Chelsea Manning's announcement last week that she, formerly Bradley Manning, would like to live and be regarded as a woman prompted many questions, both about the soldier's future in a military prison, and about how to discuss Manning's identity. And now, through her lawyer, Manning has provided some answers.
Because Manning was just sentenced to 35 years in a military prison, many have been curious about the funding, access, and care she'll have behind bars. Speaking to the Associated Press, Manning's lawyer David Coombs said that she expects to pay for hormone therapy herself, if she can get access to it while at Fort Leavenworth at all. Second, Manning is aware that she will be kept in the all-men's prison, and isn't interested in pursuing sex reassignment surgery at this time. The high-estrogen therapy she's asking for would help Manning be "comfortable in her own skin," he added. If the prison declines to grant Manning access to hormone therapy, Coombs said, her legal team is prepared to pursue that option in court.
As for the timing of her announcement, Coombs clarified that Manning wished to wait until well after the trial before bringing up the subject: "People might think it was an effort to get further attention," Coombs said, noting that Manning's request was entirely sincere. To be sure, it is not the first time Manning's gender identity has been publicly discussed. Manning's 2010 chat logs with hacker Adrian Lamo, for instance, indicate that the soldier has long intended to transition to female. Her identity was also discussed during the espionage trial. Manning and her team stepped up the timing of the announcement after reading a report indicating that the military wouldn't provide hormone therapy access. Coombs explained to the AP:
"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."
Her additional statements through Coombs come as some publications — the AP, the New York Times, and NPR, for example — announced an "evolution" in their pronoun policies towards transgendered individuals, and Manning in particular. All three will stop using male pronouns to refer to the soldier formerly known as Bradley Manning, and will refer to Chelsea Manning as "she." They join a number of other publications (including the Atlantic Wire) who refer to Manning by her name, Chelsea, with female pronouns. Other publications, like CNN, insist that Manning doesn't get female pronouns until she either starts hormone therapy or undergoes reassignment surgery — something that not all trans people necessarily choose to do. But Coombs also had some guidance for those still trying to figure out how to talk about Manning:
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."
That point was reiterated on a Monday blog post from Coombs, which goes on to explain that Manning also expects that many images and logos depicting her as male will continue to circulate.