December 19, 2011 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Lawyers say Bradley Manning struggled with gender identity disorder

Information has come to light that Pfc. Bradley Manning may have struggled with his gender identity. (File photo)

Attorneys representing Pfc. Bradley Manning, a 24-year-old Army private previously identified as gay, startled observers at a pre-court martial hearing on Saturday by saying allegations that Manning leaked classified U.S. intelligence information could be linked to a personal struggle over his gender identity.

Revelations that Manning created a Facebook page under the name Breanna Manning, that he dressed in women’s clothes, and he told an Army supervisor that he was suffering from gender identity disorder surfaced on the second day of a military proceeding known as an Article 32 hearing at Fort Meade, Md.

An Army witness testified at the hearing that investigators learned that Manning kept a collection of articles about gender identity disorder in his personal living quarters.

Authorities have accused Manning of orchestrating the largest intelligence leak in U.S. history while he worked as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq. He was arrested in May 2010 on 22 counts of violating military codes pertaining to intelligence. He faces a possible sentence of death or life in prison if convicted on all charges.

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Among other things, he’s accused of turning over more than 250,000 classified Pentagon and State Department documents through attached email files to the organization WikiLeaks, which published most of the documents on its website.

News that Manning reportedly was experiencing gender identity disorder comes at a time when the American Psychiatric Association is in the process of eliminating that term from its diagnostic manual and replacing it with the term gender dysphoria.

Jack Drescher, an out gay psychiatrist and Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at New York Medical College, is a member of an APA working group that has recommended replacing the term disorder with gender “dysphoria.”

Drescher said both terms refer to a transgender person’s self-identification with a gender other than what he or she was born with biologically. He said the change, which transgender activists and their supporters in the APA feel would end unnecessary stigmatization caused by the term disorder, is expected to be put in place in 2013.

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According to Reuters News Service, Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, and Manning’s brigade chief, Captain Steven Lim, told the Dec. 17 Article 32 hearing that Manning informed an Army intelligence supervisor by email in April 2010 that he was suffering from gender identity disorder.

Lim testified at the hearing that Manning disclosed in his email that the disorder was “affecting his life, work and ability to think,” Reuters reported. Lim also testified that Manning’s email included a photo of Manning dressed as a woman.

Coombs stated at the hearing that Manning’s self disclosure that he was struggling over his gender identity was a sign that he was emotionally unstable and may not have been in a position to handle highly classified documents, Reuters reported.

The news service said Lim testified at the hearing that the supervisor who received the email did not report the information to her superiors until after Manning was arrested a month later for allegedly leaking the classified documents.

Observers of the case have speculated that Manning’s defense may be laying the groundwork for a less severe sentence if Manning is convicted in a court martial. Observers say the defense may argue that Manning showed warning signs of instability that should have prompted his supervisors to revoke his high-level security clearance and cut off his access to classified information before the alleged wrongdoing took place.

In addition to the gender identity issues, information surfaced at the hearing that Manning got into trouble earlier for allegedly assaulting a female supervisor. In a separate incident he reportedly flew into a rage and overturned a table, sending a computer “crashing to the ground,” Reuters reported.

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In yet another incident, an Army intelligence officer testified at the hearing that she saw Manning “curled up on the floor with his arms around his knees,” according to Reuters.

Manning, who is from Maryland, has been seen at gay community events in Washington, D.C. in 2009. On the publicly viewable section of his Facebook profile he listed several outside web pages as being among his favorites, including that of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay organization; the website of Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.); and the Washington Blade’s website.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said she is concerned that revelations about Manning’s gender identity could be incorrectly interpreted as the cause for his alleged wrong-doing.

“It’s totally unrelated,” she said. “I don’t know him and all I know about this is what I’ve read in the papers. But whether he’s trans or not has absolutely nothing to do with whether he committed treason or whatever he’s accusing of doing.”

Drescher said he also serves on a World Health Organization committee that will consider recommendations to remove gender identity as a mental health diagnosis, and making it a medical diagnosis. He said the medical classification recommendation would be considered by WHO, a United Nations body, for inclusion in its International Classification of Diseases, or ICD, an internationally recognized reference manual for all diagnoses of diseases.

According to Drescher, such a change would not be decided until 2015, when the current version of the ICD is scheduled to be revised.

He said many transgender advocates familiar with medical issues agree that a medical diagnosis for transgender persons is needed to clear the way for medical insurance coverage of ongoing hormone treatment and gender reassignment surgery.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

6 Comments
  • When a small sensitive smart gay identified soldier gets caught up in the world of super masculinity the femme inside will feel brutalized and tortured. What a courageous person Bradley Manning is . V’s gender expression/identity should not be used as a negative in the court proceedings. I think of ‘Bradley/ Breena as a hero, period . V’s courage started when he came out as a teenager. V’ is attracted to men sexually .that is v’s self expressed sexual orientation. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same thing, V had a relationship with a trans-identified gay man who was a student at MIT. So what,. V likes wearing a dress sometimes, so do many other bio-birth males.. the more I learn about Bradley Manning the more impressed I am by his individual acts of courage … What is important in this trial me is not his sexuality, not v’s gender expression or identity but v’s courage to stand up for honesty, truth and integrity, Being the definition of a good soldier.. I hope the LGBT media well not fall into the trap of a well meaning heterosexual defense strategy and remains clear in their support of Bradley Manning as a hero for the entire LGBT community. V certainly is to me. That is why I attended with OWS the opening session of his pre-trial court hearing and spoke at the rally at Ft mead on
    jim fouratt

    • He is on trial for treason and spying, not for gender identity issues. Whether your a man or a women, he was a soldier that “betrayed” his country. To have anything else taken into effect would be a failure of the American Justice System.

  • Let’s blame gender identity disorder now that he’s been caught red-handed giving national security secrets to Wikileaks. Bradley to himself: “I couldn’t figure out whether I liked men or women or both and that’s why I spilled the beans about our national security.” Make me barf.

  • I am a Transgender and a proud Veteran. The creature is a traitor. If he leaked the documents for some noble cause then stand on that. Don’t look for pity or excuse’s. Looking for excuse’s is proof that he did not believe what he did was right. And if he does not believe it was right then why should we?

  • Manning’s defense is indefensible. Blaming treason on gender identity is total b*** s***!!!

  • It also sets up other trans folks to be denied high level security clearance based on a diagnosis of GID. It’s rather disgusting in my opinion.

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