Chelsea Manning filed a federal lawsuit against Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other officials in the Department of Defense on Wednesday for "failure to provide the necessary medical treatment for her gender dysphoria, a condition with which she was originally diagnosed by Army officers more than four years ago," according to a statement by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has taken on her case.
"The government continues to deny Ms. Manning’s access to necessary medical treatment for gender dysphoria, without which she will continue to suffer severe psychological harms," said Chase Strangio, ACLU attorney and co-counsel on Manning's case. "Such clear disregard of well-established medical protocols constitutes cruel and unusual punishment."
Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for giving military documents to whistleblower organization WikiLeaks. She came out as transgender the day after her sentencing; Hagel approved gender reassignment treatments earlier this summer that would have included giving Manning hormone therapy and allowing her to dress and live as a woman, among other medical care. But on August 22, one year after she started her sentence, Manning published a letter in NBC News charging the army and the government with continuing to deny her rightful medical care.
"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 at the time.
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One of her lawyers, David Coombs, said in August that he would sue the military if it did not begin providing Manning with medical treatment by September 4.
"I am proud to be standing with the ACLU behind Chelsea on this very important issue," Coombs said Wednesday. "It is my hope that through this action, Chelsea will receive the medical care that she needs without having to suffer any further anguish."
According to the lawsuit, military officials provided Manning with female underwear and sports bras, but they continue to deny her hormone therapy and do not allow her to grow her hair out or follow other grooming standards that are permitted for female prisoners.
Strangio wrote in a blog post for the ACLU: "Even the Army's own providers admitted that her treatment is moving at a 'glacial pace.' But the Constitution does not permit medical care to be provided sluggishly when it is urgently needed. And for Chelsea, the care is critical and the consequences for withholding it are dire."