Stephen Nessen, Reporter, WNYC News
Stephen Nessen reports for the WNYC Newsroom and can often be heard live on Morning Edition.
A transgender woman from the Bronx who spent three years in jail as a man has some advice for the Army intelligence officer formerly known as Bradley Manning: get counseling.
Nicole Aubry, 27, said she spent three years in counseling before she started hormones, and she’s concerned that Manning may be jumping into the decision to do so too quickly.
"Transgender women don't go through it just like that,” she said outside the LGBT Community Center in Chelsea. “First you got to see a counselor, and then hormone treatments.”
Following the news this week that Manning plans to live as a woman named Chelsea and begin hormone therapy, many worry about having such a divisive figure associated with the community in the spotlight.
Manning, 25, was sentenced to 35 years in a military prison this week for leaking classified documents to the website WikiLeaks.
"Chelsea Manning, regardless of which side of the debate you're on ... is a polarizing figure," said Michael Silverman, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Silverman said the community is always concerned about the media's representation of transgender people, and that Manning may not be the best figure to be the one to help educate the public on trans issues.
"That's probably not the best atmosphere in which to have a reasonable discussion about transgender people, what it means to be transgender and how transgender people should be treated by the medical community, whether that's in the medical system, or outside of it," he said.
Back in Chelsea, John Coffey, 60, is a military veteran who said he was diagnosed with a gender disorder, but never sought a sex change. He said he thinks Manning should serve his time in prison as a man.
"He wants to play with the government secrets? Let him do his 35 years as a man, and not as a female," Coffey said.
A spokesman from Fort Leavenworth, Ks., where Manning is being held, said Manning won't be allowed to wear a wig or bra, and that her hair must meet military standards. The Army said it does not provide hormone treatment or sex-reassignment surgery.
Manning will have access to mental health professionals while in prison.