News / USA

Expert: Manning Case Brings New Attention to Transgender People

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted out of a courthouse after receiving a verdict in his court-martial, in Fort Meade, Maryland, July 2013.
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted out of a courthouse after receiving a verdict in his court-martial, in Fort Meade, Maryland, July 2013.
Adam Phillips
U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning, who has just been sentenced to 35 years in a military prison for leaking secret documents, has announced that he is a woman, despite a body that is physically male.  Manning is not alone.  Hundreds of thousands of people around the world consider themselves “transgender,” meaning their gender as they experience it differs from their biological sex.  

Manning’s admission has brought new attention to the word “transgender.”  Kelly Wise, a human sexuality expert and therapist, explained what it meant when we said someone was “transgender.”

U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning is pictured dressed as a woman in this 2010 photograph obtained on Aug. 14, 2013.U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning is pictured dressed as a woman in this 2010 photograph obtained on Aug. 14, 2013.
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U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning is pictured dressed as a woman in this 2010 photograph obtained on Aug. 14, 2013.
U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning is pictured dressed as a woman in this 2010 photograph obtained on Aug. 14, 2013.
“Generally, it’s someone who struggles with the body they were born with," said Wise.  "They don’t feel connected to it; they align with the other gender.  And this usually happens early in life, where a person feels that they are just ‘off.’”

Wise said it helped to think of one’s sex as male or female, and one’s gender as the line stretching between what society labels “masculine” and what it called “feminine.”    

“Sex is actually the biology of your body, your chromosomes, your hormones, your genitals," he said. "And gender is more socially constructed - so the pink given to girls, the blue given to boys [and] the idea that boys are going to be football players and girls are going to be ballerinas…. Those things don’t always align with your sex."

And that, said Wise, often means deep pain.

“People, generally, when they come to me, it’s something that they’ve avoided their whole life and they realize anything they do, it doesn’t go away; it still keeps coming back up.  And there is usually years of depression [and] lots of anxiety…. You know, the idea that I don’t fit with my body,” he said.

Lawrence Jacobs in 2000 before the hormonal therapy (Photo Courtesy by Laura Jacobs)Lawrence Jacobs in 2000 before the hormonal therapy (Photo Courtesy by Laura Jacobs)
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Lawrence Jacobs in 2000 before the hormonal therapy (Photo Courtesy by Laura Jacobs)
Lawrence Jacobs in 2000 before the hormonal therapy (Photo Courtesy by Laura Jacobs)
It’s been more than a decade since 44-year-old Laura Jacobs began the hormonal therapy that would ultimately make her physically female.

Today, Jacobs is a New York area psychotherapist who helps others make the sort of transitions she has undergone.  She said becoming transgender was easier now than in the past.

“[I] Couldn’t have predicted the amount of change that has gone on even in the last couple of years.  Let alone though the course of my personal lifetime…. I have clients who are 15, 16 or even through their 50s and 60s who are able to come out and get all kinds of support from their families, from their friends, from their communities, [and] from their schools,” said Jacobs.

New York area psychotherapist Laura Jacobs after the hormonal therapy (Photo Courtesy: Laura Jacobs)New York area psychotherapist Laura Jacobs after the hormonal therapy (Photo Courtesy: Laura Jacobs)
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New York area psychotherapist Laura Jacobs after the hormonal therapy (Photo Courtesy: Laura Jacobs)
New York area psychotherapist Laura Jacobs after the hormonal therapy (Photo Courtesy: Laura Jacobs)
Jacobs said the path she took was sometimes rough, and that it’s still not always easy. 

“And there are many, many ways in which my life might have been a lot easier if I had chosen not to pursue this.  But ultimately I did and I feel happy about it.  It gave me the opportunity to explore and live life in ways I never could have before,” she said.  

Even as acceptance grows for transgendered people, questions arise for them and society: is hormonal therapy or sex-change surgery a cosmetic procedure, lifestyle choice, or a medical necessity?  What medical safeguards are in place, and how should public institutions like schools and prisons accommodate transgendered people?  It’s an issue that Private Manning’s jailers will have to face - and soon.

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by: Godwin from: Nigeria
August 26, 2013 9:48 AM
Someone should carry out comprehensive study on why Americans are turning from what they are known to be to what they are known not to be. At the rate this is happening, it will take only ten years for real native Americans to fizzle out and be replaced by adopted children only. Seems to serves only the good of those who've been looking forward to the extinction of the Americans. Medical advancement shows how much hard drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes (including marijuana) can distort developmental trends of the fetus. Looks like the unbridled liberties, outrageous freedoms and moral bankruptcy in the country is taking its toll on the population resulting in trends that will see USA at a zero replacement of the aging population very soon.

