Sentencing / Post-Conviction

Military OKs gender reassignment surgery for Chelsea Manning; unclear whether it will cover costs

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The United States military will allow Chelsea Manning, a transgender soldier serving a 35-year prison sentence for leaking government documents, to undergo gender reassignment surgery while she is incarcerated.

The Army has not said whether it will cover costs of the surgery, the New York Times reports.

During the 2013 trial, the soldier was known as Pfc. Bradley Manning. Her status as a transgender female became widely known after the verdict. Following Manning’s 2014 sentencing, a spokesperson for the Army prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, said that it did not provide inmates with hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery.

The Department of Defense did approve hormone therapy for Manning in 2015, and the next month a military court recognized her as a woman. The following year the military lifted a ban on open service for transgender soldiers, and made it clear those on active duty could transition genders.

Chase Strangio, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who represents Manning, says that his client had the impression the change in regulations would not apply to her. She was recently charged with offenses stemming from a July suicide attempt, according to Strangio, and was on a hunger strike until the military informed her of its recent decision.

“It was clear that one of the main drivers of her mental health crisis was that there was really no hope that she would ever receive the care that she needs,” Strangio told the New York Times. “This is a really important beacon of hope for her.”

According to him, Manning on Tuesday was shown a treatment plan that had numerous recommendations in writing, made by a doctor who in April suggested she be treated for gender dysphoria.

“I hope this sets a precedent for the thousands of trans people behind me hoping they will be given the treatment they need,” Manning said in a statement. “I am unendingly relieved that the military is finally doing the right thing. I applaud them for that. This is all that I wanted—for them to let me be me. But it is hard not to wonder why it has taken so long.”

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