- Manning will decline military benefits due to treatment in prison, lawyer says
- Manning released following a January commutation from President Barack Obama
Manning came out as a transgender woman in prison.
As a prisoner at the US Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, she had to conform to male grooming standards before her 3 a.m. ET release.
“She has experienced trauma over the past seven years of her confinement and the trauma from those experiences won’t just evaporate the day she walks out of prison,” said American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Chase Strangio, who represented Manning.
“It’s going be a process for her to heal and begin to live her free life with more autonomy over her gender and her decisions and vision for the future.”
After her release, Manning said in a statement, “After another anxious four months of waiting, the day has finally arrived. I am looking forward to so much! Whatever is ahead of me is far more important than the past. I’m figuring things out right now — which is exciting, awkward, fun, and all new for me.”
She also tweeted a photo of her feet, clad in black, low-top Converse Chuck Taylors, with the caption, “First steps of freedom!!”
The Army says Manning will remain on unpaid, active-duty status as she continues to appeal her court-martial. This means she will maintain her access to military medical benefits, including for gender dysphoria and gender reassignment, but Strangio said his client has no interest because of the treatment she endured in prison.
“Because of the nature of her circumstances and the experience of confinement, she is very committed to living her life as free from the government as possible and taking care of her own health benefits and financial needs, separate and apart from the continued benefits available to her,” the lawyer said.
She clearly looked forward to what life might hold for her outside the military prison walls.
Amnesty International, which had campaigned for Manning’s release, was quick to applaud her freedom but said the fight was not over.
“While we celebrate her freedom, we will continue to call for an independent investigation into the potential human rights violations she exposed, and for protections to be put in place to ensure whistleblowers like Chelsea are never again subjected to such appalling treatment,” a statement said.
But it didn’t come easily. Manning launched a hunger strike in September, demanding access to treatment for her gender dysphoria.
Though she still needs to navigate the legal process, Manning’s “priority is living her life in the civilian world and taking care of her own needs.”
She hopes to reside in the Washington area, the attorney said, explaining her supporters there will be vital, not only to her transition to civilian life but also to her transition to living openly as a transgender woman.
“It’s going to be Chelsea telling us what her future will look like,” Strangio said.
She hopes to continue hormone therapy and may pursue gender reassignment if doctors continue to recommend it, Strangio said.
Otherwise, she looks forward to growing out her hair and discovering “what will make her feel like she can embody womanhood” without the government’s interference, he said.