By Victoria Law
Friday, 30 August 2013
“I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible.” These were the words of Chelsea Manning, the day after she was sentenced to 35 years for leaking classified military documents. (Manning had been arrested, tried and sentenced in a military court as Bradley Manning.)
The military responded to Manning’s statement with its own: “The Army does not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for gender identity disorder.”
Manning likely will serve her sentence at Fort Leavenworth, the only military prison for those sentenced to ten or more years, a military spokesperson told The Associated Press. Fort Leavenworth is a men’s military prison in Kansas. As reported in Truthout, chances seem slim that Manning will be able to begin hormone therapy anytime soon. But what else awaits Chelsea Manning as she begins her 35-year sentence as the first openly trans woman at the US Detention Barracks (USDB) at Fort Leavenworth?
Access to Hormones in State and Federal Prisons and the Eighth Amendment
Manning attorney David E. Coombs has publicly stated that he hopes the military “would do the right thing” and provide hormone therapy for Manning. “If Fort Leavenworth does not, then I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure they are forced to do so.”
Coombs may be able to draw on legal precedents that have forced the federal and state prison systems to change policies about hormone treatment. After Wisconsin passed a 2005 law barring trans prisoners from receiving hormone therapy or sex reassignment surgery, advocacy groups sued the state on behalf of trans prisoners, some of whom had received hormones for years prior. In 2010, a federal court ruled that denying trans prisoners to hormones and other medical treatment violated the Eighth Amendment. The US Supreme Court affirmed that decision in 2011.
That same year, a settlement agreement forced the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which oversees the federal prison system, to change its policy to allow an individualized assessment, evaluation and treatment of prisoners for “gender identity disorder.” Before that, only people who had been diagnosed with “gender identity disorder” previously and were receiving documented hormone treatment were eligible for in-prison hormone therapy.