Bradley Manning: 'I Am Chelsea Manning. I Am a Female'
WASHINGTON-Pfc. Bradley Manning said Thursday that he wants to live his life as a woman and be known as Chelsea Manning as he begins a 35-year prison sentence for leaking classified government information to WikiLeaks.
Less than 24 hours after being sentenced for being the source of one of the biggest classified leaks in U.S. history, Pfc. Manning said he wants to begin hormone therapy and be known by a new name.
"As I transition to the next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me," he said in a statement made on NBC's "Today" show. "I am Chelsea Manning."
Pfc. Manning's sexuality became a focal point of his defense during the court-martial at Fort Meade, Md.
His defense team argued that the 25-year-old former Army intelligence analyst suffered from gender-identity issues that were largely ignored by commanders who should have removed him from the position in Iraq, where he had access to classified U.S. documents.
Weeks before his arrest, Pfc. Manning sent a photograph to an Army officer showing himself in makeup and a wig. In the email, titled "My Problem," Pfc. Manning confessed to his struggle with sexuality.
On Thursday, Pfc. Manning made it clear that he wants to live the rest of his life as a woman.
"I am female," he said in the statement. "Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible."
Currently, the U.S. Army doesn't provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery. But David Coombs, Pfc. Manning's attorney, indicated that he will sue the military if they don't make it available to his client at Fort Leavenworth prison in Kansas.
"I'm hoping Fort Leavenworth would do the right thing and provide that," Mr. Coombs said on the "Today" show. "If Fort Leavenworth does not, then I am going to make sure that they are forced to do so."
On Wednesday, a military judge sentenced Pfc. Manning to 35 years in prison for leaking 700,000 military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks. He will be dishonorably discharged and lose all military pay and benefits. Mr. Manning could be eligible for parole in about eight years.
His legal team is asking President Barack Obama to pardon Pfc. Manning, who apologized for leaking the documents but said that he was trying to bring attention to what he viewed as morally questionable U.S. foreign policy actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and across the globe.
Mr. Coombs said that Pfc. Manning doesn't want to be transferred to a women's prison, but instead wants "to be comfortable in her skin and to be the person that she's never had an opportunity to be."