Washington: A day after being sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking thousands of classified documents, US soldier Bradley Manning has expressed a wish to become a woman.
"I am a female," Manning, 25, announced Thursday in a statement read on NBC's 'Today' show and said he would seek hormone therapy and live as a female named Chelsea.
"As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me," said the soldier, who was convicted in July of leaking 750,000 pages of classified US military and diplomatic documents to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.
The military judge also reduced Manning's rank from private first class to private, ordered him to forfeit pay and benefits and be dishonourably discharged.
"I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. 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 said.
The issue of Manning's gender identity repeatedly surfaced in his court martial on espionage charges. A widely circulated picture released by the military shows Manning in a blonde wig, according to CNN.
Speaking in the sentencing phase of his court martial last week, Manning said that at the time he decided to leak the documents, he was "dealing with a lot of issues" - a reference to his gender identity crisis.
In an e-mail to his sergeant, titled "My Problem", Manning included the picture of himself in the wig.
"It's not going away, it's haunting me more and more as I get older," Manning wrote in the e-mail. "Now, the consequences of it are dire, at a time when it's causing me great pain in itself. As a result, I'm not sure what to do about it."
Influential Washington news site Politico cited Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, as saying he wanted to wait until after the trial to release the statement so it wouldn't "overshadow" the case.
Coombs said he hasn't spoken with Manning about sex-reassignment surgery and said Manning is not seeking to join a female prison population.
"I think the ultimate goal is to be comfortable in her skin, and to be the person that she's never had an opportunity to be," Coombs said.
Coombs said he expects Manning would get parole, but the ultimate goal is a pardon from President Barack Obama.