Strug­gle with gen­der iden­tity is re­counted by Chelsea Man­ning

The China Post - - ARTS -

Chelsea Man­ning, the U.S. sol­dier im­pris­oned for spilling state se­crets, has said in an in­ter­view that much of her life has been marked by a lonely an­guish over her gen­der iden­tity.

In her first in­ter­view from Fort Leav­en­worth mil­i­tary pri­son where she is serv­ing out a 35-year sen­tence for a mas­sive leak of clas­si­fied doc­u­ments, Man­ning, 27, de­scribed her life be­hind bars in an ar­ti­cle pub­lished Wed­nes­day in Cos­mopoli­tan mag­a­zine.

She said she is pained by rules that still for­bid her from grow­ing her hair long.

Af­ter Man­ning, f ormerly known as Bradley Man­ning, was con­victed and sen­tenced in 2013 for the mas­sive doc­u­ment dump, the U.S. Army pri­vate an­nounced she was a fe­male and re­quested med­i­cal treat­ment — in­clud­ing hor­mone ther­apy — to en­able her to be­come a woman.

Man­ning has won par­tial legal vic­to­ries and judges have backed her re­quest to be re­ferred to as a woman. But while she is un­der­go­ing hor­mone ther­apy and al­lowed make- up and fe­male un­der­wear, au­thor­i­ties do not per­mit Man­ning to grow her hair long.

Her ap­peals for med­i­cal care have been dif­fi­cult be­cause she feels “like a joke” to mil­i­tary of­fi­cials, Man­ning told the mag­a­zine.

It is “painful and awk­ward” to be banned from let­ting her hair grow, Man­ning said.

“I am torn up,” Man­ning said. “I get through each day OK, but at night, when I’m alone in my room, I fi­nally burn out and crash.”

The mag­a­zine in­ter­view was con­ducted by mail, as mil­i­tary au­thor­i­ties pro­hibit in­mates from speak­ing to jour­nal­ists by phone or in per­son.

Grow­ing up in a con­ser­va­tive house­hold in Ok­la­homa, Man­ning said she felt dif­fer­ent as a child and liked to dress in her sis­ter’s clothes from a young age.

Man­ning said she faced cruel bul­ly­ing as a youth and of­ten felt iso­lated and dis­con­nected.

‘Go­ing through phases’

“I spent a lot of time deny­ing the idea that I could be gay or trans to my­self. From the ages of 14 to 16, I was mostly con­vinced that I was just go­ing through ‘phases,’” she said.

Man­ning said let­ters sent to her from trans­gen­der peo­ple around the world have moved and in­spired her.

“I am al­ways flat­tered that they feel that I have in­spired them in some way,” she said. “But hon­estly, I think it’s the other way around: They in­spire me more than I think they might re­al­ize.”

The other in­mates have treated her well, she said.

“The guys here are adults ... There are some very smart and so­phis­ti­cated peo­ple in prisons all across Amer­ica — I don’t think tele­vi­sion and the me­dia give them credit,” she said.

At the pri­son in Kansas, Man­ning has her own cell with “two tall ver­ti­cal win­dows that face the sun.”

She can see “trees and hills and blue sky and all the things be­yond the build­ings and ra­zor wire,” she said.

Man­ning spends a lot of time in the pri­son li­brary, work­ing to­wards a uni­ver­sity de­gree in po­lit­i­cal science, the mag­a­zine re­ported.

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