five years in an Army prison, her case is raising complex legal questions within the government.