Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Cutting Edge--May 18, 2014

By Barbara F. Anderson, Ph.D., LCSW

 Bradley/Chelsea Manning, the soldier convicted of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, was granted the right to a legal name change to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning by a Kansas judge.  This decision allows for official changes to Private Manning’s military records; however, it does not compel the service to treat her as a woman.  Therefore, she is not entitled to be moved to a prison with a women’s unit or receive counseling or hormonal or surgical treatment. (NY Times Apr.2014)

 In 2 more related articles about military practices affecting trans soldiers, it appears that there is more willingness to review policies.  The Report of the Transgender Military Service Commission, issued March 2014, considers whether Pentagon policies that exclude trans service members are medically sound.  The Commission, chaired by Joycelyn Elders, MD (former US Surgeon General) and Alan Steinman, MD, found the discharge of trans military personnel  “inconsistent with how the military regulates medical and psychological conditions, and arbitrary in that medical conditions related to transgender identity appear to be the only gender-related conditions requiring discharge irrespective of fitness for duty.” The Commission enumerates numerous examples supporting their findings and these can be accessed online by googling the Report of the Transgender Military Service Commission.

 In reaction to the findings of the Commission, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel stated that “the military should ‘continually’ review its prohibition on transgender people in the Armed Forces, calling into question whether the Pentagon’s ban may eventually be lifted, as was the ban on gay men and lesbians in the military.”  This story appeared in the NY Times May 11, 2014.

“For These Females, No Such Thing as Penis Envy” is an article on a recent study of the Brazilian insect, Neotrogla. In a case of sex-role reversal, findings are that females have penises that can erect and penetrate and males have vaginas.  Copulation lasts 40-70 hours during which time sperm is transferred from the male to the female.  “As soon as the females become adults, they may force weaker males to have sex with them just to obtain the fluid to produce eggs.”  Ain’t nature grand? (NY Times Apr. 22, 2014)

 Seamus Johnston, a transgender man, is being represented by the Transgender Law Center in his sex discrimination law suit against the University of Pittsburgh.  After having lived as a man for the 3 years he was a student at the university, he was summarily informed that he was no longer allowed to use men’s restrooms or locker rooms unless he obtained a new birth certificate or court order attesting to his male gender.  He continued to use the banned facilities following which the university “engaged in a campaign of persecution against him, having him arrested and criminally prosecuted and eventually expelling him, causing him to lose his full scholarship.”  The TLC’s defense maintains that laws prohibiting discrimination based on sex include protections for transpeople as well.  For more info on this case, go to  /10154.

 A new resource for consumers, activists, and. policy makers concerned with upholding the rights of transpeople is “License to Be Yourself.”  Addressing the dilemma faced when one’s passport, driver’s license or national ID card does not reflect one’s gender identity, it documents worldwide laws and policies that enable transpeople to change their identity on official documents.  To learn more, go to