UPDATED 9:25 AM: Bradley Manning is now Chelsea Manning.
“As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me,” Manning said in a statement read during an exclusive TODAY show interview with lawyer David Coombs. “I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way I have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible.”
While Fort Leavenworth, the prison where Manning will serve her sentence, does not offer hormone therapy, Coombs told host Savannah Guthrie he would fight to ensure his client received the medical treatment she needed. He also said he and Manning had not discussed sex reassignment surgery, and that getting her access to the needed hormones is his priority at this time.
Asked why Chelsea Manning had not made a statement about her gender before the trial was over, Coombs said, “She didn’t want this to be something that overshadowed the case.”
Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison Wednesday for the largest leak in U.S. history, a sentence that could set the tone of future prosecutions of those who leak classified information. The 25-year-old was convicted of 20 criminal counts, including espionage and disobeying orders, for providing 700,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks.
Coombs and the defense team cited Manning’s struggle with shame and confusion over her gender identity as a mitigating factor during sentencing proceedings. Her identity as a trans-woman first became a topic of discussion in the case after chat logs with government informant and hacker Adrian Lamo featuring statements about gender were leaked to the public.
The defense introduced a photo Manning emailed to her supervisor, Master Sgt Paul Adkins, with the subject line “my problem.” It showed Manning in a blonde wig and wearing lipstick. Clinical Psychiatrist Michael Worsley, who treated Manning in Iraq, also testified about how the military’s “hypermasculine environment” and hostility towards LGBT soldiers could have contributed to Manning’s depression and sense of isolation
Dr. David Moulton, the forensic psychologist assigned to review Manning’s case, said that Manning was suffering from gender identity disorder, a diagnosis supported by a military sanity board.
The United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth responded to Manning’s announcement in a statement. “The Army does not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for gender identity disorder.” Citing a policy of non-discrimination based on race, rank, ethnicity or sexual orientation – but not gender identity – the the USDB statement said that, “All inmates are considered soldiers and are treated as such with access to mental health professionals, including a psychiatrist, psychologist, social workers and behavioral science noncommissioned officers with experience in addressing the needs of military personnel in pre- and post-trial confinement.”
Despite the challenges ahead for Chelsea Manning, “The ultimate goal is to be comfortable in her skin,” Coombs said.