Private Chelsea Manning (tried and sentenced by the US military as Bradley Manning) has released a statement via her lawyer announcing that she wants to live as a woman and begin hormone therapy as soon as possible.
“I am Chelsea Manning. I am female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition,” she said in the statement.
She also requested that she be referred to by her new name of Chelsea and that the feminine pronoun be used. Truthout will do so in all future reporting and commentary.
During Manning’s trial, her gender dysphoria was revealed. An email Manning sent to her supervisor, titled “My Problem,” included a photo of Manning in a long blonde wig, wearing lipstick.
She wrote, “This is my problem. I’ve had signs of it for a very long time. It’s caused problems within my family. I thought a career in the military would get rid of it. It’s not something I seek out for attention, and I’ve been trying very, very hard to get rid of it by placing myself in situations where it would be impossible. But, it’s not going away; it’s haunting me more and more as I get older. Now, the consequences of it are dire, at a time when it’s causing me great pain in itself. I don’t know what to do anymore, and the only “help” that seems available is severe punishment and/or getting rid of me.”
Manning’s lawyers claimed that the lack of available help and the struggle in what her former Army counselor, Captain Michael Worsley called “a hyper-masculine environment,” played a large role in Manning’s worsening mental state.
Manning was sentenced to 35 years in the military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on August 21, and it seems unlikely that the prison will comply with Manning’s wishes to start hormone therapy right away.
Kimberly Lewis, a spokeswoman for the prison, said, “The Army does not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for gender-identity disorder.”
The US Bureau of Prisons policy previously stated that “inmates who have undergone treatment for gender identity disorder will be maintained only at the level of change which existed when they were incarcerated.”
That was changed in 2011, and now each inmate with gender identity disorder is given an individualized assessment, meaning that if she were in a regular prison rather than a military one, Manning would have the opportunity to be evaluated for hormone therapy.
The American Civil Liberties Union released a statement from Chase Strangio, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, saying that the Army’s decision to not provide hormone therapy raises constitutional concerns.
“The constitution requires that the government provide individuals in custody with medically necessary treatment, including treatment for the purposes of transition with hormones and surgery where appropriate,” said Strangio, interviewed by Truthout. “Any action by the government, including the Army at Fort Leavenworth, to deny Miss Manning the care she needs could have a detrimental effect on her mental health and well-being.”
During Manning’s trial, master sergeant Paul Adkins described Manning’s worsening mental condition while serving in the Army. In a memo to Manning’s doctors, he said he believed Manning needed “extensive psychological therapy” after witnessing Manning during violent episodes and near catatonic states.
It’s likely that experience will be compounded if she is refused proper treatment in the military prison.
Human Rights Campaign Vice President and Chief Foundation Officer Jeff Krehely released the following statement:
“As Pvt. Manning serves her sentence, she deserves the same thing that any incarcerated person does: appropriate and competent medical care and protection from discrimination and violence.”
It seems that the prison is unlikely to comply with even the smallest of Manning’s requests, as she noted in her statement to the TODAY television show, that people should use the female pronoun when referring to her “except in official mail to the confinement facility.” Manning’s mailing address remains in her former name, despite her wish to be recognized as Chelsea.
“If Fort Leavenworth does not, then I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure they are forced to do so,” Coombs said.