This goes to give credence to the saying that you may be allowed to do everything, but not all things are good for you. American women should be about the most unmarriagable women outside their shores because of their inability to adapt with other peoples outside the United States where the laws are not as gratuitous to women as in the US. Women should check what they take into their body systems when pregnant, including what they eat, drink, smoke or creams they use. All these have contributed in no small measure to making USA the most vulnerable place for birth anomalies in the world, including that now affecting/changing gender compliance.

In Response

by: Jemma from: pittsburgh
August 26, 2013 2:52 PM
I'm curious - when you say "real native Americans," do you mean Native Americans, or the white folk who took their land through systematic genocide?

I also think it's cute that you rail against "liberties" and "freedoms," when usually that's what y'all right-wingers profess to be all about.


by: Jemma from: pittsburgh
August 25, 2013 3:40 PM
Adam Philips - you incorrectly refer to Chelsea Manning as "Bradley" and using male pronouns. Please refer to your preferred stylebook to understand how to properly talk about transgender people.

In Response

by: Julia_Allentown from: United States
August 27, 2013 7:49 AM
Natura locuta, causa finita. Really Robert?

There are many of us who are XXY or XXXY or any variation thereof. I had nothing to do with my genetic makeup being that of XXY but that's how I was created. I consider myself transgender because I was raised as male and transitioned seven years ago to live as my true self. It is not a stretch by any part of medical science nor one's imagination to also see that true transsexual/transgender humans exist with brain chemistry and physical makeup of that of the opposite sex that they and others thought they were at the time of their birth.

When you are educated on genetic variance and human testing for such and when you have the ability to dissect a human brain to understand the transgender/transsexual human then and only then will you be informed enough to form a rigid opinion.

In Response

by: Robert Firth from: Singapore
August 26, 2013 3:38 AM
XX you're a girl, XY you're a boy. No amount of politically-correct cant can erase that simple fact. Natura locuta, causa finita.


by: Mack Knife
August 24, 2013 11:52 AM
And for some reason, Manning didn't being this up before his sentencing. Now it is about transgenders instead of criminals.

In Response

by: Jemma from: pittsburgh
August 25, 2013 3:37 PM
Actually, it was first brought up way back in 2010. Perhaps you haven't been following the case as closely as you thought you were.


by: Karen Sanders from: United States
August 24, 2013 11:50 AM
I can't imagine living in the transgender reality, and what it takes to develop loyalties and alliances, to feel in any way genuinely connected.
We should try to look back upon this primitive moment of our understanding this particularly difficult burden of reality in order to forge ahead in our understanding, treatment of and attitude toward those thus burdened.
They are basically "thus burdened" by our ignorance.


by: Timothy Halloran from: Golden CO
August 24, 2013 11:35 AM
The Brian Manning transgender issue keeps light on the whistle blower and what he blew the light on, the extent of the killing of innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. While Manning gets 35 years, the entire Bush administrations walks free after perpetrating the lie of weapons of mass destruction to lead us to make war and unleash our military industrial complex on the people of Iraq and the subsequent cover up by the Obama administration as to the extent of the killings. Manning should receive a presidential pardon from Obama, who by the way promised to protect whistle blowers, if for no other reason so that I do not have to focus my thoughts and life’s energy on Iraq and Afghanistan. We need to move on.

In Response

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
August 26, 2013 10:03 AM
Timothy Halloran from: Golden CO got it all wrong. Manning is a villain by all standards, divulging information entrusted to him as a state agent. Instruments of state are used to protect the state, simple matter. Only those with ulterior motives and are engaged in illicit affairs despise the works done by the NSA to protect the country. That the WMD/chemical weapons were not found does not mean that they did not exist. History will find it some day, for sure. Look at what is happening in Syria today and tell somebody that no one out there is using chemical weapons on the innocent and unarmed people. Syria denies using it, do you think the terrorists may not have come by it from Saddam Husein's stockpile that was not captured? Saddam must have hidden it and did not confide in anyone, because he used it once on his own people and would use it again if he had the chance, but he was disarmed and dislodged from reaching it when the Americans entered and occupied the place until his death.


by: Gytannia from: USA
August 24, 2013 11:28 AM
Chelsea is cute. I can see why he wants to become her permanently.


by: James Howle from: DarlingtonSC29532
August 24, 2013 10:53 AM
Manning is a world size Nobel prize contender for returning TRUTH
to the worlds political relations. This remains true whether he chooses to be a he or she. The criminals running the cabol in charge are very upset a being revealed


by: Wallace Toward from: ohio
August 24, 2013 10:34 AM
His actions didn't help his fellow trans. I think his revelation will cause him a lot more trouble tha it will cause his jailers. Its interesting that this revelation comes at a time like this. Could it just be an attempt to get a better deal in prison ???

In Response

by: Jemma from: pittsburgh
August 25, 2013 3:43 PM
Trans people are just people, just like everyone else. Some are heroes, and some are villains.

Whatever you think of Chelsea, you shouldn't use her to condemn or praise transgender people as a group.

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