One day after being sentenced to 35 years in prison for the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history, the Army private the world knows as Bradley Manning issued a statement about who she really is. “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,” Manning wrote in a statement read on the Today show. “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).”
The letter is signed Chelsea E. Manning, and thanks supporters for raising awareness of her case.
Manning is likely to serve her time at Fort Leavenworth, which doesn’t offer hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery to prisoners, as reported by Courthouse News. David Coombs, Manning’s lawyer, was not sure if Fort Leavenworth would offer Manning hormone therapy, though he said on Today that he was “hoping” the prison “would do the right thing.”
“If Fort Leavenworth does not, then I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure they are forced to do so,” Coombs said, according to the Today website. It’s not clear whether Manning will be imprisoned in the male or female population. In U.S. prisons in general, transgender inmates are typically classified by their officially assigned gender, rather than the gender with which they identify.
After the guilty verdict, Manning’s attorney introduced a piece of evidence that included a photo of Manning in a wig and make-up attached to an email with the subject line: “My problem.” According to the email, Manning had hoped that joining the military would resolve her struggles with gender dysphoria – a pattern that is apparently not uncommon among transgender troops. The military still discriminates based on transgender identity, and soldiers or sailors who are open about who they are risk discharge under medical pretexts.
Manning was convicted of leaking 700,000 war logs and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. The 20 guilty counts included violations of the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, though not the most serious charge, aiding the enemy – a charge tantamount to treason. The prosecution in the case had asked Judge Denise Lind to sentence Manning to at least 60 years, saying, “There is value in deterrence.” The defense had asked for a sentence no greater than 25 years.
Though Manning will be eligible for parole after serving a third of her sentence, some found the 35-year sentence disproportionate when compared to the sentences given to other soldiers convicted of more serious crimes such as murder. “US soldier John Hatley, convicted of *premeditated murder* for shooting Iraqi detainees point blank in the back of the head, received 40 years,” tweeted Sarah Knuckey, former advisor to the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings. Knuckey added, “U.S. Army Specialist Jeremy Morlock, who pled guilty to murdering unarmed Afghan civilians, got 24 years.”