US Army Private Bradley Manning, sentenced to 35 years for leaking classified documents on Wednesday, announced that he would like to live out the rest of his life as a woman. The whistleblower has asked to refer to him by the name of Chelsea Manning.
“As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want
everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a
female,” Manning said in a statement, which his lawyer, David
Coombs, read on NBC News’ ‘Today show’. “Given the way that I
feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone
therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in
"I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back,” he added.
The whistleblower signed the letter “Chelsea E. Manning.”
The attorney said on the program that he’s “hoping”
Manning will be provided with the desired hormone therapy at Fort
Leavenworth military prison, where the 25-year-old is most likely
to serve his term.
"If Fort Leavenworth doesn’t, then I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure they are forced to do so," Coombs stressed.
When asked if the hormone therapy will be followed by the sex-reassignment surgery, the lawyer said he hasn’t “really discussed that aspect with her.”
“Really, it's more about getting the hormone therapy, so at this point I don't know the answer to that,” he replied.
Coombs stressed that Manning won’t ask to be transferred to a female prison, adding that he has no fears for his client’s safety behind bars.
"Everyone that’s in a military prison is a first-time offender. These are soldiers who have done something wrong, have gone to prison and are really just trying to do their time and then get out," he explained.
Coombs also said on the program that he expected Manning to get a pardon from Barack Obama, about which he plans to address the US president next week.
Following Manning’s statement, the US Army said it doesn’t provide hormone therapy and sex-reassignment surgery for gender identity disorder, the NBC news reports.
Manning’s announcement sparked a wave of comments on the Internet, with hashtag #FreeChelsea appearing on Twitter, instead of previously used #FreeBradley hashtag.
On Wednesday, a military judge sentenced Manning to 35 years in
prison after he was found guilty on 20 charges, ranging from
espionage to theft and leaking, after sharing over 700,000
classified documents with the WikiLeaks website.
The data he passed to the journalists, while working in Iraq in 2010, included battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, diplomatic cables from around the world, profiles of Guantanamo detainees and footage of airstrikes, in which civilians were killed.
During the sentencing hearings, Manning’s defense team focused on their client’s psychological instability and gender identity confusion at the time of the leaks.
Manning’s lawyers have argued that their client, who had already been in counseling over a range of minor issues, was allowed to access classified data while his mental state deteriorated.
"I wouldn't mind going to prison for the rest of my life, or being executed so much, if it wasn't for the possibility of having pictures of me... plastered all over the world press... as [a] boy," the whistleblower wrote in Internet chats with ex-hacker Adrian Lamo before being detected.
He eventually came out to his Army psychologist in Iraq, Michael Worsley, sending him a letter, entitled ‘My problem.’
It described the gay soldier’s internal struggle and said how he hoped that a military career would help him "get rid of it.” A photo of Manning in a long, blond wig and lipstick came as an attachment to the email.
Worsley, who testified in court earlier this week, confirmed that
Manning was struggling in a “hyper-masculine environment”.
Navy Capt. David Moulton, a psychiatrist, who spent 21 hours interviewing the whistleblower after his arrest, also said in court that it was Manning's gender identity disorder, combined with several other factors, which caused him to conclude he’ll change the world by leaking classified information.
Coombs acknowledged the stress his client was under at that time, but said that it wasn’t gender identity problems that drove Manning to make the biggest intelligence leak in the US history.
“What drove his actions was a strong moral compass," he stressed.