A year after requesting gender-reassignment treatment, convicted national-security leaker Chelsea Manning says the military has given her nothing but "lip service." In an exclusive statement to NBC News, the former Army private once known as Bradley Manning said life in the military lockup at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, has restricted her ability to express her gender identity. "For example, in my daily life, I am reminded of this when I look at the name on my badge, the first initial sewed into my clothing, the hair and grooming standards that I adhere to, and the titles and courtesies used by the staff. Ultimately, I just want to be able to live my life as the person that I am, and to be able to feel comfortable in my own skin."
Manning is serving a 35-year sentence after being convicted of sending classified documents to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. She became the first military inmate to ask for treatment for gender dysphoria and went public with her decision to live life as a woman in a TODAY interview last August. She asked for a treatment plan that would consider three measures: dressing and living as a woman, hormone therapy and possible surgery.
Last month, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel approved an Army recommendation to begin the early stages of gender reassignment, including counseling and approval to dress as a woman, officials said. But Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, said in a statement that the military has failed to carry out the recommendation and that he is prepared to sue. "The military's failure to comply with the treatment recommendations and protocols for Chelsea's diagnosed gender dysmorphia violates her well-established constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment," Coombs wrote.
The Army declined to say when treatment might begin.
"The Department of Defense has approved a request by Army leadership to provide required medical treatment for an inmate diagnosed with gender dysphoria. I can't discuss the medical needs of an individual," Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Alayne Conway said.
"In general terms, the initial stages of treatment for individuals with gender dysphoria include psychotherapy and elements of the 'real life experience' therapy. Treatment for the condition is highly individualized and generally is sequential and graduated."