Chelsea Manning, A Relative, To Have Gender Reassignment Surgery In April

My second cousin, Chelsea Manning, a transgender soldier imprisoned for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks, has ended her hunger strike after the U.S. Army agreed to allow her to get medical treatment for her gender dysphoria.  She began the hunger strike last week to protest her treatment at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., vowing to persist until she was treated better.

I will be the first to say I am not able to know how it must feel to be in a body that does not represent who I am.  I can read about it, and talk with others but at the end of the day all I can offer is empathy.   That is what I offer to Chelsea.

The medical treatment will begin with the surgery that was recommended by her psychologist in April 2017.  This is a most important decision as no transgender individual has received gender-affirming surgical treatment in prison despite medical recommendations for such care in prisons across the country.

As I write this post Army officials have not commented.

Manning however has released a statement which reads  “I am unendingly relieved that the military is finally doing the right thing. I applaud them for that. This is all that I wanted — for them to let me be me. But it is hard not to wonder why it has taken so long. Also, why were such drastic measures needed?”

It has been a long and tortured road for Manning and so I am hoping for some peace to land her way soon.

My Second Cousin, Bradley Manning, Now Named Chelsea Elizabeth Manning

Not many are aware of the fact Bradley Manning is my second cousin, but over time I have told more and more about this fact.  Though I did not take a position on my blog for a long time about the events surrounding his life I did take a position on the most relevant aspect of the story.   That being Wikileaks.

“It is imperative that candid assessments of political leaders and political movements in other countries not be open to the general public in this manner”, is how I summed up the umbrella issue.   That is how I still feel about this whole episode.

I have never been a huge fan of Manning’s father, and feel that better parenting in so many ways would have allowed this entire episode to have never occurred had better avenues been presented in lieu of joining the military.  How could any parent not counsel strongly that a military path was not best suited to a small framed guy like Bradley, who also had other issues that were being confronted.

Today came news that a Kansas judge will allow for the legal name change of Bradley Manning to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning.

The judicial order in Leavenworth County District Court could be a key step in the transgender quest to get the military to devise a medical treatment plan commonly available to civilians diagnosed with gender identity disorder.

While there is much I do not understand, but in time hope to, I do have one overriding desire and that is for Chelsea to find peace.

FAUX News Takes Low Road Concerning Chelsea Manning


There are those times when all that can be offered is a lowering of the head in complete shame.  Such is the case with the latest antics from FAUX News regarding Chelsea Manning.

“Fox & Friends” on Tuesday made light of Chelsea Manning’s intention to live as a woman, playing a transgender-themed rock song over a pair of photos of the convicted soldier who went by the name Bradley Manning prior to her sentencing.

Before cutting to a commercial break, host Gretchen Carlson previewed a segment on Manning. As Carlson spoke, the Aerosmith classic “Dude (Looks Like A Lady)” could be heard playing as the camera panned on a screen with two photos of Manning.

Bradley Manning’s Family Life Is Issue In Court Proceeding

Some of the inside information on Bradley Manning’s home life was made known today in the court proceedings leading up to his sentencing.  Today showcased what many suspected.  I have long felt his parents played a role in this matter by not allowing for a more nurturing environment to grow up in, and should have counseled strongly that the military was not a healthy option for him.

Manning’s older sister, Casey Major, earlier told the court her and her brother’s childhood was characterized by alcoholic parents and neglect, part of a day’s testimony that has focused on intensely personal details of the convicted Army private’s life.

She told the court their mother drank hard liquor and was drunk just about every day, but, ”growing up, when you are around it all the time, you kind of think it’s normal.”

Her mother, she said, would start drinking around lunchtime and “it was continuous until she passed out or went to bed.”

It wasn’t until Major was about 13 that she realized her parents “had a problem with alcohol,” she said.

Manning’s sister’s testimony followed testimony by Navy Capt. David Moulton, a forensic psychiatrist, that the young private’s struggle with gender identity, coupled with abnormal personality traits and his “very high level of stress,” led to his decision to release the information to WikiLeaks.

