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Chelsea Manning’s lawyer says the DOJ ‘bent over backwards’ to accommodate her medical needs

Former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning speaks to reporters outside a U.S. federal courthouse. (Andrew Fischer/Reuters/Ford Fischer/News2Share)

The Trump administration has often opposed transgender rights.

In 2017 tweets, President Trump attacked transgender service members. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory,” he wrote, “and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.”

LGBTQ activists have said the tweets exemplify the Trump administration’s much broader opposition to transgender rights. According to GLAAD, an LGBTQ rights organization, the Trump administration has attacked LGBTQ Americans “in policy and rhetoric” more than 100 times since 2017.

Soon, his administration will take things a step further. On Friday, the U.S. armed forces will ban transgender people from serving, according to a Pentagon memo. “The memo stipulates that a history of gender dysphoria would disqualify applicants to the military unless they have been stable in their biological sex for 36 months, are willing to abide by the rules for that sex, and have not transitioned and do not need to in the view of medical providers,” my colleagues reported.

That decision has been criticized on both sides of the aisle. “It is indefensible that Trump’s ban on Transgender troops is being implemented on Friday,” conservative political analyst Meghan McCain tweeted. “This discriminatory policy will lead Transgender service members, patriots who have decided to serve their nation, to live in the shadows. It’s an unfair, un-American, and dangerous policy.”

Charlotte Clymer, an army veteran and LGBT activist, tweeted:

It’s unclear what will happen to transgender people currently serving in the armed forces. But lawyers for one of the most famous transgender veterans have offered some narrow praise for the administration on this issue.

A lawyer for Chelsea Manning, a former army intelligence officer who came out as transgender in 2013, has praised the Justice Department for its treatment of her.

In 2010, Manning leaked classified military and diplomatic documents to Julian Assange, who published them on WikiLeaks. Manning was convicted of conspiracy and served seven years of a 35-year prison term before President Barack Obama commuted her sentence.

Manning was jailed again last month after she refused to testify before a grand jury investigating Assange. (British authorities arrested Assange on Thursday in response to a U.S. extradition request. A U.S. federal court unsealed an indictment in which he was charged with a single count of conspiracy to disclose classified information capable of being used to harm the United States.)

Last month, Manning’s attorney, Moira Meltzer-Cohen, told a judge it would be “an act of tremendous cruelty” to send the transgender ex-private to jail because of her medical and safety concerns. But she went on to praise prosecutors for working in “good faith” and stating that “they bent over backwards to accommodate” the medical needs connected to Manning’s gender transition.

The Justice Department’s treatment of Manning doesn’t change Trump’s broader policy. But it does provide a real-life example of what the treatment of transgender veterans may look like in practice.