In a story first broken by the AP
(heads up: link does not conform to guidelines
about how to refer to trans people), Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has given approval for the Army to transfer Pvt. Chelsea Manning to a federal prison in order to allow her to access treatment for her gender dysphoria.
"No decision to transfer Pvt. Manning to a civilian detention facility has been made, and any such decision will, of course, properly balance the soldier's medical needs with our obligation to ensure she remains behind bars," said Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby. (At least they're gendering her right in the media, if not in prison.)
This move would be required to resolve the conflict between Chelsea's need for treatment and the policy of not allowing trans people to serve in the military or receive trans-related care in military prisons. Since she won't be discharged until after serving her full 35 year term, her transfer to a federal facility would allow her to get help without forcing the military to lift its ban.
Because denying trans prisoners access to trans-related health care has been considered cruel and unusual punishment in recent
, they have to do something. ThinkProgress has a rundown of the military's options
One possibility is to drop the ban on trans people serving, which was left in place even with the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy for gay and bisexual service members. Earlier this year, a commission
"co-chaired by former US Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders and former Coast Guard Director of Health and Safety Alan Steinman found that the ban on transgender service was not only unreasonable but empirically unsound." Earlier this week, Chuck Hagel said
that he was "open" to reviewing the policy, and that "every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it.” Of course, he fell short of actually dropping the ban, which fits right in with the White House's similar failings
to take executive action on LGBT issues despite rhetoric about moving forward without Congress.
Meanwhile, Chelsea's lawyer is "highly skeptical of the legitimacy of the AP's report,"
and has accused the Pentagon of "strategically leaking" the story in an attempt to coerce Chelsea into dropping her appeal. Because the appeals process can take years and prisoners aren't typically transferred to federal prison until it's over, the government could be setting up a Sophie's choice for Chelsea between the right to appeal and timely medical care.