Chelsea Manning Opens Up to Cosmo
She says she 'feels like a joke' to military
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 9, 2015 3:20 AM CDT
In this undated photo provided by the US Army, Pfc. Chelsea Manning poses for a photo wearing a wig and lipstick.   (AP Photo/US Army, File)
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(Newser) – Chelsea Manning has granted her first post-incarceration interview to Cosmopolitan, which calls the Fort Leavenworth inmate "easily one of the most controversial figures of the early 21st century." In the interview, which was conducted by mail, the private formerly known as Bradley discusses everything from her childhood in Oklahoma to her day-to-day life in the military prison where she is serving a 35-year sentence for passing military secrets to WikiLeaks. Some highlights:

  • Manning is receiving hormone therapy to make the transition from man to woman, but she says she "feels like a joke" to military officials, who have not allowed her to grow her hair. "I get through each day OK, but at night, when I'm alone in my room, I finally burn out and crash," she says.

  • Manning says she always knew she was different, but her father told her to "man up" after she was bullied in school for being "girly. "I spent a lot of time denying the idea that I could be gay or trans to myself," she says. "From the ages of 14 to 16, I was mostly convinced that I was just going through 'phases.'"
  • Manning says she joined the military both from a desire to help the Iraq effort and to distract herself from thoughts of becoming a woman, but she was "caught off guard by the intensity" in basic training and, at times, was bullied and "humiliated pretty badly."
  • She declined to discuss the document leak, but says that while serving in Iraq, the constant reports of death and realization she could be killed at any time made her determined to start being herself. "When I went on leave in January 2010, I was comfortable dressing as a woman in public," she says. "I wouldn't have been able to do that before I deployed to a combat zone."
  • In prison, Manning has a job in the woodwork shop and is studying for a degree in political science. She says she has not been bullied by fellow inmates. "The guys here are adults," she says. "There are some very smart and sophisticated people in prisons all across America—I don't think television and the media give them credit."
  • Manning—who joined Twitter last week—says she has been moved by letters from transgender people around the world, and feels her life would have turned out differently if she had come out sooner. "I think a lot of opportunities would have come easier to me if I had felt more comfortable and confident in my own skin, and not terrified of the world around me."