US: Chelsea Manning Ends Hunger-Strike, Promised Gender-Affirming Surgery

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Chelsea Manning

In the US, Imprisoned transgender whistle-blower, Chelsea Manning, ended her hunger strike yesterday (13th Sept) having secured assurances from the US Army that she will receive the medically prescribed treatment for her ‘gender dysphoria’. The treatment will begin with the surgery that was recommended by her psychologist in April of this year.

Since she was first taken into custody in 2010, Manning, a transgender woman being forced to serve out her sentence in an all-male prison, was subjected to long stretches of solitary confinement during her court martial, and has been denied medical treatment related to her transgender status.

On September 9, she began a hunger-strike to demand, among other things, that she be treated with medically necessary and recommended care.

“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,” said Manning in a statement.

“But 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. In any case, I hope this sets a precedent for the thousands of trans people behind me hoping they will be given the treatment they need.”

Chase Strangio, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, had the following reaction:

“This is a monumental day for Chelsea, who can now enjoy some peace knowing that critically needed medical care is forthcoming. This medical care is absolutely vital for Chelsea as it is for so many transgender people — in and out of prison — who are systemically denied treatment solely because they are transgender. Thankfully the government has recognized its constitutional obligation to provide Chelsea with the medical care that she needs and we hope that they will act without delay to ensure that her suffering does not needlessly continue”.

“It is nonetheless troubling that the government continues to insist that they will enforce the male hair length standards against her and subject her to a disciplinary board over administrative charges related to her suicide attempt in July, which was precipitated by the government’s refusal to adequately treat her for gender dysphoria. Given the recognition of Chelsea’s health care needs, we hope that she is immediately permitted to grow her hair consistent with the standard for female military prisoners and that all charges related to her suicide attempt and the investigation that followed are dropped.”

The ACLU represents Manning in a lawsuit against the American Department of Defense, that was first filed in 2014, over the department’s refusal to treat Manning’s well-documented gender dysphoria.

To date, no transgender individual has received gender-affirming surgical treatment in prison in the US, despite medical recommendations for such care in prisons across America.

More about the case can be found at: https://www.aclu.org/cases/manning-v-hagel-et-al

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