Well, that hunger strike which Chelsea Manning was reportedly starting didn’t last long, but it’s not because he got hungry. The Army has reportedly caved on one of Manning’s numerous demands for special treatment behind bars and has approved transgender surgery for him. The report is not confirmed by the Army (which doesn’t comment on prisoners’ private medical records) but they don’t seem to be denying it either. More on this from Buzzfeed.
Army officials today informed Chelsea Manning that they will provide her with gender transition surgery, her lawyer tells BuzzFeed News.
A lawyer for Manning, the ACLU’s Chase Strangio, spoke with Manning on Tuesday after she was informed of the military’s decision. Manning, serving a 35-year prison sentence for violating the Espionage Act, received a recommendation from her psychologist in April that she receive surgery related to her gender dysphoria.
“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,” Manning said in a statement provided by her lawyers.
The request to allow him to grow his hair long like a woman is still being denied until after the surgery is complete.
You know this decision came from the top, since nobody was going to approve such a controversial change in policy without approval from the Department of Defense. The obvious problems with this are numerous. We’re talking about additional taxpayer funded medical expenses for a procedure which is dubious in its medical benefits at best and can, in the long run, be damaging. Dr. Paul McHugh, former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, described in an editorial for the Wall Street Journal why that facility stopped performing “gender reassignment” surgery decades ago after being one of the first hospitals in the nation to experiment with it.
We at Johns Hopkins University—which in the 1960s was the first American medical center to venture into “sex-reassignment surgery”—launched a study in the 1970s comparing the outcomes of transgendered people who had the surgery with the outcomes of those who did not. Most of the surgically treated patients described themselves as “satisfied” by the results, but their subsequent psycho-social adjustments were no better than those who didn’t have the surgery. And so at Hopkins we stopped doing sex-reassignment surgery, since producing a “satisfied” but still troubled patient seemed an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs.
He goes on to confirm that their decision to stop performing this surgery was, a wise one. In addition to a failure to produce any long term benefit, Dr. McHugh also cites the studies revealing that suicide rates among post-operative patients average twenty times higher than the rest of the population.
Manning is an adult at least and is responsible for accepting the consequences of his own actions. But the medical “necessity” of such surgical alterations is clearly not established and, in all likelihood, produces more long term problems than resolutions. I would also remind you that we’re making all of these accommodations for someone who was convicted of betraying his nation. And now, thanks to the enlightened views of the Obama administration, you will get to pay for it. But on the plus side, as has been my long standing practice, if Manning goes through with this I will finally start referring to him with female pronouns. Having your genitals surgically mutilated doesn’t change your gender (which is determined by your chromosomal structure) but if you’re willing to show that much dedication to the effort I guess you’ve earned a chance to be called “she.”