09/12/2013 10:40 am ET Updated Nov 12, 2013

Who's the Fairest?

Should the army pay for Bradley (aka Chelsea) Manning's sex reassignment surgery? If he'd been acquitted, the responsibility for any operations would be his alone. But now he's a prisoner who claims he's also imprisoned in his own body. For instance, if in the course of the approximately 7 years of he 35 year sentence he's supposed to serve, Manning develops a chronic heart condition requiring a bypass, the federal government would be responsible for the surgery, as they would be for most prisoners. In any case we've come a long way baby. It seems only yesterday when "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) was the order of the day. Today, the army is being asked to provide sex change operations for soldiers, in or out of the brig. Recently Chris Beck, who had been a highly decorated Navy Seal, revealed that he too had long believed he was a woman in a man's body. Chris is now Kristin. She became the first Navy Seal, to publically reveal her transgender status. What would have happened to Chris/Kristin if she'd revealed the truth during his career? Up until recently she'd have been stripped of her medals. Bradley Manning and Kristin Beck are two separate cases. One returns to his cell every night, a prisoner of both the state and the self; the other a hero, is, at least in our current increasingly more tolerant culture, free to become the woman he always wanted to be. And then there are all the men and women who have no problem with the bodies they were born into and yet are still unhappy. In some ways, they're the most difficult case.

{This originally was posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, culture and art}