Former US Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning created a whole new set of potential complications for the US military, asking to be known as a woman named Chelsea and to undergo hormone treatment, just one day after he was sentenced to 35 years in prison for the biggest leak of classified material in US history.
Manning’s gender-identity struggle — a sense of being a woman trapped in a man’s body — was brought up by the defense at his court martial for giving more than 700,000 classified military and diplomatic documents, plus battlefield footage, to the anti-secrecy Web site WikiLeaks. A photograph of the soldier in a blond wig and lipstick was submitted as evidence.
However, the latest twist, announced the morning after Manning was sentenced, surprised many and confronted the Pentagon with questions about where and how the army private is to be imprisoned.
Manning disclosed the decision on Thursday in a statement provided to NBC’s Today show.
“As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. 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,” the statement read.
The statement asked people to use the feminine pronoun when referring to Manning. It was signed “Chelsea E. Manning” and included a handwritten signature.
The soldier’s attorney, David Coombs, told Today he hopes officials at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, accommodate Manning’s request for hormone treatment, which typically involves high doses of estrogen to promote breast development and other female characteristics.
George Wright, an army spokesman at the Pentagon, said the army does not provide such treatment or sex-reassignment surgery, but soldiers behind bars are given access to psychiatrists and other mental-health professionals.
A lawsuit could be in the offing. Coombs said he will do “everything in my power” to make sure Manning gets his way. And the American Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Campaign and other advocates for gays, bisexuals and transgender people said Manning deserves the treatment.
A Federal Bureau of Prisons policy implemented last year requires federal prisons to develop treatment plans, including hormone treatment if necessary, for inmates diagnosed with gender-identity disorder. However, the bureau oversees only civilian prisons.
Manning’s case appeared to be the first time the therapy had come up for a military prisoner.
After sentencing, Manning was returned on Thursday to Fort Leavenworth.
Fort Leavenworth is an all-male prison. However, the staff have some leeway to separate soldiers from the other inmates based on the risk to themselves and others, prison spokesman George Marcec said.
Manning would not be allowed to wear a wig or bra, and would have to meet the military standard for hair, Marcec said.
In addition, Marcec said if Manning wants to go by Chelsea in the prison, a name change would have to be approved in court and then a petition submitted with the army to change its records.