Chelsea Manning posted the first photo of her new look as a woman, just one day after she was released from military prison.
In an exclusive statement to ABC News Wednesday before her release, Manning said, “I appreciate the wonderful support that I have received from so many people across the world over these past years. As I rebuild my life, I remind myself not to relive the past. The past will always affect me and I will keep that in mind while remembering that how it played out is only my starting point, not my final destination.”
Here’s to freedom and a new beginning.https://t.co/isnBy72rbO#chelseaisfree pic.twitter.com/ZLjIv4W1We
— Chelsea Manning (@xychelsea) May 18, 2017
Manning, a transgender U.S. Army soldier, was in prison for seven years at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, after being convicted by a military tribunal under the Espionage and Computer Fraud and Abuse Acts and sentenced to 35 years in prison for releasing approximately 750,000 documents to WikiLeaks, of which only small amount of those documents ultimately lead to her conviction (some of them were published by The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel).
Manning at that time was a 22-year-old Army private named Bradley Manning. The information she disclosed included low level battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, evidence of civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, Guantanamo prison camp detainee profiles and U.S. diplomatic correspondence.
President Obama commuted her sentence to time served three days before he left office. Her imprisonment was longer than any whistleblower in U.S. history.
Days after Manning was sentenced, she came out as transgender on August 22, 2013. The military would not provide her with any treatment for her gender dysphoria, which she claimed resulted in her escalating distress. Her ACLU lawyer, Chase Strangio, filed a lawsuit on her behalf in September 2014.
“Ultimately, we negotiated with the military and Chelsea was provided with cosmetics, grooming items available to other women in custody and hormone therapy,” Strangio told ABC News.
The Army began treating Manning with hormone therapy in February 2015. According to Strangio, Manning became “the first military prisoner to receive health care related to gender transition and was part of a shift in practice that lead to the elimination of the ban on open trans service in the military.” Strangio has been a part of her advocacy team for the past four years providing support on a range of issues from prison disciplinary matters to the petition for clemency to general support around her transition.
Manning was held in solitary confinement for most of the time following her arrest in May 2010 until she was sent from Quantico to Leavenworth in March 2011. She was held in solitary in Kuwait and at Quantico. She was also placed in solitary several times during her incarceration at Leavenworth following her sentencing.
In her letter to President Obama asking to commute her sentence, Manning wrote: “The Army kept me in solitary confinement for nearly a year before formal charges were brought against me. It was a humiliating and degrading experience – one that altered my mind, body and spirit. I have since been placed in solitary confinement as a disciplinary measure for an attempted suicide despite a growing effort – led by the President of the United States – to stop the use of solitary confinement for any purpose.” Manning attempted to end her life two times in the years since her 2013 sentence.
Strangio noted that while Manning herself has been the key force behind the campaign for her freedom, she was greatly aided by a team who have fought relentlessly, from her court martial attorney, David Coombs, to her appellate team of Nancy Hollander, Vince Ward, and Dave Hammond. Christina DiPasquale, founder of Balestra Media, has also been working for Manning pro bono for years to help elevate her story and as have friends across the country, including Evan Greer from “Fight for the Future.”
On the day of Manning’s release, director Tim Travers Hawkins announced his new documentary, "XY Chelsea," been a two-year journey following Manning’s story, at the Cannes Film Festival.
"I knew when I began making this film it was likely that I would never be able to film Chelsea directly," Hawkins told ABC News. "Chelsea herself said to me that she was ‘a documentary-makers worst nightmare’. But I felt the fact that Chelsea was invisible to us made it even more important to get her voice and her story out into the world."
According to their press release about the film, Hawkins will be "filming with Chelsea later today as she walks free and begins to tell her story and reveal herself to the world in her journey through life beyond incarceration."