Bradley Manning, the Army private who was sentenced to 35 years in military prison for giving classified documents to WikiLeaks, has identified as female since childhood and wants to live life as a woman, according to a statement released by Manning’s lawyer.
The statement made public Thursday said the 25-year-old former intelligence analyst wants to undergo hormone therapy to help spur a bodily transformation.
“As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me,” Manning 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.
But a spokesman at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., site of the military prison where Manning was sent Thursday, said the United States Disciplinary Barracks there “does not offer sex reassignment or hormone therapy for the inmates housed at the facility.”
Inmates at the prison have access to mental health counseling and psychiatric treatment, said the spokesman, George Marcec. He said he was not yet sure whether Manning would be housed in the general population or separated in some way.
Usually, if a soldier were diagnosed with gender identity disorder, that soldier would be removed from the Army, Marcec said. But inmates at military prisons cannot be separated from the military until they finish their sentences.
Pentagon spokesman George Wright said Manning arrived Thursday at Fort Leavenworth’s Disciplinary Barracks shortly after noon Central time.
Wright said in a statement that inmates at the Army post’s detention facilities “are treated equally regardless of race, rank, ethnicity or sexual orientation” and have “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.” However, Wright added, the Army does not provide surgery or hormone therapy “for gender identity disorder.”
Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, said Manning wanted to wait until the trial was over to publicly identify as a woman. The attorney told the “Today” show that he would do “everything in my power to make sure” that Manning receives hormone treatment.
During the trial, Manning’s gender identity and sexual orientation were mentioned several times, and the defense team suggested that struggles with those issues were part of Manning’s decision to leak the classified information.
In April 2010, while serving as an Army intelligence analyst in Baghdad, Manning sent an e-mail to Master Sgt. Paul Adkins, a superior, with the subject line, “My problem.” The e-mail described struggles with a gender-identity disorder. In a photo attached to the e-mail, Manning is wearing a blond wig and makeup.
“I have had signs of it for a very long time. It’s caused problems within my family,” Manning wrote in the e-mail, which, along with the photo, was submitted as evidence.
“I thought enlisting in the military would get rid of it. . . . I’ve been trying very, very hard to get rid of it. It’s haunting me more and more as I get older. Now the consequences are getting harder.”
Adkins said he did not inform his superiors about the e-mail until after Manning was arrested.
“I really didn’t think at the time that having a picture floating around of one of my soldiers in drag [was] in the best interest of the intel mission,” Adkins told the court.
When Coombs pressed Adkins on why Manning was not removed from duty, despite the letter and other signs of distress, the sergeant responded that the unit was short-staffed and that the analyst’s skills were essential to the mission.
In the statement, Manning thanked supporters for their encouragement during the three-year legal ordeal and expressed hope it would continue.
“I hope that you will support me in this transition,” the statement said. “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.”