Chelsea Manning's Hair Can't Be Grown Out While She's In Prison & It's Another Way Transgender Rights In Prisons Are Lagging

The United States military has denied Chelsea Manning's request to be allowed to grow her hair long, issuing a blow to transgender rights in federal prisons. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Manning put in a request to follow "female grooming standards," which would mean she would be able to grow her hair out as she undergoes hormone therapy. But the military, which is currently housing Manning at the United States Disciplinary Barracks — a men's prison in Kansas — while she serves her 35-year sentence for leaking a batch of classified documents, said Friday that the former Army soldier must follow "male grooming standards," even though she identifies as a woman and is undergoing hormone treatment.

"Even though the military agrees that allowing Chelsea to grow her hair is a critical part of her treatment plan, they continue to deny her basic human and constitutional rights," said Chase Strangio, an attorney in the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project. "When we filed our lawsuit a year ago, Chelsea had already waited more than a year for even minimal care to treat her gender dysphoria."

This recent decision stems from a federal court case filed in 2014 by the ACLU on behalf of Manning, which demands that she be granted proper treatment for her gender dysphoria. The military eventually granted Manning's request for hormone therapy treatment, as well as speech therapy and cosmetics recommended by her medical providers.

Manning tweeted about the military's decision on Friday, and promised that she will fight her denied request to be allowed to follow "female grooming standards." Although she does not have access to a computer while in prison, she is able to tweet via third parties.

The ACLU said in a statement Friday that it would return to court in early October to press forward with Manning's request. "We are confident that this decision will be overturned by the court but saddened that Chelsea’s treatment continues to be needlessly impeded," Strangio said.

Despite her gender dysphoria, Manning is being held in a men's prison — an experience which she described as "painful" in a recent interview with Cosmopolitan. In August, the military prison came under fire for reportedly penalizing Manning for possessing a copy of Vanity Fair which featured Caitlyn Jenner on the cover. She was found guilty of four disciplinary charges, lost recreation privileges for three weeks, and will now be held in maximum security longer than anticipated — all because of that one magazine.