As you may have read, heroic whistleblower Bradley Manning was sentenced today to 35 years in military prison for leaking classified material—material the American people deeply deserve to know about—to the online non-profit WikiLeaks. She also announced her desire to live as a woman.
In a statement released earlier today, she thanked everyone for their support and discussed her plans to take the name “Chelsea” and begin hormone replacement therapy. Manning’s lawyer David Coombs said Manning waited until after the trial to talk about it so it wouldn’t overshadow the case:
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.
Chelsea E. Manning
Leavenworth Prison, where Manning will be held, does not provide hormone therapy or gender-reassignment surgery. (Manning only wants the former.) Coombs says he hopes the prison will “do the right thing” and provide it for her, but if they don’t, “I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure they are forced to do so.” In addition to uncovering how America really deals with its enemies, allies, and citizens, could Manning also help uncover the cruel and unusual punishments that await transgender people who are sentenced to prison?
While important, the specifics of Manning’s case are a little out of the scope of this site; Salon has been doing some great coverage, which I recommend. And if you want to be really pissed off right away, read about (but maybe don’t watch) the “collateral murder” video which shows US military cavalierly joking around as they gun down a group of civilians including a Reuters photographer and a good Samaritan dad who stopped to try to help them. But this being a fashion and beauty site, I’m going to give Chelsea Manning an extremely frivolous compliment: girl, you looked really cute in that photo the Army released of you.
This is probably the least important thing anyone could say in relation to this case, but it’s true. In the midst of the insanity of being sentenced to prison for what was basically a patriotic act, I hope Chelsea takes some comfort in getting to be who she is, and in all the messages of support (both silly and serious) people are sending her. When faced with seemingly insurmountable oppression, women have long found some semblance of comfort and control in our ability to express ourselves via the way that we look, and I hope Chelsea Manning can do the same. I will totally start a movement to send Chelsea lipstick if there’s a chance it could brighten her days as a political prisoner.
Photos: Getty, US Army