The former Bradley Manning's decision to suppress her identity until after her trial shames society and the US justice system
theguardian.com, Thursday 22 August 2013 16.11 BST
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Chelsea Manning has announced that she plans to undergo hormone therapy as soon as possible. Photograph: AP
It's official. Bradley Manning is a woman and will be known, from now on, as Chelsea Manning. Turns out Manning can keep a secret. So why did she feel it was so important to hide her true identity? You might regard her as a traitor. Perhaps she's your hero. Regardless of how you view her, though, she deserved a fair trial. Today's statement raises the question: why did she feel the need to suppress her transgender status until the trial was over? What exactly was she on trial for? Leaking information or being a man?
Manning knew, and was advised, to downplay her true identity. We know that people are more likely to be convicted in the US if they have black skin and also that they are likely to face harsher sentences. The same, it seems, is true of transgender people. You can't hide the colour of your skin, but sometimes you can hide your gender identity. Manning's statement shames not only the US justice system but wider society, by suggesting that we won't treat someone fairly if they happen to be transgender. As I wrote last week, I know from my own experience as a gender non-conforming prisoner how difficult it can be. I wish her well. I hope she can access appropriate medical support and that the media will respect her new identity. We'll see.