Last week the Pentagon announced that they would cover gender-affirming surgery for active duty troops on a case-by-case basis after a recommendation by a physician and approval by senior officials.
The news broke when a Defense Department spokesperson stated that all transgender active-duty troops would now have these surgeries available to them with a doctor’s recommendation. This decision was released in the wake of incarcerated Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning being granted authorization to undergo gender-affirming surgery.
Manning revealed that she identified as female the day after being sentenced to prison for leaking government files back in 2013. She was just recently permitted by the United States military to proceed with her gender-affirming surgery after waging a five-day hunger strike.
Currently, she is serving her sentence in an all-male facility where she had previously been denied medical treatment for her gender dysphoria, a condition of anxiety and stress that stems from the misalignment of one’s gender identity and biological sex. Her psychologist emphasized the importance of Manning’s access to proper care and gender-affirming surgery. Now that she is able to have gender-affirming surgery, Manning says, “I am unendingly relieved that the military is finally doing the right thing.”
Her victory to have gender-affirming surgery set the stage for other troops to undergo the same procedure, a victory for LGBTQ activists who do not see the surgery as “elective” as previously argued by the Pentagon. This benefit does not currently apply to non-active duty Tricare beneficiaries, but is a positive sign that the Pentagon is open to amending medical regulations to better benefit military members’ mental health.