Chelsea Manning, the transgender U.S. soldier who’s currently serving a 35-year sentence for providing classified documents to WikiLeaks in 2010, has been making headlines recently, amid alleged mistreatment in prison. Last week, Manning announced she was engaging in a hunger strike to protest her treatment in prison, particularly the military’s refusal to provide appropriate health care for her gender dysphoria. She does, however, have a supporter in R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, who spoke out on her behalf in a recent video message.
“I’m Michael Stipe and I support human rights for all people,” the 56-year-old rock icon says in the video. “As an American patriot, it is my duty to stand with Chelsea Manning.” Stipe also references Manning’s July suicide attempt, for which she may face punishments including solitary confinement, additional time in prison, or loss of parole.
“Instead of giving her the treatment that she needs, the government is now threatening her with indefinite solitary confinement,” Stipe says. “This is unjustifiable, it is unfair, and it needs to be stopped.” He encourages viewers to add their names to a petition for Manning, FreeChelsea.com.
Yesterday, after Stipe filmed his video, the ACLU announced that Manning ended her hunger strike after the military promised to provide her prescribed treatment, including gender-affirming surgery. No transgender person has yet received gender-affirming surgery in prison, although California became the first state to offer the treatment to an inmate, Shiloh Quine, last year. Quine’s procedure is reportedly scheduled for later this fall.
It’s not clear when, if ever, Manning might be moved out of the all-male military facility where she’s currently incarcerated. Department of Justice guidelines released in March say that civilian prison officials must consider inmates’ gender identities when assigning housing, but they’re not binding and they don’t apply to military prisons.
Back in 2014, a list of musicians and celebrities including PJ Harvey, M.I.A., Thurston Moore, and Moby signed a statement expressing their support for government whistleblowers including Manning and Edward Snowden. Watch Michael Stipe’s recent message of support below (via Stereogum).