Profiles Of Transgender Courage: Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning is a former United States Army soldier who was convicted of violations of the Espionage Act by court-martial in 2013 after disclosing 700,000 classified and/or sensitive documents to WikiLeaks. She is a transwoman who made her first public appearance as a female in 2010 while on leave from military duties.

There is quite a lot of controversy surrounding her decision to leak the information she had acquired during military service to WikiLeaks. There is far too much information to discuss it here. The basics of which involve information on various airstrikes, Afghan and Iraq war logs, diplomatic cables and Guantanamo Bay prison files. Some people view the leak as a catalyst for the Arab Spring, a series of violent and non-violent protests, riots, coups, and civil wars in North Africa and the Middle East. Some people view her as a traitor while others view her as a hero that stood up against suppression and wrong-doing by the U.S. Government. Regardless of what you think of her, her actions changed the course of history.

On August 22, 2013, the day after her sentencing, Manning's lawyer issued a statement that his client was a female and was to referred to as Chelsea with female pronouns. Some news outlets respected her decision while others continued to deadname and misgender her. In April 2014 she was granted her petition for a name change by the Kansas District Court during her stay in Fort Leavenworth. Manning sought hormone replacement therapy, though such treatment is usually not available in most prisons. In August 2014, her attorney and the ACLU notified the USDB and Department of Defense officials that a lawsuit would be filed if they did not confirm treatment would be provided by September 4, 2014, as previously approved by the Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. In September, Manning filed the lawsuit in federal district court, claiming she had "been denied access to medically necessary treatment" for gender disorder. She sued to be allowed to grow her hair longer and use cosmetics, and to receive hormone treatments "to express her female gender"


In 2015, she was granted hormone replacement therapy as part of her treatment in prison. This included her being referred to as female by prison authorities, being given female garments and permission to use cosmetics. On September 13, 2016, the ACLU announced that the army will be granting Manning's request for gender transition surgery, a first for a transgender inmate. In December 2016, Manning's attorneys reported that her military doctor, Dr. Ellen Galloway, refused Manning's request to change the gender on her military records to female. Manning made two suicide attempts in prison that same year and began a 5-day hunger strike to protest being bullied by prison authorities and the U.S. Government. The hunger strike ended after the Army agreed to provide gender confirmation surgery.

On January 17, 2017, President Barack Obama commuted Manning's sentence to nearly seven years of confinement dating from her arrest on May 27, 2010, by military authorities. She was released May 17, 2017, and began her new life as Chelsea Manning, free civilian woman. Since then she has spoken at various events, been featured in Vogue magazine, and given several interviews discussing her experiences and transition. She also regularly posts on Twitter. Regardless of your opinion of her, Chelsea's transition has been difficult. But her journey helped break down barriers for transgender people in the military and in prison and lead to fair and more adequate treatment for such individuals her in the United States.

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