WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning sues U.S. military for gender treatment

Chelsea Manning, the army private behind the biggest ever leak of U.S. military secrets, has launched a lawsuit against the Defence Department to get hormone therapy and other treatment for her gender identity condition while she serves her 35-year sentence.

Former U.S. army private leaked secret diplomatic cables as well as Afghan and Iraq war logs

U.S. army private Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, is serving a 35-year sentence for leaking classified material to WikiLeaks. She is suing the U.S. military to get treatment for her transition to living as a female.

Chelsea Manning, the U.S. army private who provided 750,000 classified government and military records to WikiLeaks, spawning the biggest leak of U.S. military secrets in history, has launched a lawsuit against the Defence Department to get hormone therapy and other treatment for her gender identity condition while she serves her 35-year sentence.

A spokeswoman at the Pentagon, army Lt.-Col. Alayne Conway, said she could not comment on pending litigation, per military policy.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, says the army private formerly known as Bradley Manning is at a high risk of self-castration and suicide unless she receives more focused treatment for gender dysphoria at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where she is imprisoned.

"Such clear disregard of well-established medical protocols constitutes cruel and unusual punishment," American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Chase Strangio said in a statement.

Manning, seen before announcing in August 2013 that she wanted to live as a woman, has been issued female underwear and sports bras but "is denied permission to outwardly express her female gender," the lawsuit states. (Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

The army is providing some treatment but not enough, according to the lawsuit. Manning is getting psychotherapy from a mental health specialist who lacks the qualifications to treat gender dysphoria, according to the document.

And although Manning has been issued female underwear and sports bras, "she is denied permission to outwardly express her female gender through female hair length and other grooming standards," the lawsuit says.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons and many state and local corrections agencies administer hormone therapy to prisoners with gender dysphoria, but Manning is the first transgender U.S. military prisoner to request such treatment.

The 26-year-old former intelligence analyst was convicted in August 2013 of espionage and other offences for sending classified documents to the WikiLeaks website while working in Iraq. She was sentenced to 35 years, less credit for time served, and with additional credit for good behaviour could be eligible for parole in 2021.

The records she sent included the so-called Afghan and Iraq war logs, as well as 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables. Revelations in the classified material made front-page headlines for months, putting WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange in the spotlight and indelibly altering the public history of the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Manning changed her legal first name in April after disclosing at her court-martial that she had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

Transgender people are not allowed to serve in the U.S. military, but Manning's judge-ordered dishonourable discharge can't be carried out while she serves her prison sentence.

With files from CBC News