Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, who identifies as a woman and goes by the handle “Chelsea,” was profiled in The New York Times. The paper noted that photographs of Manning, who was serving time for illegally releasing classified information until his sentence was commuted by Barack Obama in January, opened up about his background and later imprisonment. Obama declared that Manning’s 35-year prison sentence was "very disproportionate relative to what other leakers have received" and that "it makes sense to commute—and not pardon—her sentence.”
According to Manning, he told his father at a young age that he wanted to be a girl and “do girl things.” Manning’s father, Brian, answered that boys and girls have different “plumbing.” The profile noted that Manning said, “I didn’t understand how that had anything to do with what you wore or how you behaved.” It was not long before Manning was wearing his sister Casey’s clothing, and secretively applying makeup. “I wanted to be like [Casey] and live like her,” Manning said.
Brian Manning had served the US Navy and met his future wife, Susan, at a NATO base in Wales. Married, they returned to the US where they settled in Oklahoma. Both of them have been described as alcoholics who eventually divorced. Susan Manning returned to Wales, where Manning spent some time in high school. He would eventually tell his friends and family of his homosexual attractions and declared on Facebook his love for another young man before enlisting in the Army.
Joining the Army, according to the New York Times article, was part of an effort to cure himself of gender dysphoria, having concluded that he was in reality a woman. Once in the Army, Manning -- who called himself Brianna early during his service -- began to contemplate his country’s warfare in the Middle East. “Before I deployed, I didn’t have the guts,” Manning was quoted in the Times article. “Being exposed to so much death on a daily basis makes you grapple with your own mortality,” he said, having concluded that he wanted to declare his identity as a woman.
He later leaked almost 750,000 classified and unclassified documents through the WikLeaks transparency organization. Once he was found out, he faced court-martial and then imprisonment. In 2010, he was sentenced to 35 years in a military prison. He spent only seven years in prison until his sentence was commuted. It was during that time that Manning received treatment at government expense. It was also at that time that Manning attempted suicide on two occasions.
Released in May, Manning still has an obligation to the military but appeared in the New York Times photo shoot wearing high heels, makeup, and stylish hair. Before leaving prison, he released a statement: “For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea. I can imagine surviving and living as the person who I am and can finally be in the outside world.”
Manning was released from Fort Leavenworth's detention center on May 17. While he was sentenced to be dishonorably discharged upon release during a court-martial, he has been returned to active unpaid "excess leave" status, which affords military medical care. In an appearance on “Good Morning America,” Manning said on June 9 that he has “accepted responsibility" for is actions, and thanked Obama for giving him "another chance."