Today is an exciting day. A judge in the state of Kansas has officially ordered my name to be changed from “Bradley Edward Manning” to “Chelsea Elizabeth Manning.” I’ve been working for months for this change, and waiting for years.
It’s worth noting that both in mail and in person, I’ve often been asked, “Why are you changing your name?” The answer couldn’t be simpler: because it’s a far better, richer, and more honest reflection of who I am and always have been: a woman named Chelsea.
But there is another question I’ve been asked nearly as much: “Why are you making this request of the Leavenworth district court?” This is a more complicated question, but the short answer is simple: because I have to.
Unfortunately, the trans* community faces three major obstacles to living a normal life in America: identity documentation, gender-segregated institutions, and access to health care. And I’ve only just jumped through the first one of these hurdles.
In our current society it’s the most banal things, such as showing an ID card, going to the bathroom, and receiving trans-related health care, that keep us from having the means to live better, more productive, and safer lives. Unfortunately, there are many laws and procedures that often don’t consider trans* people, or even outright prevent them from doing the sort of simple, day-to-day things that others take for granted.
Now I am waiting on the military to assist me in accessing health care. In August I requested that the military provide me with a treatment plan consistent with the recognized professional standards of care for trans health. They quickly evaluated me and informed me that they had come up with a proposed treatment plan. However, I have not yet seen their treatment plan, and in over eight months I have not received any response as to whether the plan will be approved or disapproved, or whether it follows the guidelines of qualified health professionals.
I’m optimistic that things can — and certainly will — change for the better. There are so many people in America today who are open and willing to discuss trans-related issues. Hopefully today’s name change, while so meaningful to me personally, can also raise awareness of the fact that we trans* people exist everywhere in America today, and that we must jump through hurdles every day just for being who we are. If I’m successful in obtaining access to trans health care, not only will it be something I have wanted for a long time myself, but it will open the door for many people, both inside and outside the military, to request the right to live more open, fulfilled lives.