Gavin and Deirdre Grimm — Photo: Scout Tufankjian/ACLU
Chelsea Manning
Feb 23, 2017 · 3 min read

Being in prison can be draining — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. One of the things that keeps me going are the letters and cards you send me. Especially, letters and cards from trans kids.

Being trans anywhere can be very hard. But, it is especially difficult when you are a kid. Often fighting against the a world run by adults, trans kids are defenseless. Trans kids inspire me. Why? Because I was one of you.

Now, we hear the U.S. Government is changing its mind. They are dropping guidance on how to protect trans students in schools. This guidance was important. It offered schools important information about how to meet their legal obligations to protect trans kids from discrimination.

Now, the ACLU is making the case to cement this legal protection before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case pending before SCOTUS centers around Gavin Grimm. Like all trans students, I am inspired by Gavin. His School Board targeted him solely because he is trans. Gavin is fighting to protect trans students from being targeted by School Boards nationwide.

When he came out to the school as trans, he told his school that he would need to be treated the same as all other boys. It was a sensible request. His school listened. After adults in the community took issue with the existence of a transgender student, problems arose. The School Board reversed the position of the educators closest to the issue — Gavin’s principal and guidance counselor.

Because of the Board’s policy, Gavin has been expelled from the common restrooms that all other students use. Instead, the Board forces him to use a separate restroom, far away from all of his classes.

This is an experience all too familiar to us — high tech bullying. This the constant, deliberate and overzealous administrative scrutiny of trans people by powerful institutions.

For these last 7 years, I have been experiencing some high tech bullying of my own. From bizarre claims of expired tubes of medical toothpaste to the military’s continual refusal to let me grow my hair to the “female” standard. Last September, I launched a hunger strike over these issues.

In my case, the “high tech bullying” was the constant, deliberate and overzealous administrative scrutiny by prison and military officials. In Gavin’s case, it represents the constant, deliberate and overzealous administrative scrutiny by his School Board. When I am forced to cut my hair to the very short “male” hair standard, I feel stigmatized, like Gavin does.

The humiliation is scheduled, on time and beyond my control. There is the dread of the sound of buzzing clippers. I avoid people. I avoid mirrors. I avoid touching my head. For trans people like me and Gavin, this bullying can be a form of torture.

Gavin sued his School Board. His case is now before the Supreme Court. The Court may decide the scope of civil rights protections for trans people under federal law. The stakes for us could not be higher. Our lives and our rights depend on this case in more ways than one.

If we are not free to be ourselves and live our lives as the people we are, then we simply cannot exist. What they want to do is stop us from existing in public spaces — to stop us from existing at all.

This is why we must #StandWithGavin.

Chelsea Manning

Written by

Grand Jury Resister. Network Security Expert. Fmr. Intel Analyst. Trans Woman. #WeGotThis

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