FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (UPI) — U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, serving a 35-year sentence for espionage, ended her hunger strike after learning the Army agreed to provide gender transition surgery.
Manning, who began a hunger strike Sept. 10 to protest her prison conditions, said she is “unendingly relieved that the military is finally doing the right thing.” No surgery date has been set.
If completed, this will be the first time any transgender person has received gender reassignment surgery in prison, the American Civil Liberties Union said.
“This is all that I wanted – for them to let me be me,” she said on her website. “But it is hard not to wonder why it has taken so long. Also, why were such drastic measures needed? The surgery was recommended back 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.”
Manning is still facing indefinite time in solitary confinement after a suicide attempt earlier this summer. She is facing a hearing on Sept. 20 for possible discipline, Chase Strangio, ACLU staff attorney, said.
“This is a monumental day for Chelsea, who can now enjoy some peace knowing that critically needed medical care is forthcoming. 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,” he said in a statement.
Manning, born Bradley Edward Manning, was convicted of stealing thousands of documents and giving them to WikiLeaks. She is serving a 35-year sentence. She started identifying as a woman in 2013, shortly after her conviction. Manning began protesting her conditions immediately after she was sent to Fort Leavenworth, an all-male prison.
The ACLU began representing Manning in 2014 after the U.S. Department of Defense refused to treat her gender dysphoria.
Earlier this year, the Defense Department announced a new policy that outlines the process for service members to transition between genders. It takes effect in October.