The Army has approved hormone therapy for Chelsea Manning as part of her gender transition while she serves time in the all-male Fort Leavenworth prison for leaking national security secrets. It’s a first for the military, which still bans transgender military service, but is liable for Manning’s health care while she is in their custody.
Col. Erica Nelson, commandant of the For Leavenworth Disciplinary Barracks, acknowledged in a memo obtained by USA Today that the treatment is “medically appropriate and necessary” and posed no safety and security risk.
Manning came out as transgender in August 2013, just after being sentenced to 35 years in prison. She had requested to receive the proper medical treatment, but as of July 2014, the only concession the Army had made was allowing her to wear female underwear, but not even grow her hair out or engage in feminine grooming, let alone hormone therapy. Chase Strangio, an ACLU attorney representing Manning, offered at the time, “Treating severe gender dysphoria with sports bras is like treating a gunshot wound with a Band-Aid.” Last August, following numerous unsuccessful complaints, Manning filed a suit in federal court demanding the treatment her doctors had prescribed for her.
The new memo does not indicate when the hormone therapy can begin, and Manning will still not be allowed to engage in “female hair grooming.” It’s unclear what accommodations will be made to protect her as she transitions in the all-male prison.
As the National Center for Transgender Equality’s Mara Keisling explained to USA Today, providing the medically necessary treatment for Manning shouldn’t be in question. “If she has a heart attack, they have to treat that, too,” she explained. “This is no different.”
Last week, The Guardian U.S. announced that it was hiring Manning (for no pay) to write occasional opinion pieces “on the subjects of war, gender, and freedom of information.”