By Michael Pearson, CNN
The U.S. Army soldier sentenced this week to 35 years in prison for leaking 750,000 pages of classified documents to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks said Thursday in a statement read on NBC’s “Today” show that will seek hormone therapy and live as a female named Chelsea.
“As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me,” Manning said in the statement. “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.”
Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, told “Today” that he hopes officials at Fort Leavenworth military prison will provide his client the hormone therapy.
“I’m hoping Fort Leavenworth would do the right thing and provide that,” Coombs said. “If Fort Leavenworth does not, then I am going to do everything in my power to make sure that they are forced to do so.”
The issue of Manning’s gender identity repeatedly surfaced in his court martial on espionage charges. A widely circulated picture released by the military shows Manning in a blonde wig.
Speaking in the sentencing phase of his court martial last week, Manning said that at the time he decided to leak the documents, he was “dealing with a lot of issues” — a reference to his gender identity crisis.
In an e-mail to his sergeant titled, “My Problem,” Manning included the picture of himself in the wig.
“It’s not going away, it’s haunting me more and more as I get older,” Manning wrote in the e-mail. “Now, the consequences of it are dire, at a time when it’s causing me great pain in itself. As a result, I’m not sure what to do about it.”
An Army psychologist called by the defense said Manning appeared to be isolated and under intense pressure as a male soldier struggling with gender identity issues.
Manning’s announcement comes a day after a military judge sentenced him to 35 years in prison for leaking hundreds of thousands of U.S. military and diplomatic documents.
Manning, 25, was convicted in July of stealing the documents and videos and disseminating them to WikiLeaks, the online anti-secrecy group.
The military judge also reduced Manning’s rank from private first class to private, ordered him to forfeit pay and benefits and be dishonorably discharged.
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