Fort Leavenworth, Kansas — Imprisoned soldier Chelsea Manning has ended her hunger strike after it was announced that the 28-year-old would be allowed to receive gender transition surgery. The announcement was made by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Manning is currently serving a 35-year sentence after being convicted of espionage in 2013. Shortly after the conviction, the US Army private, who was born male, announced that she identified as a woman.
Having already undergone hormone therapy in 2015, Manning’s next procedure will be surgery after it was recommended by her psychologist.
The ACLU also mentions how no transgender inmate has ever before received gender affirming surgical treatment in prison, with Manning currently being held in Kansas.
In a statement Manning openly criticized how it took the government ‘so long’ to come to the decision. Manning said in a statement,
“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”
The defense department has declined to comment on the matter, citing the need to protect patient confidentiality.
It marks as a massive victory for Manning, who attempted suicide last year due to what she claims as the government’s denial of appropriate treatment for her gender dysphoria. The condition is when a person identifies with the opposite gender from their physical gender. Manning had also been on a hunger strike prior to the announcement.
After the incident, it was later announced that the Army would be investigating Manning for misconduct in relation to her suicide attempt, which could in turn lead to punishments including indefinite solitary confinement or possibly more time added to her current sentence.
Representatives of Manning also said how doctors recommend that her treatment include being allowed to follow “female hair grooming standards”.
However, Chase Strangio, staff attorney with ACLU, said in the statement that the government has no current plans to follow this recommendation, as it plans to enforce male hair standards. He said,
“This is a monumental day for Chelsea, who can now enjoy some peace knowing that critically needed medical care is forthcoming”
Stangio then added,
“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.”
Previously serving an intelligence analyst prior to her conviction, Manning is serving a 35-year sentence after she was arrested as Bradley Manning for leaking over 700,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks belonging to the military and Department of State.
Manning’s breach of classified information is viewed as one the largest in U.S history.