Understanding Chelsea Manning’s Gender Dysphoria and Why She Deserves To Be Allowed To Transition In Prison

Trans and atheist activist vlogger extraordinaire Zinnia Jones went on CNN twice in the last few days to defend Chelsea Manning’s rights to have her gender dysphoria treated in prison and was as incredibly concise and articulate as I would expect from her.

The first video Zinnia recounts her own knowledge of Chelsea’s process of coming to terms with her gender dysphoria, based on personal interactions with her:

Then today, she talked more focusedly about Chelsea’s right to transition in prison:

Key takeaway:

We sentence people to incarceration. We don’t sentence them to untreated medical conditions. We don’t sentence them to untreated gender dysphoria just as we don’t sentence them to untreated kidney failure, untreated infections, or anything else of the sort. When the government takes on inmates and incarcerates them, it becomes responsible for their medical care. And this condition from a medical and scientific perspective is no different from any other medical condition that requires treatment. And increasingly from a legal perspective as well. Civilian courts have found in almost all cases that prisons are required to provide hormone therapy and increasingly surgery as well. Not to do so is considered cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment.

And while we are on the topic of Zinnia, she has written a fascinatingly informative and bravely open piece about her decision, for the time being, to have her testicles removed but not to undergo vaginoplasty.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • ahermit

    Reading Zinnia’s blog is a good exercise in “shut up and listen” for me. She makes a good argument here I think; not treating Manning’s gender dysphoria is akin to not treating depression.

    • Ace_of_Sevens

      My understanding is that prisons are pretty half-assed on that front, too, just not as bad as with trans issues.

  • tsara

    I <3 Zinnia. She helped me realize what my gender issues are.

  • Andreas Moser

    Private Manning (how convenient that these military ranks are gender-neutral) has some perfectly good reasons for wishing to be Chelsea Manning: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2013/08/23/bradley-manning-chelsea-manning/

  • Ace_of_Sevens

    Is there an organized campaign on this? It’s pretty clear than Obama isn’t letting Manning go, but he’s shown that he’ll listen to the LGBT community if they make enough noise. Letting her and other trans women in the federal system undergo hormone replacement and serve in women’s prison should be a major issue. I realize the T is silent and that prisoners are easy to throw under the bus for any civil rights group since they are unsympathetic and don’t present the image of happy, well adjusted people who are just like you that’s been proven so effective, but throwing the less sympathetic minorities under the bus to improve your own status is appalling.

  • Highlander

    Private Manning absolutely has the right to treatment. I personally question the wisdom of coming out as a transgender immediately after being sentenced to a high security military prison. I can’t think of an environment that would be more hostile to her gender identity or less likely to be safe for her. However, I’m not her, and I don’t walk in her shoes. I only hope she considered the risks before she made her decision.


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