US soldier Bradley Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison by a military court for leaking thousands of top-secret diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, has said he wants to be identified as she.

In a letter to NBC's Today programme, Manning said: "As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am 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."

The army private was handed the longest prison term in decades imposed on an American soldier for revealing US government secrets.

Manning has also been dishonourably discharged. The sentence was reduced by three and a half years for time served

"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)," Manning continued. "I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back."

Manning signed the letter "Chelsea E Manning."

Manning's defence team said during the trial that the struggle with gender identity was a factor in leaking the cables.

A psychiatrist told the court that the soldier had a troubled childhood and suffered from gender-identity disorder.

Capt David Moulton said that Manning felt he was a woman trapped inside a man's body and that that made him feel alienated in the army.

Bradley Manning's full statement:
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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