Transgender soldier Chelsea Manning has been held at the U.S Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas (an all-male prison) since 2013 for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks in 2010. Last week, she endured a five-day hunger strike to protest inhumane treatment at the facility — Manning transitioned to female in 2013. Though her hunger strike ended, resulting in the U.S. Army agreeing to provide her with gender-reassignment surgery and health care, she still faces punishment for attempting to take her own life this past summer.
Now former R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, a longtime activist for LGBTQ and human rights, is lending his voice to stand up for her. In a self-recorded video, the rocker solemnly states:
I’m Michael Stipe, and I support human rights for all people. As an American patriot, it is my duty to stand with Chelsea Manning. After years of mistreatment in prison, she tragically attempted to take her own life. Instead of giving her the treatment that she needs, the government is now threatening her with indefinite solitary confinement. This is unjustifiable, it is unfair, and it needs to be stopped. You can help me stop it now. Sign the petition at FreeChelsea.com. Spread the word across all platforms. Thank you very much.
According to the petition on freechelsea.com, Manning was previously denied medical treatment for her gender dysphoria, which caused her to be suicidal.
It is unnecessarily cruel to threaten Chelsea with additional punishment while in this very vulnerable state. Chelsea has been systematically mistreated by the U.S. government since she was first taken into custody in 2010, including long stretches of extreme solitary confinement even before she had ever been convicted.
And this is hardly the first time Stipe has injected himself into the public political sphere. He’s been an outspoken critic of both Donald Trump and a before-he-was-famous vice presidential candidate Mike Pence.