Why Chelsea Manning’s Gender Treatment Victory Matters

The Bureau of Prisons has reportedly denied the Army’s request to move Private Chelsea Manning to a civilian prison and so the Army must provide Manning with a “rudimentary level” of gender affirmation related care, a precedent-setting decision that the Army had tried to avoid.

Manning, who is currently serving a 35-year sentence for leaking classified documents to Wikileaks, sought to begin gender change-related treatment at the time of her incarceration, requesting that she be allowed to begin hormone therapy.

The Army denied that request, claiming that it had no responsibility to provide Manning gender confirmation treatment because she had not begun the treatment prior to being put in prison. Previous court rulings have found that the army must, by its own standards, provide medical care but no court opinion has yet adjudicated whether the military or the prison service must facilitate gender alignment treatment if the prisoner didn’t begin prior to entering prison.

However, the military had recognized Manning’s diagnosed gender dysphoria during her lengthy trial, and indeed had even tried to suggest she was unstable because of it. As such, Manning’s lawyers argued that denying Manning gender dysphoria treatment when the Army’s own psychologists had assessed Manning and confirmed her gender dysphoria would be cruel and unusual punishment.

Legal experts believed that, while the courts have yet to break ground in this area, Manning’s case would be a strong one. Not only that, but it would likely have served to put a fresh spotlight on Manning and, indeed, the military abuses the files she released had revealed to the world.

As we previously reported, the Army floated the idea of having Manning moved from the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to a civilian prison, saying that the Army doesn’t have the medical expertise needed to offer this kind of care. A transfer of this kind would have been virtually unprecedented because Manning had not been found to be violent herself, nor had she complained of any prisoners posing a threat to her physical or mental wellbeing while at Fort Worth — indeed, her lawyers contend that prisoners have treated Manning well even knowing about her gender transition, and that they will oppose any attempt to move Manning to a civilian prison.

Now an unnamed source has told the press that the US Bureau of Prisons has rejected the Army’s request to transfer Manning, and that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has authorized the Army to give Manning a “rudimentary level” of gender transition-related care. Precisely what that means isn’t yet clear but Chelsea Manning’s lawyers say they are “hopeful” that this means hormone replacement therapy will be provided.

“We are monitoring the situation to ensure that the Army provides Ms. Manning with medically-necessary treatment consistent with their clear constitutional obligations and are prepared to take any legal action necessary to ensure that Ms. Manning receive the treatment that she needs without any further delay,” Chase Strangio, Staff Attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT & AIDS Project is quoted as saying.

Earlier this year Secretary Hagel said that the army’s policy against open service for trans soldiers, and indeed the way it cares for trans veterans, should be “continuously reviewed,” indicating that while he was not ready to embark on the process of changing military rules yet, it was a possibility in the relatively near future.

Will the decision to offer Manning at least some gender change-related care be the first step toward dismantling the anti-trans ban? It would be premature to say this will strike a decisive blow against that ban because Manning’s situation is unique. However, it does seem that Hagel’s permission opens the door for others in the military to at least test the waters about gender-related care and as such may ultimately hasten the dismantling of a ban that is unfounded and discriminatory.

For the estimated 5,000 active trans military personnel and 130,000 trans veterans, this decision is undeniably encouraging while we still focus on the fact that an end to the ban cannot come soon enough.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.


Oumar R
Oumar R3 years ago

medical treatment should remain for health purposes and maybe not so much well-being?

Vicky P.
Vicky P3 years ago


BMutiny TCorporationsEvil

Joanne D., you put things in a perfectly clear way, and I endorse every single word of it.
'any time someone is on prison, we always get someone who says they have no rights. Constitutionally and morally that is incorrect. If you lock someone up, you assume a duty of care for them, since you have rendered them unable to care for themselves. (The UK has codified this into law; the US has not, but it remains a moral obligation.)
I have two questions, one to address the medical issue and one to address the issue of guilt.
If someone who has tuberculosis and was never able to afford to treat it is locked up, should it be treated?
If your spouse or child is committing serial murders and you learn of it, what is your obligation as to whether to turn that person in to the authorities? (And before anyone pulls "chain of command" here, she DID go through the chain and was told to shut up and forget it.)'
"the military had recognized Manning’s diagnosed gender dysphoria during her lengthy trial, and indeed had even tried to suggest she was unstable because of it"
Yeah, Dummies, you don't get to have it BOTH WAYS, "recognize" and "deny"...!

Robert O.
Robert O3 years ago


Rose Becke3 years ago

She deserves treatment

Heather O.
Heather O3 years ago

. . .

Wow. I cannot believe all the uninformed comments about gender dysphoria AND Chelsea Manning in this article.

*shakes head*

Marie W.
Marie W3 years ago

Chelsea Manning is one of the greatest whistleblowers of our time. Being sent to prison was a scapegoating action- she does not deserve the be there. The whole trans thing is just a red herring for people to avoid learning what her actions revealed.

Jayna Sheats
Jayna Sheats3 years ago

There are far too many uninformed comments here; I don't think most Care2 members are close-minded (I am sure there are a few), and simply need to wake up.

Gender dysphoria is a medical condition and deserves medical treatment as much as any other such condition. If Chelsea deserves to have a heart murmer treated while in prison (which she did not complain about before being arrested), then she deserves treatment for gender dysphoria.

To the several who express perplexity about why the decision came so late, it has come even later for many people. The prejudice which still dominates the mood of society (as starkly evidenced by these comments) makes it very hard to do.

These are simple facts which can be accessed by research on the Internet today. A very good source of thoroughly well-qualified information is the website of Professor Lynn Conway (Univ. of Michigan).

Sheri S.: your statement that "I understand the gender problem" is belied by your thorough ignorance (I simply can't say less) in using the pronoun "it", which is an expression of denigration that many would take as hateful. Please learn more about the condition.

Sue H.
Sue H3 years ago

I'm having a hard time with this issue. I agree with others here about why she didn't bring this up during enlistment.?? I also think that he/she did the right thing about leaking the information and should not be in jail for this. Hormone therapy is not costly, but is it medically sound to administer it for 35 years??

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L3 years ago

I don't think this type of medical care should be given to those incarcerated especially if they were not going through a program before being incarcerated. Seems to me we are treating this spineless traitor with more consideration then he deserves.