Why The Army Won't Give Chelsea Manning Hormone Therapy

WikiLeaker and Army soldier Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley, made it clear Thursday that she would like to undergo hormone therapy treatment during her 35-year incarceration — but the Army isn’t going to give it to her.

"All inmates are considered soldiers and are treated as such with access to mental health professionals, including a psychiatrist, psychologist, social workers and behavioral science noncommissioned officers with experience in addressing the needs of military personnel in pre- and post-trial confinement,” the Army said in a statement. “The Army does not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for gender identity disorder.”

The ACLU slammed the Army’s decision, saying that it “raise[s] serious constitutional concerns.”

Gender dysphoria is a serious medical condition in which a person's gender identity does not correspond to his or her assigned sex at birth, and hormone therapy is part of the accepted standards of care for this condition. Without the necessary treatment, gender dysphoria can cause severe psychological distress, including anxiety and suicide. When the government holds individuals in its custody, it must provide them with medically necessary care.

There is some precedent to this: In September of last year, a federal judge ordered a Massachusetts prison to provide sexual reassignment to a transgendered inmate after the prisoner — who was placed in an all-male prison despite identifying as female — attempted to castrate herself and take her own life multiple times.

But that was a civilian prison, not a military one, and gender reassignment surgery isn’t the same as hormone therapy. A lawyer for Manning said that he hadn’t yet spoken to his client about gender reassignment surgery, saying that at this stage, “it's more about getting the hormone therapy.”

Private Manning was charged with 22 offenses after perpetrating the biggest leak of classified documents in U.S. history. She pled guilty to 10 of the charges and was put on trial for the rest; a jury found her guilty of most of the offenses but acquitted her of the most serious charge, aiding the enemy. She was sentenced to 35 years in prison, and her lawyer expects her to get out on probation in seven years. There has even been talks of a presidential pardon, though that seems highly unlikely.

In a 2010 email, Manning told one of her Army superiors that she identified as female, and had joined the Army “to get rid of it.” A therapist who treated Manning testified at her trial that she suffered from gender identity disorder.

Manning's lawyer hinted at a lawsuit on the horizon, telling the Today Show that if the Army doesn't provide Manning with hormone therapy, "then I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure they are forced to do so.” An ACLU spokesperson told Bustle that "at this point, we're just monitoring the case," and that the organization "[doesn't] have any specific plans to take any legal action at this time."