Chelsea Manning reveals the real reason Bradley Manning joined the military

Chelsea Manning reveals the real reason Bradley Manning joined the military
Chelsea Manning admits that the real reason behind her decision to join the military was not out of American pride and a desire to serve. She said it was all about proving a point — to herself and to other people. (File photo/U.S. Army via AP)

Chelsea Manning, the transgender U.S. Army soldier formerly known as Pvt. Bradley Manning, spoke out about the reason she decided to join the military in the first place — but it didn’t have much to do with serving the country.

Manning was found guilty in 2013 on charges of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified, sensitive government documents to WikiLeaks during a tour in Iraq. The day after a military court sentences Manning to 35 years in prison, she announced that she was transgender.

Manning became the first known soldier to undergo hormone treatment therapy while incarcerated. Shortly before leaving office, former President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence, and she was released in May 2017 after serving approximately seven years of a 35-year sentence.

Manning, in an op-ed for Yahoo!, said that transgenderism and an ongoing battle with sexuality were catalysts for enlisting in the Army.

Convinced to enlist

The former U.S. military analyst admitted in the Yahoo! op-ed that enrolling in the Army was all about proving a point — to herself and to other people.

“By the time I enrolled in the military at 20, I had spent years in denial about who I really was,” Manning wrote. “I was openly gay and would go through periods of cross-dressing, and had even thought about transitioning, but I was in such complete denial.

“To overcompensate — and because I was constantly being reminded of how inadequate I was as a male — I enrolled in the military,” Manning continued. “My thought was, ‘I must enlist and man up.'”

What Manning hated about being in the Army

Manning explained that the worst thing about being a pre-transition individual in the Army was young male soldiers’ rhetoric.

The one place I never felt at all comfortable in the military was in private circles of conversation. There’s a tendency, especially among young men, to objectify and denigrate women behind closed doors. They’d say ridiculous, raunchy things about women — call them sluts and whores, basically just treat them like objects. It was a line I just couldn’t cross. I’d try to avoid those kinds of macho conversations, because that’s inevitably what would come up. I’d get very, very distant.

Is being transgender in the military a liability?

Manning wrote that she likely would have been more successful in her role as a U.S. military analyst if she’d had the freedom to be “out” and argued against the notion that, if she hadn’t been a trans soldier, the WikiLeaks incident would not have occurred.

I loved my job and I took my military career very seriously. There’s this idea out there that, had I not been trans, the leaks and stuff would never have happened. But to my mind those are two completely separate things. Had I been out, I think I still would have been attracted to the military, but I would have been more comfortable and gotten along with people better. Being closeted often put me in situations where I couldn’t concentrate or even think straight.

Manning’s comments on transgenderism in the military came just weeks after President Donald Trump proposed a ban on transgenders serving in the U.S. military.

Trump said in July, “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.”

Trump’s move to ban transgender individuals in the military came on the heels of military leaders exploring options to delay the enlistment of transgender individuals to further assess behaviors and liabilities.

Then House Democrats signed a letter to the office of Secretary of Defense James Mattis, telling the Pentagon not to comply with Trump’s ban on transgenders serving in the U.S. military.

Pvt. Chelsea Manning, the Army soldier who was sentenced to 35 years in a military prison for giving classified materials to WikiLeaks, said she's excited about what lies ahead, hours after she walked free after serving seven years behind bars. Manning's immediate plans remained unclear. Manning tweeted after then-President Barack Obama granted her clemency in January that she planned to move to Maryland, where she has an aunt. Manning, who is transgender and was formely known as Bradley Manning before transitioning, was convicted in 2013 of 20 counts, including six Espionage Act violations, theft and computer fraud.

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