With the WikiLeaks trial now over, former private first class Bradley Manning has announced the intention to transition sex via female hormone therapy and said she wished to be referred to as Chelsea E. Manning from now on.
"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," Manning said in a statement. "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)."
In an interview on NBC's Today Show, Manning's lawyer David Coombs said that Manning had made the decision to delay the announcement until after the trial so as to ensure attention was not deflected from the pertinent facts of the case.
Coombs said that the ultimate goal wasn't to try to get Manning reassigned to a female prison, but that she "be comfortable in her skin, and to be the person that she's never had the opportunity to be."
During the trial, Coombs noted that Manning's gender confusion was cited as a factor in the decision to leak the classified data. In April 2010, Manning sent an email to a supervisor entitled "My problem," containing a picture of himself in makeup and a blonde wig, explaining that he had joined the army to escape being transgendered.
"I don't know about the sex-reassignment surgery," Coombs said. "Chelsea hasn't indicated that that would be her desire, but as far as the hormone therapy, yes. I'm hoping Fort Leavenworth would do the right thing and provide that."
While Fort Leavenworth military prison – where Manning could conceivably spend the next 35 years – doesn't offer female hormone therapy, Coombs said he will do everything in his power to change that policy. In the meantime, he said, he is confident about Chelsea's safety in prison.
"I don't fear for her safety, and the reason why is that everyone in military prison is a first-time offender," he said. "These are soldiers who have done something wrong, have gone to prison, and are really trying to just do their time and then get out."
When asked by NBC interviewer Savannah Guthrie whether Manning's statement on Thursday was a result of "narcissistic tendencies," as was claimed by one of the witnesses in the trial, Coombs pointed out that the reason Manning was arrested was because of her desire for information on gender reassignment.
"She never really wanted this to become public in the first place," Coombs said. "When the information came out, you need to understand that she gave it to Adrian Lamo in a private setting and in a one-on-one chat, never expecting this to be public. Now that it is, unfortunately, you have to deal with it in a public manner."
Manning was arrested in June 2010 after grey-hat hacker Adrian Lamo tipped off the police that he'd been conversing with a member of the US military who had leaked classified data. Lamo, who served a short sentence for hacking The New York Times in 2004, had initially been contacted by Manning over IRC about gender reassignment.
Manning contacted Lamo – a former member of San Francisco's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning Youth Task Force – regarding gender identity disorder, stating her role as an army intelligence analyst and explaining that she had noticed Lamo because of his donations to WikiLeaks and "thought he would understand."
"I'm a journalist and a minister. You can pick either, and treat this as a confession or an interview (never to be published) & enjoy a modicum of legal protection," Lamo told Manning, before deciding that it was his duty to report the conversation to the authorities.
When asked if Chelsea Manning considers herself a hero, Coombes said she doesn't.
"She sees herself as someone who did something she was morally obligated to do and something that she felt she had to do in order for her to live with what she saw. No regrets." ®