In a powerful opinion piece for the New York Times, Chelsea Manning has spoken out against US President Donald Trump's recent tweets about banning transgender people from serving in the military.
Manning describes the announcement as a “devastating blow” to the trans community, drawing upon her own experience of being forced to hide her own gender identity while serving her country.
“I had to virtually eradicate my own existence from myself,” Manning writes.
“I served as a gay person under 'don’t ask, don’t tell,' and also as a trans person under the ban on open transgender service. I came out as trans only during my years working as an analyst in the Army.”
She goes on to say that the progress made by the LGBT+ community in the military has not just stalled but is now actively “hurtling backward”, writing that the effects of the proposed ban are being felt not just by those in active service, but the entire transgender community in the US.
"Terrible discriminatory laws targeting trans people are proposed all across the country, and now the commander in chief of the armed forces is propagating lies about us, dehumanising us and taking away our health care and employment.”
Manning—who served as an intelligence analyst in the US army— writes that military spending is being used to justify excluding trans people from service, and previously, medicine has been used as a reason.
“The old military regulations were laced with medical terms to justify discrimination. They psychopathologised us trans people as having “manifestations” of “paraphilias,” and “psychosexual conditions, transsexual, gender identity disorder to include major abnormalities or defects of the genitalia such as change of sex or a current attempt to change sex,” that would “render an individual administratively unfit” to serve.”
Manning explains that the real reason that people want to ban the transgender community is neither financial nor medical—it’s about “bias and prejudice”.
“This is about systemic discrimination. Like the integration of people of colour and women in the past, this was a sign of progress that threatens the social order, and the president is reacting against that progress.”
The activist ends her piece with the same optimism and strength that can be found on her Twitter feed, hopeful for the future and unperturbed by her detractors.
“But we will move forward. We will make sure that all trans people in the military, and all people outside the military after serving, receive the medical care they need. We will not back down. Our progress will continue. Our organising and activism will grow stronger.
“We are neither disruptive nor expensive. We are human beings, and we will not be erased or ignored."