“He became, I think, very enthralled in this idea that the things he was finding were injustices that he felt he morally needed to right. … [It was] very in line with, I think, his belief system of righting wrongs,” Moulton said. “He knew he had an oath to his job as a soldier, but this conflicted to his ideology, as well.

“Manning was under the impression that his leaked information was going to really change how the world views the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and future wars, quite frankly,” Moulton said.

Bradley Manning’s Struggle With Gender Identity


More information made the news today concerning Bradley Manning’s private struggle with his gender identity.  Not for the first time do we come to know of the lax treatment the military employs when it comes to mental health and a whole raft of emotional needs that members of the military require.  This individual story is told only because of the greater classified information leak that made for international headlines.  But at the end of the day the military is not prepared to meet the psychological needs for those that sign up for service.    It should be noted that Manning’s lawyers contend he showed clear signs of deteriorating mental health that should have prevented commanders from sending him to a war zone to handle classified information.  The amoral military command structure made no effort not to send Manning to the most awful place he could have landed.  I also feel strongly that had Manning not had such a bone-head for a father he would have never landed in the military in the first place.

Pfc. Bradley Manning’s private struggle with his gender identity in a hostile workplace put incredible pressure on the soldier who leaked classified information to WikiLeaks, an Army psychologist said Wednesday.

Manning eventually came out to Capt. Michael Worsley and emailed the therapist a photo of himself dressed as a woman, wearing a blonde wig and lipstick. The photo was attached to a letter titled “My problem,” in which Manning describes his problems with gender identity and his hope that a military career would “get rid of it.”

Worsley testified at Manning’s sentencing hearing at Fort Meade, near Baltimore. He said the soldier had little to no support base.

You put him in that kind of hyper-masculine environment, if you will, with little support and few coping skills, the pressure would have been difficult to say the least,” Worsley said. “It would have been incredible.”

Bradley Manning’s Father, Brian Manning, Fails At National Interview On CNN


There are times when it is clear a person is not ready for the national spotlight.  Tuesday night was such a time for Brian Manning, the father of Bradley Manning.  Anderson Cooper had the father on his show following the conclusion of the trial portion for the younger Manning’s case of leaked secret intelligence.

If one listened to the entire CNN interview, and it is only a few minutes long, one can notice two different answers emerging.

Cooper asked Brian if he still believes, as he did early in the trial, that his son is innocent.  “In my heart I believe that” he replied.  But in the same interview he also stated that if he could speak freely to his son, he would tell Bradley “that he had no excuse whatsoever for allegedly releasing that information.”

So what does Brian Manning really believe?

Apart from the portion of the interview dealing with the trial was a most bizarre revelation when Brian Manning informs Cooper that he drove Bradley to gay bars once his son came out to his father,  How Brian phrased his sentences makes anyone with even a low level of intelligence question just how supportive and truly ‘gay friendly’ he was as a father.  His use of the word “swishy’ was really all one needed to know about the real feelings of Bradley’s father.   I don’t even know how to process the tortured reasoning of Brian Manning when he came to this portion of the interview.

Meanwhile The New York Times had this line last week in a front page story on the human side of Bradley Manning.   There were “several angry clashes with his father — which some friends attributed to his father’s disapproval of his sexual identity — landed him on the streets, living in his car.”  Not exactly the loving dad who was trying to make points in front of a national television audience.

The Human Story Of Bradley Manning

Front page, and above the fold in The New York Times.

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I have felt over the years as the Bradley Manning story has played out how he should have had better advice from his parents when it came time to enter the military.  A small-framed man who is gay is not the best mix for the jar neck crowd.  It should not have to be that way, but that is unfortunately how it still is.  The back story to how Manning came to be in a situation where he was confronted with the brutality of war while waging his own internal struggles is a sad one.  As I said when writing about him before, I wish Manning some way to find peace.

That story involved the child of a severed home, a teenager bullied for his conflicted sexuality whose father, a conservative retired soldier, and mother, a Welsh woman who never adjusted to life in Oklahoma, bounced their child back and forth between places where he never fit in.       

