Bradley Manning wants to live as a woman named Chelsea and hopes to begin hormone treatment as soon as possible, the soldier said a day after being sentenced to 35 years in prison for giving government secrets to WikiLeaks.

"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," Manning said in a statement provided to NBC's Today show on Thursday morning. "Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible." 

The statement asked people to use the feminine pronoun when referring to Manning. It was signed Chelsea E. Manning.  Manning received the stiffest punishment ever handed out in the United States for leaking information to the media. With good behaviour and credit for more than three years of time served, Manning could be out in as little as seven years, the soldier's attorney David Coombs said.   

Hormone therapy

Coombs told Today he hoped officials at the military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., would accommodate Manning's request for hormone treatment. If they don't, Coombs said, he would do "everything in my power" to make it happen. The army said it doesn't provide the treatment, used by many transgender people to alter their gender characteristics, or sex-reassignment surgery.   

"All inmates are considered soldiers and are treated as such with access to mental health professionals, including a psychiatrist, psychologist, social workers and behavioral science noncommissioned officers," army spokesman George Wright said. 

Leavenworth is an all-male prison. Spokesman George Marcec said there had never been a case similar to Manning's, and the soldier would need to petition for a transfer to a federal prison to receive hormone treatment.   

As far as where Manning would be held, prison staff have some leeway to separate prisoners from the general population based on the security risk to themselves and others, Marcec said, adding the soldier would not be allowed to wear a wig or bra.

Manning, who has spent more than two years at a minimum-to-medium-security facility for pretrial prisoners at Leavenworth,  was to be moved to military's only maximum-security prison, which is also at Leavenworth.  

Manning's struggle with gender identity disorder — the sense of being a woman trapped in a man's body — played an important part at the court-martial. 

'My problem'  

Retired Sgt. 1st Class Paul Adkins testified as a defence witness, saying in April 2010, just a month before Manning was arrested, he received an email with a picture of the soldier in a blonde wig and lipstick.

The letter was titled, "My problem."   

 "I don't know what to do anymore, and the only 'help' that seems to be available is severe punishment and/or getting rid of me," the email said. "All I do know, is that fear of getting caught has caused me to go to great lengths to consciously hide the problem."  

Manning's attorney said the email was evidence the military knew of his client's struggles, yet allowed the soldier to stay in Iraq as an intelligence analyst and keep his security clearance.  

The sentence fired up the long-running debate over whether Manning was a whistleblower or a traitor for giving more than 700,000 classified military and diplomatic documents, plus battlefield footage, to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. By volume alone, it was the biggest leak of classified material in U.S. history, bigger even than the Pentagon Papers a generation ago.  

Manning was found guilty last month of 20 crimes, including six violations of the Espionage Act, but was acquitted of the most serious charge, aiding the enemy, which carried a potential sentence of life in prison without parole.