The End of Chelsea Manning's Hunger Strike

The Army has agreed to allow the soldier who leaked classified information to WikiLeaks to undergo gender-transition surgery.

Chelsea Manning
U.S. Army / AP

NEWS BRIEF Chelsea Manning, the transgender soldier who leaked classified information to WikiLeaks and is serving a 35-year sentence is Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, is ending the hunger strike she began last week after the U.S. Army agreed to let her have the medically prescribed treatment for her gender dysphoria.

The news was announced late Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which represents Manning. The treatment, the ACLU said, will begin with the surgery recommended in April by Manning’s psychologist.

Manning, in the ACLU statement, said:

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. But it is hard not to wonder why it has taken so long. Also, why were such drastic measures needed? The surgery was recommended in April 2016. The recommendations for my hair length were back in 2014. In any case, I hope this sets a precedent for the thousands of trans people behind me hoping they will be given the treatment they need.

Chase Strangio, an ACLU staff attorney, added: “This medical care is absolutely vital for Chelsea as it is for so many transgender people—in and out of prison— who are systemically denied treatment solely because they are transgender.” Strangio 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.

In a statement last week announcing her hunger strike, Manning linked her attempt to end her own life in July to “the lack of care for my gender dysphoria that I have been desperate for.” That month, the Army filed additional charges against her linked to the suicide attempt; she could face an additional nine years in prison for that attempt.

Manning, who was arrested in 2010 as Bradley Manning, was convicted in 2013 for leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks while working as a military intelligence analyst in Iraq.