The VICE Channels

    Free Chelsea Manning

    Written by

    Daniel Stuckey


    The photo Manning emailed to Master Sgt. Paul Adkins, subject "My Problem." It was released by the US Army.

    “I wouldn’t mind going to prison for the rest of my life, or being executed so much, if it wasn’t for the possibility of having pictures of me plastered all over the world press as a boy."

    Chelsea Manning wrote those words three years ago, in an online chat she believed she was having confidentially with Adrien Lamo. Today, the sentiment they contain is dominating the news cycle.

    Throughout the suffering Manning has endured so far: from inhumane solitary confinement to a widely-publicized military court martial, to a tear-jerking providence inquiry statement, and now an outraged rally cry in response to her sentencing, the mainstream media had somehow neglected to cover the defendant's greatest inner struggle: That she'd been forced to live as a he throughout it all.

    "I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female," the world-famous whistle-blower once known as Bradley said on the Today show. She explained further:

    "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."

    So what are the ramifications of this announcement, which is being treated as revelatory news? Is it that some revising in order? Should journalists watching the court martial case retroactively change the name used in coverage thus far to Chelsea E. Manning?

    No. Again, Manning's transgender identity has been common knowledge for quite some time. She discussed the subject online with the Lamo, who then turned and handed over the sensitive transcript to the feds, making her pained ruminations painfully public. But even at the start of the trial, Manning and her family family asked to be referred to as her male identity. When asked, the family said "Brad or Bradley would be fine," to the Bradley Manning Support Network.

    "Manning had not asked people to refer to him with a female pronoun," wrote Rainey Reitman, a feminist writer from the Steering Committe of the Support Network. Of course, the information landscape is already changing to reflect Chelsea's wishes, as the already-updated Wikipedia page reveals. Time will tell if or when the slug itself (wiki/Bradley_Manning) will change.

    Kevin Gosztola, in pointing out that Manning had never requested to be reffered to with a female pronoun during her trial, explained that his outlet, Firedoglake, won't be changing its comprehensive coverage of the military trial.

    "Manning’s name in the legal case, as an appeal moves forward in military courts and as the request for a pardon is considered, will likely continue to be Bradley Manning," he wrote. "There will always be mentions and acknowledgments in posts that Manning is now Chelsea, a woman, but sometimes the name 'Bradley Manning' will appear because that name is likely to be used by officials, prosecutors or lawyers. Any other stories on Manning, the person, or Manning, as Manning transitions to this new phase of life, will solely use Chelsea Manning."

    Manning, for her part, dutifully maintained a gender role she must have felt uncomfortable with throughout the duration of the trial. When it came to explaining herself in court, she accurately and as cooperatively as possible explained why she'd done so as a 'he'—because she'd supposedly been acting in her role as Pfc. Bradley Manning.

    Hopefully, it will be sooner than 35 years—perhaps even just a third of that, followed by parole—before we get to meet Chelsea Manning in person. There's a forthcoming appeal that could diminish sentencing. But until then, the rally cry has, and must, become: "Free Chelsea Manning!"