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Bradley Manning's gender transition sets up legal showdown

By David Dishneau

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 11:40 a.m. HST, Aug 23, 2013

Bradley Manning is the first transgender military inmate to ask for hormone treatments, officials say, a request that could lead to a legal showdown over how — and if — the soldier convicted in the WikiLeaks case will be allowed to live as a female behind bars.

Current Pentagon policy dictates that transgender soldiers are not allowed to serve, and Manning won't be discharged until being released from prison and all appeals are exhausted. Furthermore, the military does not allow soldiers to undergo hormone treatments while in the all-male prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. — though this is the first time officials have heard of a request for such treatment, said Maria Tolleson, a spokeswoman with the Army Medical Command in Arlington, Va.

"We're just now dealing with the issue," she said, adding it would be premature to say there has been any movement toward offering the care to all transgender inmates as a result of Manning's case.

Manning also won't be allowed to dress as a woman, as wigs and bras are not allowed. The soldier's gender dysphoria — the sense of being a woman in a man's body — coupled with the military convictions could leave him to face an isolated future, shunned by fellow inmates and transgender veterans on the outside who believe the leaks put Manning's comrades in danger.

It is not known whether Manning could be transferred to a female prison, though defense attorney David Coombs has said that was not the motive behind the Army private's statement Thursday asking to be referred to by feminine pronouns, signed "Chelsea E. Manning."

On NBC's "Today" show on Thursday, Coombs vowed to "do everything in my power to make sure that they are forced" to ensure Manning is provided with the hormone treatment, suggesting a lawsuit could be in the offing if the military doesn't comply. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Campaign, along with other advocates, also say Manning should get the treatment.

Coombs didn't respond to telephone and email messages today from The Associated Press.

It's not clear whether Manning directly requested the therapy, which typically involves high doses of estrogen to promote breast development and other female characteristics, at Fort Leavenworth after arriving Thursday.

Fort Leavenworth spokeswoman Kimberly Lewis said Manning's intake processing would include meeting with medical and mental health staff and determining where the inmate will be assigned in the prison population. Manning was diagnosed with gender identity disorder by an Army clinical psychologist while serving in Iraq in 2010, and by a Navy psychiatrist who examined Manning last year, according to their court-martial testimony.

As of last year, civilian federal prisons are required to develop treatment plans — including hormone therapy, if necessary — for inmates diagnosed with gender identity disorder, now called gender dysphoria. Unlike military prisons, the policy also allows inmates who believe they are the wrong gender to dress and live accordingly as part of their individual treatment plans.

If the military refuses to provide the hormone treatment, Manning wouldn't able to get it by other means until at least February 2020, the earliest he could be released on parole. Transgender veterans can get help with hormone therapy and mental health counseling from the Veterans Administration after they leave the military. However, Manning would not be eligible because of the soldier's dishonorable discharge.

Staff at Fort Leavenworth have some leeway to segregate Manning for protection, though such isolation can be punishing, said Bridget Wilson, who practices military law in San Diego.

Even if Manning is not segregated, the soldier faces an isolated future because fellow soldier-prisoners may not look kindly upon Manning's leak of more than 700,000 military and diplomatic records, Wilson said.

"Some of the most patriotic people you will ever meet are in military prisons," she said. "They have more than one safety issue with Pfc. Manning."

Manning also has found little sympathy among transgender veterans. Kristin Beck, a former Navy SEAL who began transitioning to life as a woman early this year, said on her Facebook page Thursday that "Manning is a tarnish on my dream" of equality for all.

The American Veterans for Equal Rights — an organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender services members and veterans — said in a statement it condemns the action of any soldier who would publicize information that could endanger service members' lives.

But former Army Lt. Dan Choi, a Manning supporter discharged for coming out as gay during the "don't ask, don't tell" era, said military LGBT advocacy groups would embrace Manning's quest if they could look objectively at the diplomatic duplicity and callousness toward civilian casualties the leaks exposed.

"I'm going to keep pushing, not just to the gay community but to all communities, because this is what the gay community should be about — must be about — is a declassification of your own closetedness, that is our main goal," Choi said in a telephone interview from Washington.

Associated Press writers Pauline Jelinek and Lolita Baldor in Washington and John Milburn in Topeka, Kan., contributed to this report.

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Maneki_Neko wrote:
Lop off the allas on TV. Sell the rights to HBO.
on August 23,2013 | 11:50AM
Masami wrote:
He/she shoulda thought of this BEFORE he/she decided to release the info to WIKILEAKS. Bruddah/sistah..............you in PRISON NOW.............you GOT NO RIGHTS.
on August 23,2013 | 12:00PM
ryan02 wrote:
I think someone who leaks this kind of info deserves a long prison term. BUT we generally provide psychiatric/psychological treatment of inmates, including murderers. I think they need to have some medical professionals evaluate him, and provide the minimum he needs (even if it's allowing him to wear wigs, or whatever). People may disagree, but we provide medication and medical treatments for murderes all the time in prison. Just because this guy is bizarre doesn't mean he isn't entitled to receive appropriate treatment.
on August 23,2013 | 12:27PM
Kahu Matu wrote:
If America is going to be the nation that defines and segregates people on the gender they "feel" themselves to be at a specific date, then these sorts of tensions will arise. If our politicians still held to the science that classified this as a mental illness, then it would be easier to provide treatment. However, now they have made this person's feelings a "civil right" and they have to sit in their own filth.
on August 23,2013 | 12:32PM
Kahu Matu wrote:
What if child molesters wanted to change their identity to another gender. Wouldn't that provide anonymity. Then what if they wanted to change back a year or two later. This entire classification based upon the sex one feels to be is wrought with too many problems and hopefully the terminology is forgotten soon so that further damage is not inflicted.
on August 23,2013 | 12:36PM
ajohns48 wrote:
"The American Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Campaign, along with other advocates, also say Manning should get the treatment." Let these groups pay for it!!
on August 23,2013 | 12:45PM
Kahu Matu wrote:
The main question is do you treat this as the disorder it is (Gender Identity Disorder) or do you establish a precedent based upon the ever changing feelings and urges of the individual?
on August 23,2013 | 01:25PM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
What a complete and utter mess of a situation. Such a disgrace for the military and our nation, that this person-- a traitor-- was allowed to don our nation's military uniform and serve the nation.
on August 23,2013 | 01:29PM
serious wrote:
No, that's not the point. Who is the Commander in Chief?? Where is the chain of command, that on ONE STRIPER gets away with this. Where was Bush??? Right? If you say Obama it's the R card!!!! Hand 'em high right from the top!!
on August 23,2013 | 02:00PM
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