The Department of Defense will now decide on a recent request by the Army jailers of Private Chelsea Manning (the former Bradley Manning at the center of the 2010 WikiLeaks case) asking if Manning might be transferred to a civilian prison that could provide him with the hormone therapy needed to become more like a real transgendered woman.
Army officials at Fort Leavenworth Correctional Facility in Kansas have been given permission by the Pentagon to "evaluate potential treatment options for inmates diagnosed with gender dysphoria," according to the New York Times. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel would have to "properly balance the soldier's medical needs with our obligation to ensure Private Manning remains behind bars," said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby.
The picture above, distributed by the Army during Manning's trial, was passed by Chelsea Manning, while still known as Bradley Manning, to one of his supervisors in 2010.
This is the picture that most of the media used when detailing Manning's trial, after which he was sentenced to 35 years in military prison on 20 counts of treason for participating in what's widely been described as the largest wholesale unloading of American classified secrets ever:
After Manning began his prison sentence in August, media reports started trickling out about Bradley's desire to have his gender reassigned so Chelsea could serve out his sentence. At the same time, the Army issued a simple statement that reminded everyone that the military does not perform gender reassignment surgery.
Since he's responsible for implementing the squashing of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, Hagel was pressed about whether transgendered civilians might someday find a place in the military, to which he remained non-committal: "Every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it."
Bradley Manning's request to begin living as Chelsea Manning was approved by a judge last month. A military doctor already had diagnosed Manning with gender dysphoria. But her request to receive the hormone therapy typically prescribed to those who desire to live a transgendered lifestyle was turned down. (It's against the military code of conduct, according to the Washington Post.)
The military is clearly taking steps to protect itself from any backlash that might arise from failing to treat transgendered convicts. As the Pentagon weighs Manning's case, the Southern Poverty Law Center just shot out a letter to the Georgia Department of Corrections insisting that hormone therapy be provided to its transgendered prisoners. The letter, in part:
"...GDC's continued refusal to provide necessary medical treatment violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment, widely accepted protocol on health care standards in correctional settings, the Rules and Regulations of the State of Georgia, and GDC's own internal policies concerning the treatment of transgender people."[Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]