Where Is Chelsea Manning Now? She Is Sharing Her Story

"I became very used to this experience that you just had, which is sitting there in silence for several minutes."

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Jun. 25 2024, Published 2:57 p.m. ET

Chelsea Manning poses during a photo call outside the Institute Of Contemporary Arts October 2018
Source: Getty Images

It's safe to assume that whistleblower Chelsea Manning understands what being a captive is, whether it's literal or emotional. Before she was sentenced to 35 years in prison in August 2013 for leaking classified United States documents to Wikileaks, she was struggling with a personal battle. The activist and veteran was experiencing gender dysphoria that was made worse by her incarceration, per NPR.

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Since having her prison sentence commuted by President Obama in 2017, Manning has worked hard to address issues facing members of the LGBTQIA+ community. She also spent another year in jail. What is she up to now? At long last she is controlling her own narrative.

Chelsea Manning in Berling, Germany, May 2018
Source: Getty Images
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What is Chelsea Manning doing now?

In October 2022, Manning released an autobiography titled README.txt: A Memoir. Ahead of its release, she went on NPR to discuss what it felt like to reveal her own secrets for once. The book focuses on her gender dysphoria and how that contributed to her desire to join the military. Manning was hoping the Army would somehow stamp out the feelings she had about her identity, but it only exacerbated what she was wrestling with.

In the conversation, Manning described her gender dysphoria as having a toothache that never went away. "If you don't do anything about it, if you don't go see a dentist, it just gets worse and worse and worse." Being trans was something Manning always understood about herself, but growing up in Oklahoma in the 1990s meant not having a safe space to discuss what she was feeling. Manning knew she was different and hoped the Army could help her fit in better.

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Not only did the military make things worse, but she also felt more disillusioned about an organization Manning once supported wholeheartedly. "I wanted that discrepancy to be addressed somehow." She ended up addressing it in hundreds of thousands of documents she downloaded and sent to Wikileaks. This is what landed her in prison for what ended up being seven years.

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Chelsea Manning still thinks about her time in solitary confinement.

Manning was arrested in May 2010 and according to Wired, was transferred to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait. While there, she spent 59 days in solitary confinement. She told NPR that the she wasn't in a cell but rather a cage. Actually, it was a "metal mesh box, a stainless steel container in a tent with very little lighting." The only thing she could see was a sign that read, "built in Fort Wayne, Indiana." There were many moments during that time that Manning was convinced she was going to die.

That was not the only time Manning was imprisoned alone. The Guardian reported that while she was incarcerated at Quantico, Manning spent much of her time in solitary confinement. She would later try to take her own life twice. When she was sent to jail in 2019 for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating Julian Assange, Manning tried a third time.

In January 2024 she spoke at a poetry event in New York City that began with three minutes of silence, per ABC News. "I became very used to this experience that you just had, which is sitting there in silence for several minutes. I did that for almost a year," she explained. She had spent the previous year trying to heal from her time of forced solitude which she now says allowed for a great deal of introspection and self-reflection.

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