Chelsea Manning has authored a deeply introspective essay in which she grapples with questions about her identity — and not just those concerning her gender identity. Manning, who survived a suicide attempt inside Fort Leavenworth Prison in Kansas earlier this month, wrote that since the deadly Orlando nightclub shooting last month, she’s been inspired to re-evaluate how she views herself, and how the world views her.
“In the weeks following the shooting of the Pulse night club I became very reflective,” Manning writes in the essay published on Medium. “I began pondering some of life’s burning questions: Who am I? What do I want? What are my goals? What is most important?”
Manning, a former Army intelligence officer, is serving a 35-year sentence for leaking classified government documents and has clashed with prison officials over the last year. Last August, she was found guilty of violating prison rules on contraband after being found in possession of an expired tube of toothpaste and a magazine with a photo of Caitlyn Jenner on the cover. Prior to that, she’d spoken out about the pitfalls of going through gender transition while incarcerated in a men’s military prison. Along with the Medium essay, Manning published a selfie she took of herself in 2008 — prior to beginning her gender transition.
“In general, I am not fond of sweeping broad-stroked oversimplifications,” Manning goes on to write. “In this spirit, when hearing me labeled as a ‘hero’ and a ‘whistleblower,’ I take a deep sigh. The bottom line is that I am only human. When I cut my finger turning the page of a book, I bleed like everybody else.”
Read Manning’s full essay at Medium.