Convicted WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning, sentenced Wednesday to 35 years in prison for distributing classified documents for publication, says "the real me" is a woman.
"As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me," Manning, 25, said in a written statement broadcast Thursday on NBC's "Today" show. "I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female."
Manning was a low-level Army intelligence analyst when she provided the pro-transparency group WikiLeaks with hundreds of thousands of documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as State Department cables from embassies around the world.
Manning's sexuality attracted bouts of attention since her arrest in 2010. The now-repealed "don't ask, don't tell" policy reportedly alienated Manning and many participants in gay pride events took up her cause, although many believed Manning was a gay man.
Following Manning's July 30 conviction on a slew of charges, Army psychologist Michael Worsley disclosed at an Aug. 14 sentencing hearing that Manning struggled with gender identity. He produced a photo of Manning wearing lipstick and a wig.
"Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible," Manning's statement said. "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)."
A spokesperson for Ft. Leavenworth, where Manning will be held captive, told Courthouse News on Tuesday - before Manning's post-sentence announcement - that hormone therapy isn't an option.
"All inmates are considered soldiers and are treated as such with access to mental health professionals," spokesperson Kimberly Lewis told the news service. "The Army does not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for gender identity disorder."
However, regarding feminine pronouns, Manning may get her wish.
The influential Associated Press Stylebook advises journalists and editors to "[u]se the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly."
An "ask the editor" response posted to the AP's online stylebook website clarifies - in response to a question about using gender-specific words for drag queens - "AP would follow the individual's stated preference."
The first AP story on Manning's announcement, however, avoids using male or female pronouns. The article's headline opts for male, reading, "Bradley Manning says he wants to live as a woman."
Manning's Wikipedia page was revised Thursday to read Chelsea Manning. Every use of "he" and "his" were changed to "she" and "her."
"This page is currently protected from editing" until Friday, a message briefly pegged to the top of the Wikipedia article by site administrators said, "or until disputes have been resolved." It cautioned: "This protection is not an endorsement of the current version."
The Human Rights Campaign, a large gay rights advocacy group, is urging respect for Manning's announced gender identity choice.
"Regardless of how she came to our attention, Pvt. Chelsea Manning's transition deserves to be treated with dignity and respect," said Jeff Krehely, the HRC's vice president and chief foundation officer, in a released 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. Media, having reported on her wishes, must respect them as is the standard followed by the AP Stylebook."
During his Thursday appearance on the "Today" show, Manning's defense attorney David Coombs said the famous leaker would fight for access to hormone therapy in prison. Coombs also expressed confidence that President Barack Obama would pardon his client. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday that Manning's appeal for a pardon will be considered "like any other application."