Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bradley Manning wants to be ladylike...

I will admit I haven't really been following the Bradley Manning case very closely, even though my husband is a soldier.  I remember seeing photos of him in his dress blues looking pale as a ghost.  Guess he's not been getting much sunlight under the circumstances.

I did sit up and take notice, though, when I read that Bradley Manning is apparently transgendered and wants the government to pay for hormone therapy so he can begin living life as a woman named Chelsea.  I don't know anything about what it's like to be transgendered.  I'm sure it must be hell to feel trapped in the wrong gender.  However, Pfc. Bradley Manning is now a criminal who is being sent away for 35 years.  As a convicted criminal, Manning's healthcare will be administered by the U.S. government.  I have no idea what that means for military prisoners... I suspect it means he'll get care similar to what other military and their families folks get, albeit under police escort.  I realize I could be wrong and if I am, please forgive me.  I don't have any personal experience with the military prison system.

As someone who has been getting government healthcare for most of my life, I have a hard time supporting Manning's desire to have taxpayers pay for his gender reassignment therapy.  There are millions of people out there in the United States who have no access to healthcare because they lack health insurance or have deductibles so high that they can't afford to see a doctor when they need one.  Moreover, the government is famously restrictive about paying for certain things.

For instance, a few months ago, I blogged about a former Peace Corps Volunteer who was raped while serving in her host country.  She got pregnant and had to be medevacked to Washington, DC.  Then, she had to pay for her own abortion because government funds cannot be used for abortions.  Here's this woman who has gone abroad to do something amazing for her own country and her host country.  She is a crime victim and winds up pregnant as a result of having been the victim of a violent crime.  But she had to pay for her abortion anyway.  I'm sure the whole experience was hell for her.  Besides the pain and humiliation of rape, she had to come up with the funds to remedy the situation.  Had almost anything else happened to her, the government would have taken care of it.  I'm sure the thought of coming up with the money to pay for the abortion (before someone stepped forward to help her out), was also nightmarish for her.  Peace Corps doesn't pay much and not all volunteers have savings of their own.  When I was in the Peace Corps, I had no savings to speak of.

I'm not sure why Pfc. Bradley Manning feels that he is entitled to hormone therapy at taxpayer expense when he is now a convicted criminal.  Regardless of how you might feel about what he did, the fact is, Manning is in prison because he broke the law.  He made a conscious choice to break the law.  Had he not broken the law, he could have made the choice to have hormone therapy or any other healthcare he wanted.  And he also could have paid for it himself.

Like I said, I don't know much about Manning... and I don't know much about being transgendered or what it's like to get healthcare while in a military prison (though I have experienced it plenty of times as a civilian and it ain't that great).  I imagine that Tricare won't pay for gender reassignment therapy to family members and I'm fairly certain that active duty servicemembers can't get gender reassignment therapy unless there is some reason the government would want them to have it.

When you're in the military, you are obliged to be healthy... Uncle Sam pretty much owns your ass.  But that means that sometimes you can score free healthcare not available to others.  Case in point, my husband got his vasectomy and vasectomy reversal surgeries completely free of charge.  Why?  Because the military has physicians who need to keep up their skills doing certain procedures.  Urologists in the military need to be competent in all aspects of care and that includes reversing vasectomies.

I know another officer who contracted a rare form of leukemia that would have killed him within weeks if he had been a civilian.  Because he was in the military, he was able to get experimental treatment at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.  Last I heard, he was still among the living, though that was in 2007.  Either way, he got at least a couple of years he would not have gotten had he been a regular person out on the street thanks to some very high level care at the NIH.

Who knows?  Maybe the government has a doctor on staff who needs practice giving hormone therapy to transgendered folks.  But somehow, I doubt it... and even if they did, I don't think that kind of therapy should be going to someone being punished for a crime... even though I can muster some empathy for Manning if he really is a female trapped in a male body.  Besides, taxpayers' funding of Manning's hormone treatment sets a precedent that could be potentially expensive and exploitable for others in the prison system.  It could turn into a seriously slippery slope that could one day lead to some people committing crimes so they can access elective treatments they otherwise couldn't afford.  

On a related point, this story gets weirder and weirder by the day.  Maybe it's time I read up on it from start to finish.


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