U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning will receive gender affirming surgery, and is ending her hunger strike after five days, her lawyers have confirmed.
“I am unendingly relieved that the military is finally doing the right thing,” Manning said in a statement. “I applaud them for that. This is all that I wanted — for them to let me be me. But it is hard not to wonder why it has taken so long.”
Until her surgery, the military will still require Manning to keep her hair short.
Manning’s psychologist formally recommended surgery in April 2016. Despite recommendations dating back to 2014 that she be allowed to grow her hair out, the military has not allowed her to do so.
Since her arrest in 2010, Manning has suffered numerous abuses, including being forced to strip naked, prolonged solitary confinement, disciplinary charges for such things as having expired toothpaste in her cell, and being denied medical care.
Manning still faces a hearing on Sept. 20 concerning charges related to her suicide attempt.
Manning’s struggle to obtain medical care mirrors the struggle of transgender inmates nationwide. Despite major medical associations recognizing reassignment surgery as necessary medical care for gender dysphoria, no transgender prisoner has ever received gender reassignment surgery in a U.S. prison, according to the ACLU.
Chase Strangio, Manning’s lawyer with the ACLU, issued the following statement: “This is a monumental day for Chelsea, who can now enjoy some peace knowing that critically needed medical care is forthcoming. This medical care is absolutely vital for Chelsea as it is for so many transgender people — in and out of prison — who are systemically denied treatment solely because they are transgender. Thankfully the government has recognized its constitutional obligation to provide Chelsea with the medical care that she needs and we hope that they will act without delay to ensure that her suffering does not needlessly continue.”