Bradley Manning, now legally known as Chelsea Manning–the US soldier convicted of leaking thousands of pages of US secret documents to the Wikileaks website–has given her first jail cell interview to women’s magazine Cosmopolitan.
The Cosmo interview began with Chelsea Manning regaling the reporter that her “safe” place as a small boy was her sister’s room. “I loved being in my sister’s room,” Manning said. “I really admired her and wore her clothes to play in, played with her dolls, played with her makeup.”
Manning told the magazine that as a little boy he had started dressing in girls clothing by the time he was five or six.
So what does Manning want readers to take away first and foremost from this first prison interview? “I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female,” she stated.
In fact, most of the interview centered around Manning’s sexuality.
The magazine goes on to report that the Army has allowed some sex change therapy for Manning for her “gender dysphoria.” Some hormone treatments have been approved for Manning’s use, and makeup has been given the green light, “but not long hair,” the magazine said.
Manning described a home life fraught with an abusive father, a suicidal mother, and bullies at school who called her “faggy”; talked of joining the Army where she claimed she faced abuse from fellow soldiers; and described the time she “fell in love” with a fellow student after Private Bradley Manning became an intelligence analyst.
Army supervisors began to pressure Manning about her sexuality, Chelsea told the magazine, but thanks to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy she was able to keep her sexuality under wraps.
It was Manning’s experiences in Iraq that served as a catalyst.
Iraq became a turning point emotionally. The experience “made me absolutely certain of who I am,” she says. “Dealing with reams and reams of emails, memos, and reports of people dying around me every day–to the point it becomes just a statistic to many people–made me realize just how short and precious our lives really are. I could’ve been killed at any moment too. We all can, really. So what better day to start being ourselves than today, right? Yeah, it sounds tacky, but it’s absolutely true. When I went on leave in January 2010, I was comfortable dressing as a woman in public. I wouldn’t have been able to do that before I deployed to a combat zone.”
Manning then went into a discussion of being snared as a traitor and the resulting trial.
In the end, Manning, now a she, said she does’t feel her life went the way she dreamed it would as a child. She blamed some of her troubles on not accepting her own sexuality earlier.
“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,” she concluded.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com