This past Tuesday, the United States Army approved gender-transition surgery for Chelsea Manning, who is currently serving 35 years in a Kansas military prison for distributing classified information to WikiLeaks. As a result of this decision, Manning put an end to her hunger strike that began the previous Friday.
Manning has reported experiencing gender dysphoria: anxiety and stress that arises from a misalignment of one’s gender identity and biological sex. Manning is an inmate at an all-male facility and has been denied medical treatment for her dysphoria since the start of her confinement in 2010. Her psychologist attested to the importance of Manning’s ability to access proper care and gender transition surgery. The approved treatment will allow her to continue her transition this upcoming April.
Obtaining this medical treatment plan was not an easy road for Manning, but a drawn out fight between her lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Department of Defense. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Manning stated that, “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,” however, “it is hard not to wonder why it has taken so long. Also, why were such drastic measures needed? The surgery was recommended in April 2016. The recommendations for my hair length were back in 2014.”
Chelsea Manning’s victory marks the first time any transgender person has received gender transition surgery facilitated within a US prison, state or federal, among the many other cases that have been recommended for care by medical health professionals. Manning remains hopeful that this will pave the road for others struggling with gender dysphoria and lack of access to medical treatment, as she remarked “I hope this sets a precedent for the thousands of trans people behind me hoping they will be given the treatment they need.”