Reprinted from shadowproof.com by Kevin Gosztola
Chelsea Manning's prison mugshot from week she began hormone therapy
(Image by Chelsea Manning Support Network) Permission Details DMCA
Chelsea Manning will be released from military prison at Fort Leavenworth next week. She will finally get a chance to be herself without having to conform to the rigid guidelines or expectations of the United States Army.
News media are undoubtedly clamoring for an "exclusive" interview with Manning after she leaves prison. One can imagine the atrocious template, which has persisted, that they probably will call upon once more for her introduction.
"There are some who call her a hero. There are others who see her as a traitor. Whatever you think, she served time in prison for one of the biggest leaks in history, and now she joins us for a first-ever TV interview."
If her first interview is on NBC's "Today" show, one can be certain Savannah Guthrie will probably ask if Manning thinks President Barack Obama was right to commute her sentence, like she has some obligation to validate those who vilify her and would be unfazed if she had died in prison.
It is very possible she takes some time out of the public eye and does not give any media outlet an "exclusive" for pundits to pick apart and berate her. That may include sympathetic media outlets.
Very personal aspects of her life have garnered public attention to an extent she never imagined. She now can have private moments without being watched by military officers, journalists, or the public.
For two and a half years, I made regular trips to Washington, D.C. in order to cover Manning's court martial at Fort Meade as a credentialed reporter. I was able to glean some insight into her character when she took the stand to give testimony and when she read a providence statement accepting responsibility for her actions. But it was not until November 2015 that I wrote Manning to exchange letters and gain firsthand insight.
"I can't be myself. Every time I try to assert my existence or define myself on my own terms, I get beat up by the world. I'm really scarred, bloodied, and bruised at this point," Manning shared in one of her letters.
When she appealed to Obama for a commutation in November, she confessed, "I need help, and I am still not getting it. I am living through a cycle of anxiety, anger, hopelessness, loss, and depression. I cannot focus. I cannot sleep. I attempted to take my own life."
"When the USDB [Leavenworth] placed me in solitary confinement as punishment for the attempted suicide, I tried it again because the feeling of hopelessness was so immense. This has served as a reminder to me that any lack of treatment can kill me so I must keep fighting a battle that I wish every day would just end," she added.
Free from prison, Manning will be able to grow her hair. She will be able to obtain adequate mental health treatment that has been denied to her. She will be able to complete her transition from Bradley to Chelsea, which the Army has done everything in its power to stall at great risk to her health.
"For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea. I can imagine surviving and living as the person who I am and can finally be in the outside world," Manning declared in a recent statement posted by the American Civil Liberties Union.
"Freedom used to be something that I dreamed of but never allowed myself to fully imagine," she added. "Now, freedom is something that I will again experience with friends and loved ones after nearly seven years of bars and cement, of periods of solitary confinement, and of my health care and autonomy restricted, including through routinely forced haircuts."
In prison, she managed to transcend her act of whistleblowing as an all-source military intelligence analyst by fighting for dignity and rights for herself as a transgendered person.