'I am Chelsea Manning. I am female'

Bradley Manning, who was yesterday sentenced to military prison for leaking classified documents to Wikileaks, said she plans to live out her life as a woman.

American media is reporting that the army private issued a statement saying "I am Chelsea Manning. I am female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible."

The news was reported by NBC's Today show, who interviewed Manning's lawyer, David Coombes.

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Mr Coombs said he is hoping officials at the military prison will accommodate Manning’s request for hormone therapy. If not, “I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure they are forced to do so,” he said.

Manning’s struggle with gender identity disorder – her sense that she was a man trapped in a woman’s body – was a key part of her defence.

Lawyers had presented evidence of Manning’s struggle with gender identity, including a photo of the soldier in a blond wig and lipstick that she sent to a therapist.

The full text of the statement provided by Today.com:

"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.

Thank you,

Chelsea E. Manning"

The 25-year-old was sentenced to 35 years in prison having been found guilty of 20 charges including espionage.

Manning had faced up to 90 years in prison. Prosecutors had wanted at least a 60-year sentence, saying it would dissuade other soldiers from following in her footsteps. The defence suggested no more than 25 years so that Manning could rebuild his life.

With good behaviour and credit for the more than three years she has been held, Manning could be out in about six-and-a-half years, according to Coombs.

Manning’s rank was reduced, she was dishonourably discharged and she forfeited her pay.

Meanwhile, the fight to free Manning has taken a new turn, with Mr Coombs and supporters saying they will ask the Army for leniency – and the White House for a pardon, which is unlikely.

Even Manning’s supporters have switched. During the sentencing hearing, they wore T-shirts reading, “truth.” Hours later, they had changed into shirts saying, “President Obama: Pardon Bradley Manning.”

Manning faces the stiffest punishment ever handed out in the US for leaking information to the media. She has been called both a whistleblower and a traitor for giving more than 700,000 classified military and diplomatic documents, plus battlefield footage, to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

Mr Coombs said he will file a request early next week that President Barack Obama pardon Manning or commute her sentence to time served.

Mr Coombs read from a letter Manning will send to the president in which she said: “I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intent to hurt anyone.”

The White House said the request would be considered “like any other application.” However, a pardon seems unlikely.

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