Jailed transgender soldier Chelsea Manning opened up about the hardships of transitioning in a military prison Wednesday, writing in her first post for Medium that she “felt like giving up” after officials recently denied her request to grow her hair in accordance with female grooming standards.
“I didn’t take the news well,” Manning wrote of the Sept. 18 decision. “I felt sick. I felt sad. I felt gross — like Frankenstein’s monster wandering around the countryside avoiding angry mobs with torches and pitch forks.”
The former intelligence analyst was convicted in 2013 on espionage charges and other offenses for sending more than 700,000 classified documents to the anti-secrecy website, WikiLeaks. She is currently serving a 35-year sentence at the military prison in Fort Leavenworth.
In 2014, Manning was diagnosed with gender dysphoria — a condition in which a person’s gender assigned at birth does not match that person’s expressed or experienced gender. Manning was assigned male at birth, but identifies as a woman.
In conjunction with medically-prescribed treatment options for gender dysphoria, the military agreed last year to allow Manning access to hormone therapy, speech therapy and cosmetics. But officials stopped short of allowing her to grow her hair, stifling what her attorney called “a critical part of her treatment plan.”
“After five years — and more — of fighting for survival, I had to fight even more,” wrote Manning in her piece for Medium. “I was out of energy.”
The blow came on top of an already difficult summer for Manning. In August, she was found guilty of violating jail rules, including medicine misuse and possession of books and magazines while under administrative segregation. (Manning had a copy of the July Vanity Fair issue with transgender star Caitlyn Jenner on the cover, as well as an expired tube of toothpaste.) She was also charged with disorderly conduct for sweeping food onto the floor and being disrespectful to a correctional specialist.
The maximum penalty for such violations was indefinite solitary confinement, but a disciplinary panel instead sentenced her to 21 days without access to recreational activities — including the gym, library and outdoors.
After many hours of crying over the hair policy, which she wrote “makes and treats me like a monster or a problem,” Manning said she found her “second wind.”
“I can make it just a little longer,” she wrote in her piece. “I just hope it’s not too much longer.”