Bradley Manning’s decision to be referred to as Chelsea Manning and seek hormone therapy to complete the transition to being a woman may be the first time a high-profile American soldier announced such intentions. But across the pond, there are at least three instances of soldiers who successfully completed sex changes -- with mixed results when it came to their future in the military.
Manning, just sentenced to 35 years in prison for sending classified material to WikiLeaks, publicly announced the intention to transition to a woman via a statement sent Thursday to NBC's “Today” show. The statement, titled “The Next Stage of My Life,” was signed “Chelsea E. Manning.”
“As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning,” said Manning, 25. “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 [Thursday,] 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.”
Manning’s revelation has dominated the news cycle, with “Chelsea Manning” trending Thursday on Twitter.
But Manning is not the first soldier born one gender and seeking to change it to another. There have been at least three such cases in the U.K.: Joanne Wingate, Caroline Paige and Jan Hamilton. In all three instances, the British soldiers transitioned from men to women while serving in the military.
Joanne Wingate (photo)
Born Joe Rushton in 1960, Wingate started living as a woman in August 1996 and had gender reassignment surgery in January 2000. She was the first known transgender British Army soldier to serve in the army after the Cold War.
But following Joanne’s decision to have gender reassignment surgery, the British military terminated her in 2003. Wingate filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the military but lost, as a court determined that it wasn’t the soldier’s gender that led to her firing.
Caroline Paige (photo)
Paige, a member of the Royal Air Force, didn’t have the same trouble as Wingate after her sex change. Born Eric Cookson, Paige joined the military in 1980 and had gender reassignment surgery in 2000. Paige paid for the $46,979 operation herself and was given approval to have the procedure by the RAF. While Paige praised the military for its stance, her family has had difficulty accepting her new life.
Jan Hamilton (photo)
Jan Hamilton, 48, was born Ian Hamilton in Belfast and began military service as a man in Northern Ireland in 1983, serving in the Royal Irish Rangers. After leaving for a career in television in 1987, Hamilton returned to the military in 1995 as a member of the British Army. Jan struggled with gender issues throughout her life, and was diagnosed with gender dysphoria in 2007. She then had a number of procedures to appear as a woman, including breast augmentation and facial reconstruction surgery. Hamilton completed gender reassignment surgery in 2008.
Like Wingate, Hamilton also had difficulty after her surgery. She was supposed to lead media operations in Gibraltar but was dismissed from her post by her commanding officer. Wingate later resigned from the military.