Letter to the Editors: Should Tax Payers Foot the Bill for Chelsea Manning's Sex Change?

Is it reasonable for a convicted criminal to demand that the citizens he put at risk now allow him to pursue purely elective treatments? Should any prisoner have that right? Not on the tax payers dime, says Banter reader Laura Edmiston.


(Note from the editors: We're going to be sporadically running reader emails that are well written, intelligent and contribute to the engaging debates we have here at the Banter)

Dear Sirs,

Its Prison, People.

It’s not a question of what toilet Bradley Manning uses. Nor whether he bunks as a woman with men. So what if Bradley Manning wants to become Chelsea; if he wants to live in Leavenworth as a cross-dressing traitor; fine by me.  It is a question of whether any inmate, with means or without should be allowed to pursue elective medical procedures during incarceration.

Presuming that Bradley Manning has Gender Dysphoria--a psychological condition articulated in DSM V, wherein an individual feels incongruence with their biological gender and suffers distress at the perceived disparity—he is making a perfectly acceptable choice to pursue gender reassignment.

The American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the Endocrine Society all recognize hormone therapy a treatment to lessen the distress among the affected and as a first step for people wanting to transition surgically. Setting aside any misgivings on the appropriateness of such radical therapy, gender swapping treatments and surgery are very expensive, with hormone treatments costing roughly $200 per month, and genital construction surgery approaching $20,000. They are also entirely elective.

In the free world, Bradley Manning is, and should be unencumbered in his pursuit to swap Fred for Ginger. Bradley Manning however is no longer a member of free society. He has been convicted for stealing and sharing state secrets and is serving a 35-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth military prison. Recognizing the US taxpayer should not be obligated to cover such self-indulgent treatment, Manning has offered to cover the costs but is demanding he receive treatment immediately; of course threatening to sue if denied.

Is it reasonable for a convicted criminal to demand that the citizens he put at risk now allow him to pursue purely elective treatments?  Should any prisoner have that right?

Prison is intended to be punitive; its residents expected to pay the consequences of their misdeeds.  Freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are severely curtailed within its confines.  Bradley Manning has the desire to be a woman. Imagine the desires of Leavenworth's other 439 residents.

Will we next be asked to indulge prisoners desires for hair transplants, liposuction and boob jobs?  What about gastric-bypass surgery for obese inmates? It, at least, is considered medically necessary in some cases.

Further to indulging the surgical whims of convicted criminals, imagine the effect allowing prisoners of means to independently pay for their medical care would have on prisons overall.  Would class warfare break out with wealthier prisoners buying better quality healthcare and elective treatments while those less fortunate went without?  Would prison healthcare decline for all inmate patients as only the most destitute would avail themselves of the institutions services?  As a democracy, is it possible that we could allow one inmate a self-indulgence denied so many others because of political correctness?

Don't get me wrong.  As someone who was bi-sexual from the very dawning of puberty, I have no issue with people who choose to be come transgendered.  I do, however, have serious concerns that a convicted prisoner—one who violated his oath and endangered the safety of our nation—should be allowed to choose and pay for special consideration before he has paid for his crimes.  Bradley Manning is welcome to become Chelsea in thirty five years, when he regains his freedom and the right to choose.


Laura Edmiston