By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com August 23 2014 1:33 AM ET
Despite reports that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel had approved Wikileaks source Chelsea Manning's request to begin hormone therapy while in military prison, a new statement from the incarcerated trans woman says she hasn't received any such treatment.
"This time last year, I publicly asked that I be provided with a treatment plan, to bring my body more in line with my gender identity," Manning wrote in a statement provided to NBC News this week. "Unfortunately, despite silence, then lip-service, the military has not yet provided me with any such treatment."
Manning then reiterates an argument often advanced by her attorney, pointing out that denial of treatment deemed medically necessary constitutes a violation of her basic rights. Last month, the Associated Press reported that the Department of Defense was considering allowing Manning to transition while incarcerated, but the only sources named were anonymous, and judging by Manning's latest statement, there has been no further progress from the Department on the issue.
"Treatment is, as a matter of law, about medical necessity," she writes. She goes on to detail the strictly regimented gender presentation mandated by military prison policy, and notes that these requirements — including the name sewn onto her clothes, pronouns used to refer to her, and grooming standards to which she must adhere — restrict her ability to express herself based on her gender identity.
Manning's statement also clarifies that she has never requested to be transferred to a civilian facility — a request which Manning's attorney accused the Pentagon of strategically leaking to cover up its unwillingness to grant the requests Manning has made. Manning has requested access to standard care for gender dysphoria, with which several military doctors have diagnosed her and deemed such treatment medically necessary. The treatment Manning has requested includes access to hormone therapy, and she has made no indication of seeking any gender-affirming surgeries.
Manning is currently serving out a 35-year sentence for leaking classified documents to the public via the WikiLeaks website, and officially came out as transgender last August after she was sentenced. She has since been diagnosed by a number of military doctors with gender dysphoria, an incongruence between one's assigned gender and the one with which they identify. Hormone replacement therapy is one of a number of recommended courses of treatment for gender dysphoria, as outlined by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health's Standards of Care, and as supported by the American Medical Association.
Manning's attorney has previously indicated the possibility of filing an Eighth Amendment lawsuit if the military continued to deny his client the treatment. However, the Army has been resistant to providing that treatment, pointing to a military regulation that determines any transition-related treatment, or even a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, as grounds for discharge and evidence of a "mental illness."
But in Manning's case, she cannot be discharged from the Army while she is serving out her sentence. This leaves the military with limited options: deny her treatment in a military prison and face legal challenges, or treat her in a military facility and set a new precedent.
"Ultimately, I just want to be able to live my life as the person I am, and to be able to be comfortable in my own skin," Manning writes.