Chelsea Manning, the convicted national-security secrets leaker, has been approved for hormone therapy for transition to a woman at the Army’s Fort Leavenworth prison, according to a memo obtained Thursday by USA TODAY.
Manning remains a soldier as well as an inmate, and the decision to administer hormone therapy is a first for the Army.
“After carefully considering the recommendation that (hormone treatment) is medically appropriate and necessary, and weighing all associated safety and security risks presented, I approve adding (hormone treatment) to Inmate Manning’s treatment plan,” Col. Erica Nelson, the commandant of Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, wrote in a Feb. 5 memo.
Formerly named Bradley Manning, the soldier was convicted of sending classified documents to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. Manning is serving a 35-year prison sentence and is eligible for parole in about seven years.
At Manning’s trial, his attorneys argued he had been disillusioned by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and believed the release of the documents, including diplomatic cables and military reports, should be seen by the public.
Manning sued the federal government for access to the treatment. The Army referred questions about Manning to the Department of Justice, which has been handling the case. Nicole Navas, a Justice Department spokeswoman, declined to comment, saying the government’s position is detailed in court filings.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Manning in the case, did not have an immediate comment on the Army’s memo.
Manning had asked for hormone therapy and to be able to live as a woman. Transgenders are not allowed to serve in the U.S. military and the Defense Department does not provide such treatment. The Department of Veterans Affairs, however, does provide the treatment for veterans.
The Army’s decision means it is simply fulfilling its obligation to provide Manning with medical care, said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, an advocacy group based in Washington. Failing to do so would be “cruel and unusual punishment,” she said.
“If she has a heart attack, they have to treat that, too,” Keisling said. “This is no different.”
It’s not clear from the memo when treatment will begin. Nelson also wrote that she approved a recommendation not allowing Manning “female hair grooming” based on risk assessment.
Last month, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told USA TODAY the ban on transgender troops is likely to be reassessed and should be lifted.
Click here to continue reading.
SOURCE: USA Today
Tom Vanden Brook