"We Exist" - Chelsea Manning Pens Passionate Essay From Prison


Chelsea Manning, the US army private currently serving 35 years in prison for passing classified information to WikiLeaks, has written an emotional essay about her gender identity and trans rights.


Since being sentenced last year for disclosing the classified information to WikiLeaks, Manning has come out as a trans woman, and has legally changed her name from Bradley to Chelsea. Now, writing from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Manning wrote a moving column published by the Guardian this week which aims to raise awareness of trans rights in the United States.

In her piece in The Guardian, Manning acknowledges the various protests for civil rights around the country, yet points out that little has been done in terms of trans rights.

Manning writes, “There’s a lot of unfinished business when it comes to protecting civil rights for many people. That fight is visible in every story about activists pushing for comprehensive US immigration reform. It’s obvious when protesters take to the streets after white police officers kill unarmed people of color and face few if any consequences, as in the recent cases of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson and Eric Garner’s death in New York

“The fight for justice for the transgender community is largely invisible to our fellow citizens, despite the rampant systematic discrimination of trans people – those whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.”

Manning goes on to outline some basic bureaucratic processes that are extremely difficult for trans people, like obtaining a photo ID.

“In the United States, the UK and most of Europe, there are only two options available for gender designation on government-issued identification documents: male and female. As a result, trans people are assumed to have a gender that aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth – that is, male for trans women and female for trans men – and those not conforming to either of those choices are assumed not to exist.

“A doctor, a judge or a piece of paper shouldn’t have the power to tell someone who he or she is. We should all have the absolute and inalienable right to define ourselves, in our own terms and in our own languages, and to be able to express our identity and perspectives without fear of consequences and retribution. We should all be able to live as human beings – and to be recognized as such by the societies we live in.

“We shouldn’t have to keep defending our right to exist,” concluded Manning.

Read Chelsea Manning’s full essay on The Guardian.

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