Bradley Manning faces legal and social difficulties as transgender

Fri Aug 23, 2013 9:55am EDT
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By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier sentenced this week for leaking 700,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks in the biggest breach of secret data in the country's history, could soon be entangled in another legal showdown.

Unlike the court-martial Manning faced for leaking the data, the next challenge could play out in federal court over a far different issue: sexual identity.

Manning's announcement on Thursday of wishing to live as a woman named Chelsea raised unprecedented legal questions over whether the Army will provide the female hormone therapy Manning wants to undergo, not to mention questions over how life will unfold as a transgender military inmate.

"The prime issue concerns the manner in which Chelsea Manning will be treated in prison, and whether she will have the same access that all prisoners have to treatments that are prescribed to her," said Michael Silverman, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund in New York.

"Will the prison in which she is housed allow her doctors to treat her the same way they allow them to treat other prisoners?" he asked.

Manning, 25, was sentenced to 35 years at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, which houses military prisoners about 25 miles north of Kansas City, Kansas.

At Fort Leavenworth, Manning will have access to mental health professionals, including a psychiatrist, psychologist, social workers and behavioral science specialists, according to an Army spokeswoman.

But she said the Army did not provide hormone therapy, which is what Manning would seek, or gender-reassignment surgery.   Continued...

U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier convicted of giving classified state documents to WikiLeaks, is pictured dressed as a woman in this 2010 photograph obtained on August 14, 2013. Manning, sentenced for leaking classified U.S. documents, said in an August 23, 2013 statement read on NBC News that he is female and wants to live as a woman named Chelsea. REUTERS/U.S. Army/Handout