Private Manning was a misfit as well in the Army, which he joined in the hope of gaining technical skills and an education, and which eventually sent him to Contingency Operating Station Hammer, a remote post east of Baghdad, where he had access to some of the nation’s deepest military and diplomatic secrets. In early 2010, he covertly downloaded gun-camera videos, battle logs and tens of thousands of State Department cables onto flash drives while lip-syncing the words to Lady Gaga songs.

While larger questions about government secrecy and the role of the news media in the Internet age swirl around the case, the roots of Private Manning’s behavior may spring as much from his troubled youth as from his political views.       

He spent much of his childhood alone, playing video games or huddled in front of a computer when he was living with his mother in Haverfordwest, Wales. He was teased relentlessly there for his foreign ways and began to act out in school.

After several outbursts, his mother sent him back to Oklahoma, where he worked briefly at a computer software store. But several angry clashes with his father — which some friends attributed to his father’s disapproval of his sexual identity — landed him on the streets, living in his car.

Eventually, he made his way into the Army, which seized on his computer skills and trained him as an intelligence analyst. While stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y., friends said in interviews, Private Manning met a student from Brandeis University named Tyler Watkins, and fell in love. Some of Mr. Watkins’s friends were part of a burgeoning hacker community at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.       

That community, friends said, embraced the young Army private: his geeky fascination with computers, his liberal political opinions and his sexual orientation.       

While he seemed to thrive in that world, his military career was tarnished by violent outbursts. While serving on a base east of Baghdad, he was reprimanded twice, including once for assaulting an officer, and he complained in e-mails of being “regularly ignored by his superiors” unless they needed him to fetch more coffee.       

Private Manning rebelled quietly, friends said, wearing a dog tag that said “Humanist” and keeping a toy fairy wand on his desk. Then, surreptitiously, beginning in late 2009 or early 2010, he began downloading thousands of government documents. He considered leaking them to The New York Times, The Washington Post or Politico, but decided to contact WikiLeaks in February 2010, several months into his deployment.

Mr. Manning has reacted stoically to the conditions of his imprisonment, much of it in solitary confinement, although others, including his legal team and Amnesty International, have loudly protested his treatment. In one of his chats with Mr. Lamo, he contemplated a life behind bars, which could be especially difficult for him because of his struggles with his gender identity.       

“I wouldn’t mind going to prison for the rest of my life,” he wrote to Mr. Lamo, “or being executed so much, if it wasn’t for the possibility of having pictures of me plastered all over the world press as a boy.”

Bradley Manning Is My Second Cousin



A military court found Pfc. Bradley Manning, accused of the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history, not guilty of aiding the enemy. The verdict from the judge overseeing Manning’s court-martial means he dodged a life sentence. He has already pleaded guilty to nearly a dozen lesser charges that could carry a sentence of up to 20 years behind bars.

Not many are aware of the fact Bradley Manning is my second cousin.  He was even at one of our family reunions many years agoI have followed the legal events play out over what must seem like a life-time for this young man, and wondered many times how he came to be in such a place.  I have questioned how his parents did not see that a very slender and gay kid should not ever enter the military, and so wonder all sorts of things that date back far longer than the current military courtroom that Manning now finds himself.

I have never taken a position on my blog about Manning, but did write when Wikileaks first started, and without knowing Manning was at the center of it, that “it is imperative that candid assessments of political leaders and political movements in other countries not be open to the general public in this manner.”

And I still believe that to be true.

Governments have secrets, and should have the ability to secure those it deems important.   I also think the public has a right to know what their government is doing.

In saying both of those things does not make one inconsistent, but demonstrates the continual argument that everyone can have about what is really classified material that can undermine national security or the broader goals of our government, and what is worthy of being known by the electorate.  There are no easy answers, and the latest NSA controversy only deepens the debate, and the tangled options.

I will probably never know with any degree of certainty what motivated Manning to take the steps he did.   I am not sure if he thought there was a higher imperative by undertaking the release of the classified material, or if this was some effort to heighten himself in the eyes of others.

It is a sad day for this young man who most likely will be imprisoned for the remainder of his life.  I am heartened that the death penalty was rejected, and hope that at some level Manning can find peace.