Who is Chelsea Manning?

Whistleblower. Traitor. Transwoman. Freak. Hero.

Chelsea Manning has been called many things and is recognizable to many.  

She has informed the public of United States military activities across the globe and continues to speak out against government secrecy and in defense of transgender rights. Her words and actions have powerfully transformed national conversations, but since her arrest in 2010 on charges related to her release of information to WikiLeaks, few have had a chance to actually see and hear from Chelsea herself.

Today, Chelsea is telling her story through an Amnesty International podcast. You can listen here.

“I feel like I've been stored away for all this time without a voice,” she says through the voice of transgender actress Michelle Hendley, who sounds eerily like Chelsea. “I feel like there's so much of a contribution to society that I could be making. I spend every day looking forward to the hope that one day I can give that a go.”

During the podcast, Chelsea recounts her early childhood and young adulthood struggling with her gender and homelessness. She talks about her decision to enlist in the military in October of 2007 as well as her arrest and brutal torture while in confinement at Quantico. She finishes up her story describing her incarceration at the Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth. The story is in Chelsea’s own voice, with the earnest thoughtfulness that I have come to appreciate as quintessentially Chelsea.

As her lawyer, I am one of a few people who can speak to and visit Chelsea. I have had the privilege of hearing her voice and learning about the strong and resilient person that is behind the many public narratives and labels. With today’s podcast, Chelsea hopes to share that side of her with others. Even though she is not permitted to use her actual voice, having another trans woman tell her story was critical to her as she continues to try to build human connections beyond the prison walls. 

At the end of the podcast, Chelsea reflects on her younger self:

“I've … imagined a few times what it would be like if I could travel back in time and speak to myself as a teenager. I know what she was feeling deep down inside. I know all the fears that she had, and all the vulnerabilities she was hiding. I would want to grab her by the hand and tell her that everything is going to be okay. I would tell her that there is nothing wrong with you, and that you are more loved and appreciated than you realize. I would tell her that she can be a happier and healthier person if she stays true to herself, like I have finally been able to figure out.”

One of the amazing things about Chelsea is her ability to find beauty and love, even in the most desperate circumstances. It comes through in her story and leaves you hopeful for a more just world — a world where we can break down the isolation and violence of incarceration and build up the humanity and decency of our fellow human beings.  


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Years ago they wouldnt allow gays or he she its like this in the military because they thought they became traitors yo easy. I guess they were right. I hope mr. ms. He she it serves every bit of that 35 years. Generally well see how quick the aclu changes its tune on the gender is fluid philosophy and gets behind the army of psychologists, school guidance counselors, and child development experts lambda legal has raring to go to prep eight year olds for transition at puberty if and when medical technology is finally capable of sucessfully carrying out bottom surgery.


Please make an effort to learn about the transgender community before spouting outdated terms and hate against a women who has been physically tortured.
Dont be an idiot like this again.


Dear idiot, It is true that gays and other gender-defiant individuals were thought to be security risks-- NOT because of any weakness in character, but because the social stigma on gender nonconformity was so great and thus gays were subject to BLACKMAIL. The correct answer to THAT problem, naturally, is removing the social prejudice and legal discrimination that people fear will damage their lives if they are outed. Vicious bigots like yourself, who exult in claiming some imaginary superiority on the basis of cisgender or heterosexual status, need to get a clue and get over yourselves.


I hope you burn in hell


Paranoid much? Don't worry, nobody is worried about your "bottom". Or that of any 8 Year old's. Please educate yourself on transgender persons, homosexuality, and the fact that being either does not make one a pedophile.


Thanks for the interesting answer, You are good at information. admin


Thank you ACLU for supporting Chelsea. Keep up the good work!


Solitary as punishment for suicide attempts. Um, maybe it's so they can observe and prevent suicide. Broke UCMJ. Face the penalty. As for not allowing treatment, prison isn't a medical retreat. They can wait til the sentence is comokete and get all the treatment they need on the taxpayers dime.

Jordan Noller

First of all Anonymous 1, please work on fixing your grammar. That was very difficult to even read for comprehension, let alone read with regards for its appalling and ignorant content. The thing is most likely you have met several transgender individuals in your life without any knowledge of it at all, and even more queer individuals. Yes there can be some defining characteristics at times, mostly sex, but for the most part you would have no idea who is gay or who is transgender, and for the most part this is because you wouldn't going around asking strangers, or even most friends about their sex lives. Why? Because it is none of your business. Everyone is different in some way in the bedroom, individuals are all different sexually and with regards to their sexual parts. Quite honestly your parts is going to be different than anothers. At one point men were horribly judged with regards to circumcised or non-circumcised. Why? because different is scary. Why? because of religious norms. But in the end we are humans, we have been fundamentally the same general humans for 2000 years. And 2000 years ago men dressed as women, men had sex with men, women had sex with women and that has always been that.

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