National Security

Wikileaks convict sues Pentagon over gender change treatments

Pfc. Chelsea Manning poses for a photo wearing a wig and lipstick. Manning is suing the Defense Department for hormone therapy. Lawyers for the Army private formerly known as Bradley Manning and the American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/U.S. Army)
Pfc. Chelsea Manning poses for a photo wearing a wig and lipstick. Manning is suing the Defense Department for hormone therapy. Lawyers for the Army private formerly known as Bradley Manning and the American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/U.S. Army) AP

Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning, known as Bradley Manning when she was convicted last year for releasing classified documents, sued Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday for failing to provide medical treatment for her gender disorder.

The lawsuit filed in Washington asks a federal court to issue a preliminary injunction requiring that Manning receive hormone replacement treatment while serving her 35-year sentence at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Chase Strangio, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union in New York, said Army doctors diagnosed Manning with “gender dysphoria” four years ago but have not given her standard medical treatments for the disorder.

Gender dysphoria is a medical “condition of feeling one’s emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be opposite to one’s biological sex,” according to the Oxford Dictionary.

Manning announced her desire to live as a woman, and to change her first name from Bradley to Chelsea, after she was convicted in August 2013 for having given the anti-secrecy group Wikileaks more than 700,000 secret U.S. military and State Department documents three years earlier.

The Pentagon did not oppose her name change, and a Leavenworth County, Kan., judge approved it in April.

Defense officials said Tuesday that the Pentagon had made accommodations for Manning.

“The Department of Defense approved a request by Army leadership to provide required medical treatment for an inmate diagnosed with gender dysphoria,” Navy Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman, told McClatchy.

Strangio, however, said the only provisions made for Manning have been giving her female underwear and bras.

“Treating gender dysphoria with underwear is akin to treating a severe gunshot wound with a Band-Aid,” Strangio told McClatchy.

In her lawsuit, Manning is also seeking legal authority to grow out her hair, have long fingernails and observe other common female grooming rituals.

“That is part of the treatment protocols for gender dysphoria,” Strangio said. “The protocols require outward expressions of gender. She’s just asking that she be allowed to follow the same grooming standards that female prisoners would follow.”

Manning is agreeing to get her hair cut only because she would face punishment if she refused.

“She should not be disciplined in expressing her female agenda by, for example, growing her hair,” Strangio said.

Manning, an Oklahoma native who is now 27, is the only woman at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, the military’s sole maximum-security prison for men.

Manning has privacy when she uses the bathroom and takes a shower, Strangio said.

Defense officials confirmed Tuesday that the Pentagon had dropped efforts to transfer Manning to a civilian prison so that she could get treatment for her gender disorder.

It was not clear why the Army will not or cannot provide the hormone treatments at the Fort Leavenworth prison.

The treatments sought by Manning normally result in a higher voice and other bodily changes tied to the female gender.

Manning, who served as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, was acquitted of aiding the enemy, which carries a possible death penalty, but convicted of violating the Espionage Act and other crimes.

Manning released the largest set of U.S. classified documents ever leaked, including 250,000 diplomatic cables and almost half million Army documents, mainly about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

The Pentagon prohibits anyone who has changed genders from military service.

Despite that ban, Strangio said the Army is required under the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution to provide the customary medical treatment for her gender disorder.

“You could have someone who is schizophrenic or diabetic,” she said. “Both of those conditions may make you subject to military discharge, but if you’re incarcerated, the military would have to treat them.”

The Supreme Court has interpreted the Eighth Amendment to include a government ban on cruel or unusual punishments.

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