Convicted Army Private Bradley Manning on Thursday (August 22) released a statement in which she said that she is a transgender woman and will now be known as Chelsea E. Manning.
Manning, 25, was sentenced by an Army judge this week to 35 years in prison for leaking classified government documents to WikiLeaks. Manning was found guilty of most of the charges against her during a court-martial but the judge, Colonel Denise Lind, acquitted Manning of the most serious charge, aiding the enemy.
Lind also ordered that Manning, a former private first class, be reduced in rank to private and be dishonorably discharged from the Army.
“As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me,” Manning said in her statement. “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.”
“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.”
Manning is expected to serve his sentence at a military facility in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Gay rights and civil liberties groups quickly issued statements in support of Manning’s decision and calling for appropriate medical care for her.
“Regardless of how she came to our attention, Private Chelsea Manning’s transition deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” Jeff Krehely, vice president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “As she requested in her letter, journalists and other officials should use her chosen name of Chelsea and refer to her with female pronouns. Using the name Bradley or male pronouns is nothing short of an insult.”
Krehely also said that Manning should be afforded appropriate care while incarcerated.
“As Private Manning serves her sentence, she deserves the same thing that any incarcerated person does – appropriate and competent medical care and protection from discrimination and violence,” he said. “The care she receives should be something that she and her doctors – including professionals who understand transgender care – agree is best for her.”
Krehely also noted that Manning’s case is unique.
“What should not be lost is that there are transgender service members and veterans who serve and have served this nation with honor, distinction, and great sacrifice,” he said. “We must not forget or dishonor those individuals. Private Manning’s experience is not a proxy for any other transgender man or woman who wears the uniform of the United States.”
The America Civil Liberties Union also released a statement referencing Manning’s future medical care.
“[P]ublic statements by military officials that the Army does not provide hormone therapy to treat gender dysphoria raise serious constitutional concerns,” said Chase Strangio, staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT Project. “Gender Dysphoria is a serious medical condition in which a person’s gender identity does not correspond to his or her assigned sex at birth, and hormone therapy is part of the accepted standards of care for this condition.”
Strangio pointed out that the policy of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which does not oversee military detention facilities, and most state agencies is to provide medically necessary care for the treatment of gender dysphoria. Courts have found that denying such care based on blanket exclusions violates the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, he added.