Dept. of Defense: Chelsea Manning May Begin Transition in Prison

Nearly a year after her lawyer put in a request to begin hormone replacement therapy, it appears that the Department of Defense has agreed to treat Chelsea Manning.

BY Parker Marie Molloy

July 18 2014 2:01 PM ET

A portrait of Chelsea Manning as she sees herself, created by Alicia Neal

WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning has been approved to begin receiving hormone replacement therapy while serving her 35-year prison sentence at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., the Associated Press reports. 

This comes two months after an unidentified Pentagon source told the AP that Manning might be transferred out of military custody to be placed into a civilian prison for treatment and directly follows the Bureau of Prisons' rejection of that Army request.

In lieu of transferring Manning from the all-male military facility to a civilian prison, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel reportedly signed off on a plan that will allow Manning to receive "rudimentary" treatment for her diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

Although the specific treatment to be provided was not detailed, Manning's attorney, David Coombs, told the AP he is optimistic that such care will include hormone replacement therapy, widely recognized as a standard course of treatment to begin facilitating a gender transition and part of best practices for providing health care to transgender people

"It has been almost a year since we first filed our request for adequate medical care," Coombs told the AP. "I am hopeful that when the Army says it will start a 'rudimentary level' of treatment that this means hormone replacement therapy."

If the Army continues to deny Manning access to the treatment her doctor has deemed medically necessary, however, Coombs said he will take "appropriate legal action to ensure Chelsea finally receives the medical treatment she deserves and is entitled to under the law."

If the Army does in fact provide Manning with hormone therapy, it could have great significance for other transgender members of the military, who are currently barred from serving openly by outdated medical regulations that classify any type of gender-confirming treatment as evidence of a mental illness and therefore grounds for dismissal. Successfully treating Manning's gender dysphoria while she remains in military custody would prove that the military has the capability of providing care to trans people. 

Prior to today's announcement, Defense Department officials have consistently claimed that the military is unable to provide up-to-date, medically accurate treatment for Manning — a justification offered by unidentified Pentagon sources in May when they leaked the possibility of Manning's transfer to a civilian facility. 

At the time, Manning's lawyer opposed the idea of his client being placed in a civilian prison, citing safety concerns.

"Whether the Pentagon likes it or not, Chelsea is a military service member and responsibility for her falls on the military," Coombs wrote in his May statement. "Chelsea has been asking for medical treatment from the military for the past ten months. So far, the military has outright ignored her requests. The military absolutely needs to revisit its 'policy' on transgender medical care and adapt it to 21st century medical standards. It cannot continue to bury its head in the sand any longer."

This news comes nearly one year after Manning came out publicly as transgender.

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