Abuse fears for a female Bradley Manning

Difficulties of being transgender in prison are well documented

  Bradley Manning, who wishes to live as a woman and be known as Chelsea.  Pte Manning will request hormone therapy for gender reassignment while in prison. Photograph: US army via Getty

Bradley Manning, who wishes to live as a woman and be known as Chelsea. Pte Manning will request hormone therapy for gender reassignment while in prison. Photograph: US army via Getty

 

Bradley Manning’s attorney David Combs said he “hoped” Fort Leavenworth Prison “would do the right thing” and grant his client access to hormone therapy for treatment of the former army intelligence analyst’s gender identity disorder.

The US soldier sentenced to 35 years in military prison for the biggest leak of classified documents in the country’s history, became one of the most famous transgender prisoners in the world on Thursday when the solider announced his intention to transition from male to female and live as a woman named Chelsea.

Fort Leavenworth Prison, where Manning will serve his time, has said while psychological support was available, hormone treatment and gender reassignment surgery are not provided by the military.

If Manning were seeking gender reassignment surgery things would perhaps be clearer. Last year in Massachusetts a judge ruled in favour of murder convict Michelle Kolselski after she attempted castration and tried to commit suicide in a male prison. In the first ruling of its kind, a judge ordered Massachusetts officials to provide gender reassignment surgery for the transgender woman, in what was a landmark case in constitutional rights for transgender prisoners.

The difficulties of being transgender in prison are well documented. A 2006 study of California prisons found transgender women in men’s prisons were 13 times more likely to be abused than other prisoners. LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights groups have called the lack of hormone treatment for Manning “unconstitutional”.

Clinical psychiatrist Michael Worsley, who treated Manning in Iraq, testified that the military’s “hypermasculine environment” and hostility towards LGBT soldiers could have contributed to Manning’s depression and sense of isolation.

Manning’s attorney says his client does not want to be moved to a female prison but “to be comfortable in her skin and to be the person that she’s never had an opportunity to be”.

He said he did not fear for Manning’s safety because “everyone that’s in a military prison is a first-time offender. These are soldiers who have done something wrong, have gone to prison and are really just trying to do their time and then get out.” Whether the 25-year-old former soldier is guaranteed that safety remains to be seen.