Chelsea Manning ends hunger strike after winning key demand for gender surgery

US soldier Chelsea Manning, serving a 35-year prison term for passing classified files to WikiLeaks, ended her hunger strike on September 13 after the Army said she will receive treatment for her gender dysphoria, the American Civil Liberties Union said.

The 28-year-old Army private announced the hunger strike from her jail cell in Kansas on September 9. TeleSUR English reported she said she was suffering severe depression due to the Army's refusal to provide her treatment. The strike was announced after she earlier attempted suicide over what her representatives said was the government’s denial of appropriate treatment for her gender dysphoria, a condition in which a person feels their physical gender is the opposite of the one he or she identifies with.

Manning's treatment will begin with a surgery that was recommended by her psychologist in April, the ACLU, which represented Manning, said in a statement.

The Guardian reported that Manning criticised the government in a statement for taking “so long”, but said: “I am unendingly relieved that the military is finally doing the right thing. I applaud them for that. This is all that I wanted -- for them to let me be me.”

The ACLU said that no transgender inmate had ever before received such surgical treatment in prison.

The army had also announced it would investigate Manning for misconduct over her suicide attempt, The Guardian said. Such a probe that could lead to indefinite solitary confinement, reclassification into maximum security or additional prison time.

Manning’s representatives said doctors recommended that as part of her treatment for gender dysphoria the soldier, who began hormone therapy in 2015, be allowed to follow “female hair grooming standards”. However, ACLU staff attorney Chase Strangio said in the September 13 statement that the government planned to still enforce the male hair standards.

Manning, a former intelligence analyst in Iraq, was sentenced in 2013 to 35 years in prison after a military court conviction of providing more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks. The case ranked as the biggest breach of classified materials in US history. Among the files Manning leaked in 2010 was a gunsight video of a US Apache helicopter firing on suspected Iraqi insurgents in 2007, an attack that killed a dozen people including two Reuters news staff. 

<i>Democracy Now!<i> spoke to Chase Strangio. a lawyer for Manning, over the issues that led to the hunger strike (see video below).