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#FreeChelsea: Outpouring of Support Follows Manning Announcement

'As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me.'

- Jon Queally, staff writer

Support for Bradley Manning continued to grow on Thursday following a statement read by Manning's lawyer on the TODAY show announcing that going forward the whistleblower, sentenced to 35 years in prison on Wednesday, would like to be regarded as a woman.

“As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me,” Manning said in the statement read by lawyer David Coombs. “I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way I have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible.”

Coombs indicated that his client kept the desire to transition out of the public domain throughout his lengthy detention and controversial trial because he did not want it to distract from the real issues in the case.

On Twitter, where the hashtag #freebrad had been trending along with a call for Manning's pardon for what supporters consider his (now her) brave stance against US foreign policy and the war crimes and misdeeds that took place in Iraq, Afghanistan and elswewhere, was slowly being replaced with #freechelsea on Thursday with most expressing admiration for another brave stand taken by the former Army private first class.

Manning's full statement to the public follows:

Subject: The Next Stage of My Life

I want to thank everybody who has supported me over the last three years. Throughout this long ordeal, your letters of support and encouragement have helped keep me strong. I am forever indebted to those who wrote to me, made a donation to my defense fund, or came to watch a portion of the trial. I would especially like to thank Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network for their tireless efforts in raising awareness for my case and providing for my legal representation.

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. 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. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.

Thank you,

Chelsea E. Manning

_____________________________________

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