Bradley Manning, the US soldier sentenced to 35 years for leaking secret documents, said Thursday she now considers herself as a woman called Chelsea.
“As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me,” the 25-year-old said in a statement read out on NBC’s TODAY show in the presence of her lawyer, David Coombs.
“I am Chelsea Manning, I am a female.”
“Given the way I feel and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible,” the statement said.
“I also request that starting today you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun.”
On Wednesday, a military court sentenced Manning to 35 years in jail for handing secret government documents to WikiLeaks, resulting in America’s biggest-ever security breach.
Manning will serve her sentence in military custody before being dishonorably discharged. She has spent most of her detention at Fort Leavenworth military base in Kansas where she was expected to serve her time.
After the announcement, Coombs told NBC that Manning has not indicated whether she would be pursuing sex change surgery.
“I don’t know about the sex reassignment surgery… Chelsea hasn’t indicated that that would be her desire, but as far as the hormone therapy, yes,” she said. “I’m hoping Fort Leavenworth would do the right thing and provide that.”
Coombs added: “I think the ultimate goal is to be comfortable in her skin and to be the person that she’s never had the opportunity to be.”
Update: The ACLU responded to a statement from Kansas’ Fort Levenworth’s spokesperson, who said that gender reassignment or hormone therapy for transgender individuals would not be provided.
“In response to Chelsea Manning’s disclosure that she is female, has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, and will be seeking hormone therapy as a part of her transition during her incarceration, public statements by military officials that the Army does not provide hormone therapy to treat gender dysphoria raise serious constitutional concerns,” Chase Strangio, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, said in a statement, according to the Huffington Post.
“Gender dysphoria is a serious medical condition in which a person’s gender identity does not correspond to his or her assigned sex at birth, and hormone therapy is part of the accepted standards of care for this condition,” Strangio said in the statement. “Without the necessary treatment, gender dysphoria can cause severe psychological distress, including anxiety and suicide. When the government holds individuals in its custody, it must provide them with medically necessary care.”
“The official policy of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and most state agencies is to provide medically necessary care for the treatment of gender dysphoria, and courts have consistently found that denying such care to prisoners based on blanket exclusions violates the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution,” Strangio concluded in the statement, HuffPo reported.
[Ed. note: This story has been updated from the wire version to properly reflect Manning's preferred pronouns.]
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