Bradley Manning, the 25-year-old Army soldier sentenced to 35 years for leaking 700,000 confidential government documents, will transition to being female and will go by the name Chelsea.
Manning made the announcement in a statement to the Today show:
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
Manning’s gender identity disorder had been a central part of her defense, as she had hoped joining the military would in effect “cure” her. Previously, a photo of Manning dressed as a woman that she had sent to her superiors — illustrating what she deemed “my problem” — found its way onto the internet.
“The stress that he was under was mostly to give context to what was going on at the time,” Manning’s lawyer, David Coombes, told Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Thursday. “It was never an excuse because that’s not what drove his actions. What drove his actions was a strong moral compass.”
Coombes said he is “hoping” that Fort Leavenworth — where Manning is expected to serve her term — “would do the right thing” and provide her hormone therapy.
“If Fort Leavenworth does not,” Coombes vowed, “then I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure they are forced to do so.”