The Army private convicted of funneling intelligence secrets to whistleblowing website WikiLeaks can legally change her name to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Manning’s private struggle to identify as a woman became public after she was sentenced to 35 years in prison last August for leaking more than 700,000 government files. Manning didn’t attend the minute-long name-change hearing Wednesday, but said in a statement that it is “an exciting day.”
Leavenworth County District Judge David King wrote that Manning is “entitled” to the name change, and ordered that Manning’s birth certificate be amended to reflect the new name, according to the petition obtained by NBC News. The soldier's given name was Bradley Edward Manning.
“Hopefully today’s name change, while so meaningful to me personally, can also raise awareness of the fact that we [transgender] people exist everywhere in America today, and that we ... must jump through hurdles every day just for being who we are,” Manning wrote.
Manning, 26, is currently serving time at the Army prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.
While Manning’s military records must also reflect the new name, Army officials aren’t forced to treat Manning as a woman, which means she wouldn’t have to be transferred to a women’s unit at another prison.
Manning’s confinement status wouldn’t necessarily change, Army spokesman George Wright told The Associated Press.
“Likewise, the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks is a male-only facility and prisoners there are referred to by the title ‘inmate,’” Wright said in a statement.
Manning wrote that while she struggled with her gender identity, she felt compelled to legally change her name through the courts. But she said she still needs the military’s help to get proper healthcare access.
She said she went last August to be evaluated for a “treatment plan” tailored for transgender people.
“I have not ... yet seen their treatment plan, and in over eight months, I have not received any response as to whether the plan will be approved or disapproved, or whether it follows the guidelines of qualified health professionals,” Manning wrote.
She has reportedly filed a grievance with the barracks to get specialized gender counseling and hormone replacement therapy.
Having the military’s help would “not only be something I have wanted for a long time myself,” Manning wrote, “but it will also open the door for many people, both inside and outside the military, to request the right to live more open, fulfilled lives.”
The Army didn’t immediately respond to Manning’s claims about seeking treatment.
Manning, once a low-level intelligence analyst, remains a controversial figure after some view her decision to leak classified information as heroic, while others consider it traitorous.
She was convicted of 20 counts, including seven dealing with espionage.
Manning has said that she stole the information, including diplomatic cables and battlefield reports, while working in Iraq in 2008 and 2009 because she was disillusioned by U.S. foreign policy centered on “killing and capturing people.”
“I’m a ‘transparency advocate,’” Manning previously wrote.
— Erik Ortiz and Courtney Kube