Chelsea Manning has launched a hunger strike seeking better medical treatment for her gender dysphoria, according to a statement released today by her representatives. Beginning today, Manning will decline all food and any liquids other than water. She will also refuse to cut her hair until her demands are met. "I need help. I am not getting any," Manning’s statement reads. "Today, I have decided that I am no longer going to be bullied by this prison."
Currently serving 35 years in prison for releasing more than 600,000 military documents to WikiLeaks, Manning has long struggled to receive treatment for her gender dysphoria while in prison. In 2014, she sued the army for the right to more comprehensive treatment with legal assistance from the ACLU.
This summer, Manning was hospitalized after a reported suicide attempt, and faces the possibility of indefinite solitary confinement as a result of subsequent administrative charges. In the statement, Manning addresses the suicide attempt directly, describing it as the result of a long-standing lack of care for her gender dysphoria.
Manning’s statement is reproduced in full below:
I need help. 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 need help. I needed help earlier this year. 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.
I needed help. Yet, instead I am now being punished for surviving my attempt. When I was a child, my father would beat me repeatedly for simply not being masculine enough. I was told to stop crying—to "suck it up." But, I couldn’t stop crying. The pain just got worse and worse. Until finally, I just couldn’t take the pain anymore.
I needed help, but no one came then. No one is coming now.
Today, I have decided that I am no longer going to be bullied by this prison—or by anyone within the U.S. government. I have asked for nothing but the dignity and respect—that I once actually believed would be provided for—afforded to any living human being.
I do not believe that this should be dependent on any arbitrary factors—whether you are cisgender or transgender; service member or civilian, citizen or non-citizen. In response to virtually every request, I have been granted limited, if any, dignity and respect—just more pain and anguish.
I am no longer asking. Now, I am demanding. As of 12:01 am Central Daylight Time on September 9, 2016, and until I am given minimum standards of dignity, respect, and humanity, I shall—refuse to voluntarily cut or shorten my hair in any way; consume any food or drink voluntarily, except for water and currently prescribed medications; and comply with all rules, regulations, laws, and orders that are not related to the two things I have mentioned.
This is a peaceful act. I intend to keep it as peaceful and non-violent, on my end, as possible. Any physical harm that should come to me at the hands of military or civilian staff will be unnecessary and vindictive. I will not physically resist or in any way harm another person. I have also submitted a "do not resuscitate" letter that is effective immediately. This shall include any attempts to forcibly cut or shorten my hair or to forcibly feed me by any medical or pseudo-medical means.
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. I expect that this ordeal will last for a long time. Quite possibly until my permanent incapacitation or death. I am ready for this.
I need help. Please, give me help.