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Chelsea Manning, the transgender soldier behind one of the largest leaks of classified information in history, has begun a hunger strike to protest the military’s refusal to let her grow her hair as part of her treatment for gender dysphoria.
Manning began the hunger strike just after midnight on Saturday, Sept. 10, according to NBC News. She is currently serving a 35-year sentence at the all-male U.S Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for leaking classified information to the online site Wikileaks.
“I need help. I am not getting any,” Manning said in a statement. “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.”
In addition to refusing any food or beverages other than water and her prescribed medications, Manning has also vowed not to cut her hair as the male inmates do. Although the Army began providing Manning with hormones last year after her lawyers sued, it has consistently refused to allow her to grow her hair beyond the length recommended for male prisoners. For many people with gender dysphoria, growing out one’s hair as part of embracing one’s gender identity is often considered a part of treatment, just as any hormone therapy or gender confirmation surgery would be.
The U.S. Army has not responded to requests for comment on Manning’s hunger strike.
Manning also revealed that she had submitted a “do not resuscitate” order, effective immediately, should she die in the course of her hunger strike. In a statement, she acknowledged the possibility of permanent incapacitation and death that could result if she continues the hunger strike and the Army refuses to budge from its position on allowing her to grow out her hair. Nonetheless, she insisted that the strike was a “peaceful act.”
“I intend to keep it as peaceful and non-violent, on my end, as possible,” she said in a statement. “Any physical harm that should come to me at the hands of military or civilian staff will be unnecessary and vindictive.
“Until I am shown dignity and respect as a human again, I shall endure this pain before me. I am prepared for this mentally and emotionally,” she continued. “I expect that this ordeal will last for a long time. Quite possibly until my permanent incapacitation or death. I am ready for this.”
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