Transgender US soldier Chelsea Manning has vowed to forgo food until she receives government help for her gender dysphoria and is “treated with dignity, respect and humanity.” She had previously attempted to commit suicide over the same issues in July.
The 28-year-old,born Bradley Edward Manning, formerly served as an army intelligence analyst for the US in Iraq before being sentenced to 35 years in prison after a military court conviction of providing more than 700,000 documents, videos (including a gunsight view of an Apache helicopter firing on suspected Iraqi insurgents in 2007), diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks. The act has been deemed as the largest breach of classified materials in United States history.
Although she could have been eligible for parole after 8 years, and be dishonorably discharged from the Army, the military has since announced that it would investigate Manning for misconduct in connection with the attempt to take her own life, which could result in indefinite solitary confinement, reclassification into maximum security or additional prison time.
“I need help. I needed help earlier this year. I was driven to suicide by the lack of care for my gender dysphoria that I have been desperate for. I didn’t get any. I still haven’t gotten any,” Manning said in a statement released by a spokeswoman.
“I am no longer asking. Now, I am demanding. As of 12:01 am Central Daylight Time on September 9, 2016, and until I am given minimum standards of dignity, respect, and humanity, I shall refuse to voluntarily cut or shorten my hair in any way; consume any food or drink voluntarily, except for water and currently prescribed medications; and comply with all rules, regulations, laws, and orders that are not related to the two things I have mentioned.”
Manning, who asked to be given hormone replacement therapy the day after being convicted in 2013, stated that she had always “felt female.” Although her request was granted last year, the government has refused her doctors’ request that she be permitted to follow “female hair grooming standards.” This reportedly includes the right to grow her hair long and use cosmetic products. However, she was granted the right to wear female undergarments.
While certain considerations for treating gender dysphoria, is provided in civilian federal prisons when it is found to be medically necessary, it is not available in military prisons. The Pentagon policy simply considers transgender individuals “ineligible to serve.”
Although the army did update its records to conform with her legal name change from Bradley to Chelsea Elizabeth as granted by the Kansas District Court in April 2014, it continues to regard her as male. In addition, the Federal Bureau of Prisons rejected a request by the Army to transfer Manning from the USDB to a civilian facility for treatment of her gender dysphoria. Instead, the Army will retain Manning in military custody and begin rudimentary gender treatment as approved by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
While treatment for the condition is highly individualized, the main approach is to incorporate psychotherapy to support the person’s “preferred gender” through hormone therapy, gender expression and activity, as well as-surgical procedures.
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