In a statement read on the “Today” show during an appearance by his defense lawyer, David E. Coombs, Private Manning said he had felt that he was female since childhood, a fact that was discussed during his court-martial.
“As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me,” the statement 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. I hope that you will support me in this transition.”
The statement went on to request that Private Manning’s supporters “refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility).” It was signed, “Chelsea Manning.”
Mr. Coombs said Private Manning waited to speak publicly about his gender identity until after sentencing.
Private Manning’s decision to live as a woman raises questions of how the Army prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where he will be held, will respond. A spokeswoman for the prison recently told Courthouse News that the prison does not provide hormone therapy or gender-reassignment surgery. As is the case for all soldiers, transgender inmates are only eligible for psychiatric care, she said.
Mr. Coombs acknowledged as much on “Today.” He said that his client had not signaled an interest in gender-reassignment surgery, but that he was hopeful that Fort Leavenworth would “do the right thing” and provide hormone therapy. Such therapeutic regimens can help people with male physical features turn those features more feminine.
Mr. Coombs said that if the military did not provide hormone therapy willingly, “then I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure they are forced to do so.”
When asked whether Private Manning’s ultimate goal was to be housed in prison with women, instead of men, Mr. Coombs said, “No, I think the ultimate goal is to be comfortable in her skin and to be the person that she’s never had an opportunity to be.”
Defense lawyers raised the fact that Private Manning is transgender during the sentencing phase of his court-martial, describing the emotional stress he endured while deployed in Iraq.
Two psychiatrists testified about treating Private Manning for “gender identity disorder,” a diagnosis for psychological discomfort with one’s sex that the American Psychiatric Association renamed “gender dysphoria” last year. The psychiatrists said that handling such a diagnosis in a combat zone, and at time when it was still against military law to be openly gay, would have put Private Manning under immense pressure.
“You put him in this environment, this kind of hypermasculine environment, if you will, and with no supports and few coping skills, the pressure would have been difficult to say the least,” Capt. Michael Worsley, a clinical psychologist who treated Private Manning, said in court last week. “It would have been incredible.”
According to testimony, Private Manning e-mailed a photograph of himself dressed in a blond wig and makeup to a supervisor at one point during his deployment. In the e-mail, which he titled “My Problem,” he described a struggle with something that “makes my entire life feel like a bad dream that won’t end.”
The Bradley Manning Support Network, a grass-roots activist group that has raised money for Private Manning’s defense, asked supporters last year to refer to him using the masculine pronoun until he expressed a preference.
“Everything we know from Bradley Manning’s friends, family, and legal defense team, is that he wishes to be referred to as Brad or Bradley until he’s able to get to the next stage of his life,” the statement said.
In an online conversation, published by the Web site of Wired magazine in 2010, Private Manning told the man who eventually turned him in to the authorities, Adrian Lamo, that “I wouldn’t mind going to prison for the rest of my life, or being executed so much, if it wasn’t for the possibility of having pictures of me plastered all over the world press as a boy.”
Television anchors, including the one who interviewed Mr. Coombs, NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, were not immediately sure how to tell the name-change story. Ms. Guthrie, for instance, used the pronoun “she” to refer to Private Manning throughout most of the interview, but used “he” when trying to emphasize the change had just been announced.