Pfc Bradley Manning, the US soldier sentenced to 35 years behind bars for leaking classified documents, said he was living his life locked in the wrong body.
The 25-year-old said in a statement read out on NBC’s Today show on Thursday that he intends to live the rest of his life as a woman and that he would now like to be known as “Chelsea.”
“I want everyone to know the real me,” Manning wrote, after first thanking all those who supported him over the three-year period of his trial. “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’s defense argued that the pressures of being transgender and a gay soldier were a key influence in his decision to leak over 700,000 classified documents to the WikiLeaks website while serving in Iraq in 2010. During his trial, the court was shown an email that Manning sent in 2010 to a superior, with the subject line “My Problem,” in which he declared he was transgendered and which included a photograph of himself in a blonde wig and lipstick.
Manning, who was sentenced on Wednesday, will serve his time in prison at Fort Leavenworth, home to the American military’s most famous prison. His attorney David Coombs confirmed he was going to the prison that houses the most serious offenders in the US military.
According to Today, the prison does not provide sex reassignment surgery or hormone therapy. Under US civilian prison regulations, transgender inmates are held in facilities alongside their birth-sex prisoners if they have not already had sex reassignment surgery. However, the military’s position on the matter was unclear.
“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),” Manning wrote. “I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.”
Associated Press contributed to this report.