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Manning lawyer gives more details on gender change

Aug. 27, 2013 - 08:12AM   |  
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Soldier Chelsea Manning, previously known as Bradley Manning, decided to announce that she wanted to live as a woman the day after her sentencing for a massive leak of U.S. secrets because a military prison said publicly it would not provide hormone treatment, her attorney said.

Attorney David Coombs told The Associated Press on Monday that Manning had known for a long time she would make such a statement, but “she wanted, essentially, for the media surrounding the trial to dissipate.”

Manning did not want people to think the statement was insincere.

“People might think it was an effort to get further attention,” Coombs said.

Manning was sentenced last week to 35 years in prison for leaking thousands of pages of classified military and diplomatic material to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. The earliest the 25-year-old could be released on parole is 2020.

Coombs said he and Manning knew the Army might not provide hormone treatment, but they were hoping the military prison at Fort Leavenworth would allow it since Manning had been diagnosed with gender-identity disorder by an Army psychiatrist who testified at her trial.

It wasn’t until they read a Courthouse News Service story that Manning decided to make the announcement. The story quoted prison spokeswoman Kimberly Lewis saying the prison would not provide hormone therapy. It was published Aug. 20, the day before Manning was sentenced.

“It was Chelsea’s intent to do this all along,” Coombs said. “It was only after Fort Leavenworth had said that they would not provide any sort of medical treatment that we decided not to wait.”

Coombs said he hoped the military prison “will simply do the right thing” so Manning will not have to sue in military or civilian court.

Coombs said at this point, Manning does not want sex-reassignment surgery and expects to be kept with men in prison. The Fort Leavenworth prison is all-male.

Coombs said he had seen online people objecting to taxpayer-funded hormone therapy and said Manning will pay for it.

Hormone therapy, which typically involves high doses of estrogen to promote breast development and other female characteristics, can help Manning, Coombs said.

“It’s just to be comfortable in her own skin,” Coombs said. He described it as similar to ensuring someone with high blood pressure gets medication.

Coombs also said on his blog Monday that Manning chose Elizabeth as her middle name, replacing Edward. He posted Manning’s statement about her identity change, which was first reported Thursday by NBC.

Coombs said Manning knows there is the potential for confusion with the name change. The lawyer said Manning expects to be referred to as Bradley when it has to do with events prior to sentencing, the appeal of the court-martial and the request for a presidential pardon. Prison mail must be addressed to Bradley Manning.

“There’s a realization that most people know her as Bradley,” Coombs said. “Chelsea is a realist and understands.”

Coombs also said the Bradley Manning Support Network is changing its name to the Private Manning Support Network. The group has raised more than $1 million and is paying Manning’s legal expenses.

The AP will henceforth use Pvt. Chelsea E. Manning and female pronouns for the soldier, in accordance with her wishes to live as a woman. This is in conformity with the transgender guidance in the AP Stylebook. The guidance calls for using 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.

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Associated Press writer David Dishneau in Hagerstown, Md., contributed to this report.

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