THE US military will begin treatment for US document leaker Chelsea Manning for her gender-identity condition after US defence secretary Chuck Hagel approved the move.
The decision came after the bureau of prisons rejected the army’s request to transfer Manning, who was formerly known as Private First Class Bradley Manning, from a military facility.
Manning is serving a 35-year prison sentence in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, after being convicted last year by an army judge of multiple counts related to her role in sharing classified government and military documents with anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
The 26-year-old has been diagnosed by military doctors with gender dysphoria, a condition in which a person feels their gender is at odds with their sex.
Following her conviction in July 2013, Manning requested treatment, including hormone therapy, and asked to be allowed to live as a woman.
The initial gender treatments provided by the military could include allowing Manning to wear female underwear and possibly some hormone treatments.
Manning’s lawyer David Coombs threatened to sue the army if she was not given sex change therapy in military prison, arguing the military had an obligation to treat the soldier’s “transgender issues” and that she would not be safe if transferred to a civilian prison for treatment.
Defence officials argued that the army did not have the medical expertise needed to give Manning the best treatment.
The decision raises a number of questions about what level of treatment Manning will be able to receive and at what point she would have to be transferred from the all-male prison to a female facility.
In April, a judge granted her petition to change her name legally from Bradley to Chelsea, and according to a court filing by Manning’s legal team, a military doctor at Fort Leavenworth had approved a treatment plan by November 2013.
Earlier this week, Mr Coombs said that he was encouraged that the army will begin medical treatment.
He added: “It has been almost a year since we first filed our request for adequate medical care. I am hopeful that when the army says it will start a ‘rudimentary level’ of treatment that this means hormone replacement therapy.”
If hormone therapy is not provided, he said he will have to take “appropriate legal action to ensure Chelsea finally receives the medical treatment she deserves and is entitled to under the law”.
Manning has not publicly said whether she wants surgery.
The former intelligence analyst was sentenced in August for six Espionage Act violations and 14 other offences.