'I am a female,' Bradley Manning proclaims after sentencing
WASHINGTON — One day after being sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking vast archives of secret government files to WikiLeaks, Pfc. Bradley Manning said Thursday that he was female and wanted to be known as Chelsea.
In a statement read on the “Today” show during an appearance by his defense lawyer, David E. Coombs, Manning said he had felt that he was female since childhood, a fact that was discussed during his court-martial.
“As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me,” the statement said. “I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. 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 this transition.”
The statement went on to request that Manning’s supporters “refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility).” It was signed, “Chelsea Manning.”
Coombs said Manning had waited to speak publicly about his gender identity until after sentencing.
Manning’s decision to live as a woman raises questions of how the Army prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where he will be held, will respond.
A spokeswoman for the prison recently told Courthouse News that the prison did not provide hormone therapy or gender-reassignment surgery.
As is the case for all soldiers, transgender inmates are only eligible for psychiatric care, she said.
Coombs acknowledged as much on “Today.” He said that his client had not signaled an interest in gender-reassignment surgery, but that he was hopeful that Fort Leavenworth would “do the right thing” and provide hormone therapy.
Such therapeutic regimens can help people with male physical features turn those features more feminine.
Coombs said that if the military did not provide hormone therapy willingly, “then I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure they are forced to do so.”
When asked whether Manning’s ultimate goal was to be housed in prison with women, instead of men, 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.”
PHOTO: Army Pfc. Bradley Manning was escorted Tuesday to a security vehicle outside a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., after a hearing in his court martial. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)