ACLU: Military OKs Gender Surgery For Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning, a U.S. Army private currently serving a 30-year prison sentence for providing hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks, will receive gender reassignment surgery, the American Civil Liberties Union said.

Manning was born Bradley Edward Manning in 1987 and enlisted in the U.S. Army in late 2007. Two years later, he was assigned as an intelligence analyst and deployed to Iraq with his unit.

In 2010, after unsuccessfully trying to get the attention of reporters at The Washington Post and New York Times, Manning passed hundreds of thousands of files -- collectively known as the Iraq War logs and the Afghan war logs -- to WikiLeaks.

The leak would eventually lead to Manning's arrest and conviction on espionage and theft charges. It was after Manning was sentenced that he declared he wanted to be known as Chelsea, and requested gender reassignment surgery.

"As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me," Manning wrote in a statement released to the media by her lawyers. "I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible."

At that point, Manning requested people refer to her by female pronouns, and began her push for gender reassignment procedures.

The 28-year-old had been on a hunger strike since Sept. 9, but announced she ended her hunger strike after the military agreed to arrange her transition, Reuters reported. The ACLU told the news service it's the first time a transgender inmate will receive "gender affirming surgical treatment" while in prison.

The transition will begin with a surgery that was recommended by Manning's psychologist in April, according to reports.

"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," Manning wrote in a statement.

Despite the green light for surgery and transition, Manning will not be allowed to grow her hair long, according to Reuters. While Manning's doctors have recommended the Army private be allowed to follow "female hair grooming standards," the military denied that request, the ACLU said.

Chase Strangio, an ACLU attorney who represents Manning, said he would continue fighting on Manning's behalf for a change in regard to grooming standards, and for the military to drop disciplinary charges against Manning for her earlier attempt to end her life while in prison.

"Given the recognition of Chelsea's health care needs," Strangio said, reports NPR, "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."

Sources: Reuters, NPR, The Guardian / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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