At this point, we shouldn’t be surprised when Fox News does something terrible. And indeed, my general response to their ridiculous antics and rightwing pandering is to just sigh and roll my eyes. But this? The network using Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like A Lady” as the background and outro music for a story on Bradley Manning’s transformation into Chelsea Manning? Well, that’s so blatantly juvenile, the kind of move a bratty middle-schooler would make in order to assuage his own uncomfortable feelings about his sexuality, that we had to call them out on it.
This isn’t the first time the “fair and balanced” network has flubbed up its coverage of trans issues. Earlier this year, they used a photo of Mrs. Doubtfire to illustrate a story on transgender health coverage. Stay classy, Fox News. Stay classy. [Mediaite]
Now that Chelsea Manning has expressed a desire to medically transition through hormone replacement therapy, there are a lot of questions circling about what Leavenworth looks like for a trans woman, and how exactly someone might transition from male to female in prison. While Manning’s case itself is complicated, the question of what kind of healthcare someone deserves in prison is fairly simple. There are clear legal and moral arguments for Manning receiving hormones once they are prescribed by a doctor. This isn’t about what she did or did not do; it’s about the basic commitment we make as a society when we lock someone up.
When someone commits a crime, no matter how heinous, we still have an obligation as a society to provide their basic needs while they serve their time. As Lesley Kinzel argued when writing about the Michelle Kosilek case last year, “What makes us better than murderers is that we value human life, even the lives of those who don’t value life themselves, their own included.” Whether or not you agree with Manning’s release of classified information, we consider a decent life a collective value, enshrined in the basic rights that are guaranteed by our Constitution. Courts have already held that the 8th Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment confers a right to adequate medical care in prison, and medical experts and courts have consistently found that hormone therapy is a medically necessary treatment for transgender people for whom it’s prescribed. Keep reading »
Bradley Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified documents to Wikileaks, announced in a statement read by his lawyer on “The Today Show” this morning that he intends to begin hormone replacement therapy and would like to be referred to as Chelsea. Manning, who from here on out I’ll refer to with female pronouns, is supposed to begin serving her sentence at Fort Leavenworth, which does not offer hormone therapy, but her lawyer, David Coombs, says he will fight to get her the medical treatment she needs. Manning has apparently identified as a trans woman for awhile, but didn’t make a statement about it during the trial because, Coombs said, “She didn’t want this to be something that overshadowed the case.” [MSNBC]
A show about women in prison could have easily devolved into mindless titillation or stereotypical boredom. But Netflix’s breakout hit “Orange Is The New Black” has skillfully avoided either trapping. Instead, viewers are treated to a show with well-thought-out story lines, sharp social commentary, diverse, multi-faceted characters with compelling backgrounds, and stellar performances. One of these standouts is actress Laverne Cox, who captures audiences with her portrayal of transgender prison inmate, Sophia Burset.
Looking at her career thus far, it’s easy to see why some have deemed Laverne a trailblazer in many ways. Not only has she made the enviable leap from reality star (appearing on VH1’s “I Want to Work For Diddy”) to skilled actress, but she’s also a producer and transgender advocate. Laverne’s visibility as a trans actress of color is breaking barriers on many levels, and hopefully will pave the way for more rich roles created for trans actors.
I had the chance to speak with Cox and learned more about working with Jodie Foster, her relationship to her activism and her art, and the future of trans actors. Keep reading »