Tahlequah Daily Press

August 26, 2013

‘Treatment’ for Manning should have its limits


TAHLEQUAH — Public opinion about Army Pfc. Bradley Manning’s decision to funnel classified information to WikiLeaks runs the gamut. Some may admire him for trying to promote a more transparent society – one the U.S. claims to uphold but seldom practices. Others may view him as a traitor, who leaked sensitive documents that could place American lives in danger.

But whether Manning is ultimately labeled a “terrorist” or a “freedom fighter,” yet another venue has been added to this three-ring circus, thanks to the revelations about his gender identity.

Though most Americans following this case were unaware that Manning considers himself a woman – by name of “Chelsea” – he was apparently diagnosed with “gender dysphoria” in May 2010, just before he was snared and accused of unloading thousands of top-secret documents.

Given the timing, even the most cynical among us can be forgiven for wondering if Manning saw the writing on the wall, and is now using his situation to complete his gender reassignment on the tab of the U.S. military – in other words, the taxpayers.

Manning’s case will undoubtedly be used to shine a spotlight on transgendered people, by both detractors and supporters. Indeed, it is an issue that is still not well understood, and evokes sometimes irrational fear among those who aren’t educated on the subject.

So some might argue that if his predicament fosters a greater understanding, there could be a silver lining in this otherwise black cloud.

But that does not mean taxpayers should have to foot the bill for his hormone replacement surgery, or further down the road, any reassignment surgery he and his attorney might deem necessary.

In fact, although the Army has said Manning will receive mental health counseling, officials have said the “leaker” will not be privy to these specialized treatments.

Naturally, Manning’s attorney has said he’ll fight this policy. But to many folks on both the liberal and conservative end of the spectrum, Manning shouldn’t be entitled to these procedures any more than another man would be allowed to have, say, facial plastic surgery because his “ugliness” may have prompted him to commit a crime.

And while it’s true that others will see that as a poor comparison, they may still argue that prisoners should only receive basic health care, not the “luxuries” most of their law-abiding peers can ill afford these days.

If Manning wants to be referred to by the female pronoun, and if a charitable organization wants to contribute to his gender reassignment treatment, that’s one thing.

But asking taxpayers to contribute is another matter altogether. This issue is one that will be hotly debated in the coming months, and perhaps years.