FORT MEADE, Md. – Three years after rocking the Pentagon by leaking a mountain of secrets, Bradley Manning created a whole new set of potential complications for the military Thursday by asking to be known as a woman named Chelsea and to undergo hormone treatment.
Manning’s gender-identity struggle – a sense of being a woman trapped in a man’s body – was brought up by the defense at the court-martial, and a photo of the soldier in a blond wig and lipstick was submitted as evidence.
But the latest twist, announced the morning after Manning was sentenced to 35 years in the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., surprised many and confronted the Pentagon with questions about where and how the Army private is to be imprisoned.
The former Army intelligence analyst disclosed the decision 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 Associated Press Stylebook calls for use of the pronoun that is either an individual’s preference or is consistent with the way the person lives publicly. The news agency said in a statement it would let that “be our guide as this story develops.”
However, Leavenworth spokesman George Marcec said later Thursday that if Manning wants to go by Chelsea in prison, a name change would have to be approved in court and then a petition submitted with the Army to change its records.
The AP said it was seeking additional details from Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, and until then would use only gender-neutral terms in reference to Manning.
Coombs told “Today” he hopes Leavenworth officials will accommodate Manning’s request for hormone treatment, which typically involves high doses of estrogen to promote breast development and other female characteristics.
However, George Wright, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, said the Army does not provide such treatment or sex-reassignment surgery. He said 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.
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