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Bradley Manning 'wants to be a woman'

By Jonathan Paige

Bradley Manning, the soldier who received a 35-year sentence for leaking classified US documents to WikiLeaks, has identified as female and wants to be called Chelsea.

Speaking to the US NBC News Today programme, the 25-year-old soldier, who was born male, made a public statement saying she wishes to live out the rest of her life as a woman.

"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," said Manning.

"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."

Manning was sentenced to 35 years on Wednesday for charges including espionage and theft for leaking hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks while working in Iraq in 2010.

The statement continues: " 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."

It is signed Chelsea E. Manning.

The soldier's sentence is expected to be served at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, a facility for members of the armed forces sentenced to more than 10 years.

Manning's lawyer, David Coomes, told the NBC Today programme he hoped the prison would "do the right thing" and provide hormone therapy for the soldier:

"If Fort Leavenworth does not, then I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure they are forced to do so."

However, the facility reportedly does not currently provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for gender identity issues, but does provide psychiatric care.

It is unclear whether, in a military prison, Manning would be assigned to serve time with female prisoners without gender reassignment surgery.

The issue of Manning's gender identity came up during the trial, when the soldier's lawyers suggested it may have been factor in the decision to give the files to WikiLeaks.

An email to a former supervisor from April 2010 was shown in which Manning said she felt she was transgender and joined the army in order to "get rid of it."

The email, which had the subject line "My Problem," also included a photo of Manning wearing a blonde wig and lipstick.

When the soldier was held at a military facility in Quantico, Virginia before the trial began, Master Sergeant Craig Blenis testified at the trial that the soldier sent two letters to her counsellor using the name Breanna.

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