Imprisoned Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning has begun a hunger strike to protest what she describes as “high tech bullying” at the hands of military and prison officials.
Manning is serving a 35-year sentence for providing a trove of classified documents to WikiLeaks in 2010. The soldier, who came out as a transgender woman shortly after she was sentenced in 2013, sued the government for access to hormone therapy drugs while in prison so she could transition to living as a woman.
“It has now been more than four years since I was first diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a condition that I have struggled with my entire life,” Manning wrote in 2014. “I do not believe I will be able to survive another year or two — let alone twenty to thirty years — without treatment.”
Her hormone therapy was approved the following year, but Manning’s struggles with both prison authorities and the military have not ended. Last year, officials denied her request to grow out her hair, which her doctor recommended as part of her treatment for gender dysphoria.
In July, Manning was hospitalized after attempting suicide. While still under observation at the barracks in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Manning received a letter from army officials saying she could face solitary confinement for alleged offenses related to her suicide attempt.
Manning is now on hunger strike, she says, until she receives a written promise from the Army to cease “the constant, deliberate and overzealous administrative scrutiny by prison and military officials” and to grant her full access to the medical treatments recommended by her doctor.
“I need help,” Manning wrote in a statement. “I am not getting any. I have asked for help time and time again for six years and through five separate confinement locations. My request has only been ignored, delayed, mocked, given trinkets and lip service by the prison, the military, and this administration. ... I was driven to suicide by the lack of care for my gender dysphoria that I have been desperate for. I didn’t get any. I still haven’t gotten any.”
Manning said from Friday on, she would refuse to voluntarily eat or drink anything but water, or cut her hair until she is “given minimum standards of dignity, respect, and humanity.”
“Until I am shown dignity and respect as a human again, I shall endure this pain before me,” her statement reads. “I am prepared for this mentally and emotionally. I expect that this ordeal will last for a long time. Quite possibly until my permanent incapacitation or death. I am ready for this.”