Chelsea Manning Ends Hunger Strike After Army Agrees to Gender-Transition Surgery

By
Chelsea Manning. Photo: U.S. Army

Chelsea Manning ended her four-day hunger strike yesterday after the military agreed to provide her with gender-reassignment surgery. The military has yet to confirm or comment on its decision, but lawyers for Manning claim that they were approached by Army officials yesterday, who confirmed that Manning would receive the health care she requested.

Chelsea Manning, 28, is serving a 35-year sentence for violating the Espionage Act after she released nearly 750,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks in 2013.

Manning attempted suicide in July, and now faces a new round of charges relating to her suicide attempt. She had refused to eat until the Army agreed to let her undergo gender-transition surgery.

While the Army had provided her hormone therapy, it had stopped short of providing surgery, despite a recommendation from her psychologist in April that she should receive it.

In a statement Chelsea said, “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.” Though she did wonder “why it has taken so long.”

According to the ACLU’s Chase Strangio, who is acting as an attorney for Manning, the Army reached its decision when it determined that Manning fit the criteria for the Department of Defense’s recent instructions regarding “in-service transition.”

Though the move is a clear victory for Manning, her ordeal is far from over. She still has a hearing next week, where she will face charges over her recent suicide attempt. And, bizarrely, though the Army is willing to provide hormone treatments, and even gender-reassignment surgery, Chelsea is still forced to wear her hair short in the style required of all male military members. She will be officially allowed to wear her hair long only after her surgery takes place.

No prisoner in the United States — at either the state or federal level — has ever received gender-reassignment surgery, though one inmate in California does have a surgery planned for this fall following a court case brought by the Transgender Law Center.

“I hope this sets a precedent,” Manning said in her statement, “for the thousands of trans people behind me.”