Yesterday was a momentous occasion in London, as people came together to celebrate Pride. This year we weren’t just celebrating equality and acceptance, but also the fact it’s been 50 years since homosexuality was decriminalised. Tens of thousands came out to enjoy the parade, ‘We’ve had terror, we’ve had tragedies,” says the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. “You know what the best antidote to sorrow, the best antidote to sadness, to bereavement, to hatred, is Pride In London.”
To celebrate these amazing feats Travel Antics is taking a look at some of the most iconic figures who have been doing all the can to fight the fight for acceptance, across the globe for those in the LGBT+ community. So far we’ve taken a look at Irina Gordienko of Novaïa Gazeta in Russia. She’s been nominated for the Gala des Outs d’Or, for her coverage of the disturbing anti-gay oppression in Chechnya. But this week we’re taking a look at a trans icon; Chelsea Manning. Some consider her a hero, others a villain for her part in leaking classified war documents to Wikileaks. But to the trans community, she is a potent figure for suffering in the trans community.
Who is Chelsea Manning?
Chelsea Manning was released from military prison on the 17th of May, after 35 for passing classified documents, known as the Iraq and Afghan war logs, the diplomatic cables and the Guantanamo Bay files to Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks. She joined the army in 2007 as Bradley Manning, filling the role of Information Analyst. But it became clear she wasn’t suited to army life and in 2009 she was sent to Iraq. It was here she sent a photo of her dressed as a woman to a Gender Identity Counsellor in the US. But because of the army’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell policy’ Chelsea was not able to be openly trans.
She joined the army in 2007 as Bradley Manning, filling the role of Information Analyst. But it became clear she wasn’t suited to army life and in 2009 she was sent to Iraq. It was here she sent a photo of her dressed as a woman to a Gender Identity Counsellor in the US. But because of the army’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell policy’ Chelsea was not able to be openly trans.
Why has she become a transgender icon?
At the time of her arrest in 2010, Chelsea came out as transgender after being sentenced to an all-male military prison. Under Army rules, she was barred from growing her hair long, and only after taking legal action was she approved for hormone therapy.
An American Civil Rights Attorney, Chase Strangio filed the medical-care lawsuit, said Manning has viewed herself as a transgender-rights activist even in the isolation of her confinement at Fort Leavenworth. “She’s always been a hero to me,” says Strangio, a transgender man. “Her story really does reflect so much of the systemic discrimination that transgender people face.”
Why is she such an important role model in the trans community?
People all around the world have watched Chelsea struggle with her gender identity behind bars. Many in the transgender community have felt the struggle of being open about their gender.
But many feel Chelsea fought a fight against a notoriously closed-minded and powerful institution; the army and after a horrific struggle, she won her rights to be the person she truly is, which is why she is considered an icon all over the word.
What will happen now she is freed?
After nearly 35 years in prison, Chelsea is free to walk the streets. She will remain an active-duty unpaid soldier, so she will be able to receive medical benefits from the army. She plans to complete her transition into a woman.
“I’m looking forward to breathing the warm spring air again,” Miss Manning told The Guardian. “I want that indescribable feeling of connection with people and nature again, without razor wire or a visitation booth.”