Chelsea Manning Still Being Denied Gender Reassignment Treatment
Despite promises, Defense Department denying Manning access to gender reassignment treatment
One year after requesting gender reassignment treatment, political prisoner Chelsea Manning says the U.S. military has continued to deny her access to adequate medical care, NBC News reports.
Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for giving classified documents to whistleblower organization Wikileaks, came out as a trans woman on August 22, 2013 and requested gender reassignment treatment, which Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel approved last month. But in a letter sent to NBC News on Friday, Manning says the military has given her "silence, and then lip service" regarding her request to receive hormone therapy and be allowed to dress and live as a woman. Military prisons like Fort Leavenworth "reinforce and impose strong gender norms," Manning writes. "The U.S. Disciplinary Barracks restricts my ability to express myself based on my gender identity."
"For example, in my daily life I am reminded of this when I look at the name on my badge, the first initial sewed onto my clothing, the hair and grooming standards that I adhere to, and the titles and courtesies used by the staff," Manning said.
Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, wrote in a statement that denying medical treatment "for Chelsea's diagnosed gender dysmorphia violates her well-established constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment."
"The military may not deny access to certain types of treatments based on a blanket policy that it does not allow for medical treatment of Soldiers with gender dysphoria," Coombs wrote. "Courts across the country have held that the Eighth Amendment does not permit prisons to deny prisoners adequate medical treatment for gender dysphoria. The Constitution also does not authorize prison officials to withhold medically necessary care from a prisoner because of the arbitrary decisions of governmental officials."
Coombs previously stated that he would file a lawsuit if the military did not begin to give Manning treatment by September 4th.
"The Department of Defense has approved a request by Army leadership to provide required medical treatment for an inmate diagnosed with gender dysphoria. I can't discuss the medical needs of an individual," Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Alayne Conway told NBC News. Conway refused to say when Manning's treatment might begin.
ACLU attorney Chase Strangio said in a statement earlier this month that “The continued failure to provide Ms. Manning with this treatment is inconsistent with well-established medical protocols and basic constitutional principles."
Manning also wrote that her request is "about how I am confined, not where. I have never requested any transfer to a civilian or female facility. Prison is prison regardless of whether you are military or civilian, and regardless of what gender you are."
"Ultimately, I just want to be able to live my life as the person that I am, and to be able to feel comfortable in my own skin," Manning wrote.