WASHINGTON: Bradley Manning plans to live as a woman named Chelsea and wants to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible, the U.S. soldier said Thursday, a day after being sentenced to 35 years in prison for the biggest leak of classified material in U.S. history.
Manning announced the decision in a written statement provided to NBC signed “Chelsea E. 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 the statement read by anchorwoman Savannah Guthrie on NBC News’ “Today” show.
During the sentencing phase of Manning’s court-martial for leaking over 700,000 secret documents, defense attorneys pointed out that the soldier suffered from gender identity disorder. A psychologist testified Manning had a hard time adjusting to the “hypermasculine environment” of a combat zone.
Manning wants to begin receiving hormone therapy while serving his sentence in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the statement to NBC said.
A spokeswoman said the Army did not provide hormone therapy or gender-reassignment surgery.
Coombs said Manning was seeking hormone therapy, but not gender-reassignment surgery.
“Given the way that I feel and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible,” Manning said. “I also request that starting today you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun.”
Manning’s lawyer David Coombs said on the TV program he expected his client to get a pardon from U.S. President Barack Obama. Manning, convicted last month on 20 charges, including espionage and theft, could be eligible for parole in seven years.
Manning’s struggle with gender identity disorder – the sense of being a woman trapped in a man’s body – was key to the soldier’s defense. Attorneys had presented evidence of Manning’s struggle with gender identity, including a photo of the soldier in a blond wig and lipstick sent to a therapist.
Coombs said he hoped Fort Leavenworth would provide the hormone therapy. “If Fort Leavenworth does not, then I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that they are forced to do so,” he said.
Military inmates have access to mental health professionals, including a psychiatrist, psychologist, social workers and behavioral science specialists, an Army spokeswoman said.
Asked if Manning wanted to be sent to a women’s prison, Coombs said no. “I think the ultimate goal is to be comfortable in her skin and to be the person that she’s never had an opportunity to be.”