Manning: 'I am a female'

US soldier wants to be called Chelsea and allowed to start hormone therapy while in military prison

Bradley Manning exiting trial on Aug. 20, left, and dressed as a woman in a 2010 photograph.
L. to R.: Mark Wilson/Getty Images; Reuters

Bradley Manning announced Thursday the desire to live as a woman and asked to be referred to by the name Chelsea, according to a statementread by the soldier's lawyer on the "Today" show. The 25-year-old, who was convicted in July of leaking classified military documents to the WikiLeaks website, also wants to start receiving hormone therapy, though it is unclear whether the military prison where Manning will be held will allow it.

Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison on Wednesday, but is eligible for parole. She -- the pronoun Manning now prefers -- arrived at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Thursday.

The Manning trial: A timeline

In the statement, Manning described a longheld wish to live as a female.

"As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me," Manning wrote. "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. I hope that you will support me in this transition."

"I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back," Manning wrote, saying, however, that supporters should address their letters sent to the prison to "Bradley Manning."

A spokesperson for Fort Leavenworth told Al Jazeera that soldiers held at the military prison there are "treated equally regardless of race, rank, ethnicity or sexual orientation." The spokesperson also said that "all inmates are considered soldiers and treated as such" and have access to psychological and psychiatric care, but not hormone therapy.

"The Army does not provide hormones," the spokesperson said.

Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, addressed the issue on NBC's "Today" show.

"If Fort Leavenworth does not, then I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure they are forced to do so," he said.

There are two prisons at the army base: the maximum security United States Disciplinary Barracks (USDB) and the Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility, designed for prison terms of five years or less. 

Robinson is an advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members of the U.S. military.
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for LOGO

Related: Manning, prison and hormone therapy

Allyson Robinson, a former Army officer who in 2007 began her transition from male to female, spoke with Al Jazeera about the case of Chelsea E. Manning, the Army private sentenced to 35 years in military prison for leaking classified documents. 

Read more here

A Ft. Leavenworth spokesperson told Al Jazeera that Manning has not yet been officially assigned to the USDB, but that the maximum security facility is for men only.

When asked if there were any transgender prisoners there, the spokesperson said that "none have been reported by the USDB."

All inmates wear the same attire at the prison. 

"Clothing will be properly fitting, climatically suitable and durable when possible," the spokesperson added.

Debate over hormones

Manning's announcement and the Army's stated policy prompted outcries even from the soldier's critics, who argue that the military should include hormone therapy as part of health care coverage for inmates.

Josh Seefried -- an Air Force officer and co-chairman of the board of directors of OutServe-SLDN, an association of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members of the military -- has been critical of Manning's actions, but said in a tweet that Manning has "the right to receive proper medical treatment."

"I took a very aggressive stance on not honoring Chelsea Manning at any LGBT pride parades," Seefried said in an email to Al Jazeera. "But that does not change the fact that everyone deserves access to proper healthcare."

"Military medicine and treatment is behind the times and it needs to catch up," he wrote.

The LGBT-rights advocacy group Human Rights Campaign also issued a statement saying that Manning should be treated fairly in prison.

"As Pvt. Manning serves her sentence, she deserves the same thing that any incarcerated person does -- appropriate and competent medical care and protection from discrimination and violence," the statement read. "The care she receives should be something that she and her doctors -- including professionals who understand transgender care -- agree is best for her. There is a clear legal consensus that it is the government’s responsibility to provide medically necessary care for transgender people, and the military has an obligation to follow those guidelines."

Al Jazeera and The Associated PressJamie Tarabay and Wilson Dizard contributed to this report. 

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