Imprisoned soldier Chelsea Manning, the US military’s best-known openly transgender person, said Friday the Pentagon’s new trans inclusion policy is overly bureaucratic and puts too much power in administrators’ hands.
Writing in an opinion piece in Britain’s Guardian newspaper, convicted secrets leaker Manning’s comments came the day after Pentagon chief Ashton Carter lifted the ban on transgender personnel from openly serving.
The new policy will be phased in during a one-year period, but the military can no longer discharge or deny re-enlistment to troops based solely on their gender identity, effective immediately.
But new recruits entering the military must be deemed by a doctor to be “stable in their preferred gender” for 18 months before they can join.
“I worry that this type of requirement will further entrench the gender binary and further legitimize the control that administrators and medical providers have over our bodies and our identities,” Manning wrote.
“With this policy, the military is essentially saying, ‘You can exist, but only on our terms.’ What they are doing is taking away the control of our identity.”
Originally called Bradley, Manning was convicted in August 2013 of espionage and other offenses after admitting to handing classified documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
After sentencing, Manning announced she identified as female and later obtained legal authorization to change names and receive hormone therapy.
But she is still in a men’s military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where she is appealing a 35-year sentence.
Manning also raised the question of whether she would qualify for gender-reassignment surgery under the new rules.
The Pentagon will now cover medical expenses related to being transgender, including gender reassignment surgeries when these are deemed “medically necessary.”
“What does it mean that the military will recognize our gender, unless and until we are arrested, and then what? This core identity is then stripped away and our birth assigned sex is imposed on us?” she wrote.
A Pentagon spokesman was unable to immediately clarify whether the new transgender rules would apply to military prisoners.
Manning has a team of supporters who publish her views via Twitter and elsewhere.