Bradley Manning, the Army private who was convicted of leaking the largest cache of classified documents in U.S. history, announced Thursday that she plans to live out the rest of her life as female. "I am Chelsea Manning," the former intelligence analyst told supporters in a statement provided by her lawyer to NBC's Today show this morning. "I am a female." Here's her full statement:
Subject: The Next Stage of My Life
I want to thank everybody who has supported me over the last three years. Throughout this long ordeal, your letters of support and encouragement have helped keep me strong. I am forever indebted to those who wrote to me, made a donation to my defense fund, or came to watch a portion of the trial. I would especially like to thank Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network for their tireless efforts in raising awareness for my case and providing for my legal representation.
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. 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. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.
Chelsea E. Manning
The announcement comes one day after Manning was sentenced to serve 35 years in federal prison. Under the terms of the sentence, however, the 25-year-old could be paroled after seven years.
Manning is scheduled to serve her time at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. A facility spokesperson told Courthouse News on Tuesday that it does not "provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for gender identity disorder." Nonetheless, Manning's lawyer said he hopes that the prison "would do the right thing" and provide hormone therapy. "If Fort Leavenworth does not, then I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure they are forced to do so," said David Coombs, who added that he isn't sure whether his client would also seek sexual reassignment surgery.
The issue of gender identity came up during Manning's trial when the defense suggested that the soldier's struggles with it were a contributing factor in the decision to leak the 700,000 classified files. The defense presented an email Manning sent to a former supervisor in 2010 in which the private suggested he was transgender and had joined the Army to "get rid of it." That email included a photo of Manning in which he was wearing a blonde wig and lipstick.
This post has been updated with additional information.