WASHINGTON — One day after being sentenced to 35 years in prison, the Army private first class who was convicted of leaking vast archives of secret government files to WikiLeaks said in a statement Thursday, “I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female.”
Manning’s defense lawyer, David E. Coombs, appeared on the “Today” show, where the statement was read, saying the private, whose given name was Bradley Manning, had felt female since childhood, a fact that was discussed during the 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 people “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 gender identity until after sentencing.
Manning’s revelation raises questions of how the Army prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where Manning 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 they were 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 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.”
Defense lawyers raised the fact that Manning is transgender during the sentencing phase of the court-martial, describing the emotional stress Manning endured while deployed in Iraq.
Two psychiatrists testified about treating Manning for “gender identity disorder.” The psychiatrists said that handling such a diagnosis in a combat zone, and at time when it was still against military law to be openly gay, would have put Manning under immense pressure.
According to testimony, Manning e-mailed a photo of himself dressed in a blond wig and makeup to a supervisor during his deployment.
In the e-mail, which had the title “My Problem,” Manning described a struggle with something that “makes my entire life feel like a bad dream that won’t end.”