Chelsea Manning's Name Is Official, But...

by L. Turner

Chelsea Elizabeth Manning was legally permitted to get her name changed Wednesday, when an Army judge approved her request to formally change it. But though Chelsea Manning's soon-to-be name change will likely be a relief for Manning, it won't change anything about Manning's treatment in prison at Fort Leavenworth, a men's-only facility. Manning, who is serving a 35-year prison sentence for her role in the release of classified documents made public by Wikileaks, released a statement a day after her sentencing in August 2013 expressing her female gender identity and desire to live as a woman.

The Army has since refused to give Manning hormone therapy, based mostly on the circular argument that the Army does not provide hormones. At least two behavioral specialists in the Army have diagnosed Manning with gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder, according to USA Today. She has requested specific treatment for the disorder, including both the hormone replacement therapy and specialized counseling.

The Army has not responded to her request, which has led her to file a grievance with the commander of the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks commander. But inmates in the military prison system have restricted avenues of legal recourse.

Manning's court records will likely be updated to reflect the name change, but she'll stilll be housed in the all-male facility at Leavenworth and so would still be considered male by the Army. Normally, having gender dysphoria would lead to a discharge from the Army, according to USA Today, but Manning can't be discharged until her sentence is completed.

Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

After Manning made her request to be called Chelsea public, the Army released a statement assuring everybody it doesn't discriminate against prisoners while reiterating its refusal to provide her with hormone therapy or sex reassignment surgery, a decision the American Civil Liberties Union has slammed.

Explaining that the Army doesn't provide hormone replacement therapy because it doesn't provide hormone replacement therapy isn't good enough. It's time for a better answer.