Bradley Manning's lawyer gives more details on client's desired gender change

Bradley Manning is escorted out of a military court facility at Fort Meade, Md., ahead of his sentencing hearing. Getty Images

PROVIDENCE, R.I. Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, who now prefers to be called Chelsea Manning, decided to announce the desire to live as a woman the day after sentencing took place because a military prison said publicly it would not provide hormone treatment, his attorney said Monday.

Attorney David Coombs told The Associated Press that Manning had known for a long time he 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," said Coombs, who lives in Providence, R.I.

Coombs said he and Manning knew the Army might not provide hormone treatment, but they were hoping the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., would allow it since Manning had been diagnosed with gender-identity disorder by an Army psychiatrist who testified at his 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 to 35 years in prison for leaking mountains of classified material to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

"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. He said Manning is exploring changing names legally and would request that the military recognize the new name.

Coombs said he had seen online people objecting to taxpayer-funded hormone therapy and said if the Army won't pay for it, Manning will.

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 his middle name, replacing Edward.

Coombs said Manning knows there is the potential for confusion with the name change, and 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."

Manning was demoted from private first class to private at sentencing. Manning will be dishonorably discharged when the soldier finishes the prison sentence. The earliest Manning could be released on parole is 2020.

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.

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