Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning — who was convicted and sentenced to military prison under the name Bradley Manning for leaking classified documents in the Wikileaks case — chose to announce her intention to live life as a woman after the military publicly said it wouldn’t provide hormone treatments for the sex change, according to an interview Monday with Manning’s attorney.
“I am Chelsea Manning. I am female,” the Army private wrote in a statement read on TODAY last Thursday. “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.”
Manning, 25, was sentenced to 35 years in prison a day earlier after having been found guilty of 20 charges ranging from espionage to theft for leaking more than 700,000 documents to the WikiLeaks website while working in Iraq in 2010.
Manning’s Attorney David Coombs told The Associated Press Monday that the soldier had long intended to make a statement about desiring to live as a woman but was waiting for the media surrounding the trial to “dissipate.”
Manning, according to Coombs, didn’t want people to think the statement was insincere.
"People might think it was an effort to get further attention," said Coombs.
Manning and his attorney had hopes that officials at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., military prison where her sentence will be carried out would allow hormone treatments, Coombs said, particularly since an Army psychiatrist had testified at trial Manning had been diagnosed with a gender-identity disorder.
But Manning’s hopes were dashed when the Courthouse News Service, quoting prison spokeswoman Kimberly Lewis, said the all-male prison would not provide such therapy, which involves high doses of the female hormone estrogen in order to promote breast development and other female characteristics.
"Inmates at the United States Disciplinary Barracks and Joint Regional Correctional Facility are treated equally regardless of race, rank, ethnicity or sexual orientation," the Army's statement on the issue read. "All inmates are considered soldiers and are treated as such with 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.
"The Army does not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for gender identity disorder. The USDB has implemented risk assessment protocols and safety procedures to address high risk factors identified with the Prison Rape Elimination Act."
Coombs said Manning had indicated she would pay for hormone therapy.
The therapy can help Manning, Coombs told the AP. “It’s just to be comfortable in her own skin.”
Coombs said Manning acknowledges there will be some confusion surrounding his wish to be known as Chelsea, and that she expects to be known as Bradley as the court-martial is appealed. In order for her to receive prison mail is must be addressed to Bradley Manning.
"There's a realization that most people know her as Bradley," Coombs said. "Chelsea is a realist and understands."
In addition to the change of first names, Manning now wishes her middle name to be Elizabeth rather than Edward, Coombs said on his blog.
Coombs also said the Bradley Manning Support Network is changing its name to the Private Manning Support Network. The group has raised more than $1 million and is paying Manning's legal expenses.
TODAY contributor Scott Stump and The Associated Contributed to this reports.