Chelsea Manning's Gender Treatment Will Start in Prison, Meaning She Only "Might" Get Hormone Therapy

It's been a long and exhausting uphill battle, but finally, Chelsea Manning will be getting her gender treatment. She'll still be in military prison, though, which means that her therapy will be "rudimentary" — the Pentagon had been trying to move Manning to a civilian prison where she could get better treatment, but a defense official told the Associated Press Thursday that Bureau of Prisons has denied this request, choosing instead to keep Manning in military custody.

Although it's far from perfect, the move is a big step forward for the Wikileaker. Ever since Manning expressed her female gender identity back in August 2013, the Army has been struggling with how to deal with her. In spite of Manning's being diagnosed with gender dysphoria several times, the Army had been stuck in a circular catch-22-type-situation: the Defense Department can’t provide hormone therapy treatment because transgender people are still banned from serving in the U.S. army, and Manning can't be discharged. Which has meant that, until now, Manning has been refused hormone treatment.

The Army had hoped to circumvent this issue by having Manning transferred to a federal system — now that it's clear that won't happen, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has agreed to start Manning on a basic gender treatment program even while she serves her 35-year sentence in military prison. What exactly this "rudimentary" gender treatment is, though, remains a bit of a mystery. The Associated Press reports that the program might let Manning begin dressing as a woman, and will probably include psychiatric and psychological consultations. It's still not clear though when — and even if — she'll be transferred from the men's-only prison at Fort Leavenworth, or even if she'll get hormone therapy at all.

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Said Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, to the Associated Press:

It has been almost a year since we first filed our request for adequate medical care. I am hopeful that when the Army says it will start a 'rudimentary level' of treatment that this means hormone replacement therapy.

He added that if that therapy wasn't provided, he would take "appropriate legal action to ensure Chelsea finally receives the medical treatment she deserves and is entitled to under the law."

Regardless, even getting access to counseling will no doubt be a welcome relief for the inmate, who's had to struggle for every win — after all, it was only in May that she was finally able to get her name legally changed.