Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

The military is not allowing Manning to present herself as a woman, as medically recommended. (Photo: torbakhopper/flickr/cc)

As Government Refuses Treatment, Chelsea Manning Demands Her Right 'To Exist'

"What the government is basically telling me is 'you cannot exist,' that 'you are wrong,' and that 'you do not exist.'"

Nadia Prupis

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday filed a brief arguing that the government's blockading of Chelsea Manning's gender dysphoria treatment is for her own good—which Manning said was akin to telling her, "You don't exist."

Manning, who is currently serving a 35-year sentence at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks (USDB) at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, says Department of Defense officials have repeatedly denied her requests to be treated as female and prevented her from growing her hair out beyond the two inches allowed by military regulations.

After "carefully considering the recommendation that the wear of a feminine hairstyle is medically appropriate, and weighing all associated safety and security risks presented," Col. Erica Nelson, the Commandant of the USDB, determined that allowing Manning "to wear a feminine hairstyle is not supported by the risk assessment and potential risk mitigation measures at this time," the brief states.

But as Manning wrote Friday in a post on the blog platform Medium, gender presentation is a crucial part of identity.

"I believe that defining ourselves in our own terms and in our own languages is one of the most powerful and important rights that we have as human beings," Manning said. "Presenting myself in the gender that I am is about my right to exist. What the government is basically telling me is 'you cannot exist,' that 'you are wrong,' and that 'you do not exist.' What they are doing is taking away our right to exist. I think this is the kind of situation that justifies all kinds of terrible things like ignorance, maltreatment, torture, murder, and genocide."

On Twitter, she added, "It makes me feel unsafe to have military and gov’t officials police my body, identity, and humanity. =("

According to the ACLU, preventing Manning from receiving medical treatment is a violation of her basic rights.

"The government is attempting to complicate and diminish Chelsea's core constitutional rights to be treat equally and to be free from cruel and unusual punishment," ACLU's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Project attorney Chase Strangio, who represents Manning, said Friday. "Chelsea's demand is simple: that she be treated with her medically necessary treatment and like all other women in military custody."

While in prison, Manning has faced numerous disciplinary actions for charges including possessing expired toothpaste and books related to LGBTQI issues—which resulted in 21 days of restrictions on all "recreational" activities, including time out of her cell and phone calls.

The DOJ's brief comes amid an ongoing legal battle between Manning and the government over her gender identity.

On Friday, Manning explained, "Nobody knows your gender more than you do. No—one. You do not know my gender better than I do. A doctor doesn’t know it better than me. My parents don’t know it better than me. No one experiences my gender in the way that I experience it.

"Gender presentation should reflect the person that you are. When you lose control of your gender presentation you lose an important aspect of your identity and existence."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'What the Hell is Wrong With Them': GOP Senators Kill $35 Cap on Insulin

'Republicans told millions of Americans who use insulin to go to hell.'

Common Dreams staff ·


World Faces 'Loaded Gun' on Hiroshima's 77th Anniversary

“We must ask: What have we learned from the mushroom cloud that swelled above this city?”

Common Dreams staff ·


'Extremely Concerned': Shelling of Europe's Biggest Nuclear Power Plant More Worrying Than Chernobyl

Ukraine said parts of the facility were "seriously damaged" by Russian military strikes.

Common Dreams staff ·


'Backsliding on Democracy': Indiana Governor Signs Extreme Abortion Ban Bill

'The extremist lawmakers who forced this bill through a special session clearly could not care less about what their constituents want or need.'

Common Dreams staff ·


After Kansas Win, Abortion Rights Advocates Call Ballot Measures the 'Next Frontier'

"Ballot initiatives are a phenomenally powerful tool when there's a disconnect between the popularity of an issue and what's being enacted by politicians," said Kelly Hall of the Fairness Project.

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo