One day after being sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking secret government files to Wikileaks, Pfc. Bradley Manning today announced via NBC TODAY the decision to live life as a woman.
We first wrote about this aspect of Manning's story in 2010, after realizing that a series of chat logs circulating on the internet–which we'd published without understanding the subtle references within–spoke to Manning's desire to transition.
We will be using the female gender to refer to Manning, from this point forward.
Below is the soldier's full statement to the public about the desire to publicly transition:
Subject: The Next Stage of My Life
I want to thank everybody who has supported me over the last three years. Throughout this long ordeal, your letters of support and encouragement have helped keep me strong. I am forever indebted to those who wrote to me, made a donation to my defense fund, or came to watch a portion of the trial. I would especially like to thank Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network for their tireless efforts in raising awareness for my case and providing for my legal representation.
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. I hope that you will support me in this transition. 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). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.
Chelsea E. Manning
Speaking on TODAY, Manning's attorney David Coombs said Manning will begin hormone therapy.
"The stress that he was under was mostly to give context to what was going on at the time," said Coombs. "It was never an excuse because that's not what drove his actions. What drove his actions was a strong moral compass."
How will the Army deal with this, as Manning heads to prison–likely Ft. Leavenworth–to serve 35 years? Adam Klasfeld at Courthouse News wrote about the support for trans prisoners here, and updates that today. No one expects a supportive environment.
The Army responded to Manning's decision to seek hormone therapy with a statement.
"Inmates at the United States Disciplinary Barracks and Joint Regional Correctional Facility are treated equally regardless of race, rank, ethnicity or sexual orientation," the statement reads. "All inmates are considered soldiers and are treated as such with access to mental health professionals, including a psychiatrist, psychologist, social workers and behavioral science noncommissioned officers with experience in addressing the needs of military personnel in pre- and post-trial confinement.
"The Army does not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for gender identity disorder. The USDB has implemented risk assessment protocols and safety procedures to address high risk factors identified with the Prison Rape Elimination Act."
In the U.S. prison system, transgender prisoners who have not had genital surgery are generally assigned to live with their birth-sex peers, but the military policy is unclear.
On whether Manning will seek sexual reassignment surgery, Coombs said "I haven't really discussed that aspect with her. Really, it's more about getting the hormone therapy, so at this point I don't know the answer to that."
And from Klasfeld's piece today:
While a broad range of psychological treatment is available to all soldiers imprisoned at Ft. Leavenworth, hormone therapy and sex-reassignment surgery is not, spokeswoman Kimberly Lewis said in an interview.
Referring to those policies, Coombs cryptically added, "I'm gonna change that."
Previously on Boing Boing:
• Bradley Manning expected to speak at trial today; email with female selfie released
• Was alleged Wikileaks leaker Bradley Manning's crisis also one of personal identity?
• Boing Boing's coverage archives of the Bradley Manning trial