Chelsea Manning and the pain, but mostly joy, of coming out as transgender

The terrifying scale of coming out to the world is, I suspect, matched by the immense weight that has been lifted off her

Related Topics

When Chelsea Manning (formerly known as Bradley) came out publicly via a written statement to popular US TV show, The Today Show, a jumble of thoughts raced through my mind.

I felt a rush of pride and solidarity, and a voice inside me cried, ‘Yes!’ For a fleeting few seconds the news existed in a vacuum, protected from society and its normative strictures. In that moment, her statement was a freedom-cry, a deep and cleansing exaltation and a defiant stride towards well-being. Chelsea’s first autonomous act after years of having every movement and utterance dictated for her, is also one of the scariest and exciting things a person can do. It points to a courage and self-awareness far removed from the weak and troubled character imposed on her by the prosecution and mainstream public.

Rather than marvel at the news, I marvelled at the relief she must be feeling. Most of those familiar with Manning’s trial would have been far from surprised. Chelsea’s gender identity has been discussed on several occasions in court and many supporters have long since felt uncomfortable using the name ‘Bradley’, only doing so because she requested as much, presumably to keep things as clearly focused as possible in an already complex legal process. Now though, trial and sentencing over with, she can be herself. Perhaps only trans people can appreciate the counter-intuitive sense in which her guilty verdict and 35-year prison sentence must feel liberating. That said, her statement's rapid appearance suggests as much is true.

Following hard upon, and all but swallowing up my sense of pride, came a surge of anxiety, anticipating the deluge of online abuse her announcement would unleash. The digital realm will, of course, provide ample space for the opportunistic, the insensitive, the ill-informed, the bigoted and the trolls to add their two cruel cents. I worried for her, for vulnerable transgender people everywhere and, perhaps selfishly, for myself. You can never be sure when an anonymous slur, or misguided comment from a public figure, will skewer the bull’s eye of your own insecurities, no matter how long ago or how publicly you yourself came out.

However, I, and many other fellow trans* men and women (the asterisk denotes all gender variations and fluidities), will steel ourselves by remembering again the relief Chelsea’s public coming out must have afforded her. When I resolved to be honest with the world, ”the world” in reality meant my friends and family. Now that, as a journalist and transman, I’m writing my first article about an explicitly trans issue, my world might get very slightly bigger. However, Chelsea Manning really has come out to the world, and the terrifying scale of that is, I suspect, matched by the immense weight that has been lifted off her. There were a lot more people misgendering Chelsea than I, or the vast majority of transgender people have ever had to cope with, not to mention the ceaseless speculation about her private life and state of mind.

So, I would say, to myself and to others, do not worry about Chelsea Manning. She’s just letting us know who she really is. She's letting non transgender people know that it's fine. Any confusion you feel about her gender and sexuality is not her problem. This is point were her issues end and yours, perhaps, begin. So, if at any point you find yourself struggling to decide whether or not you care about Chelsea Manning’s, or any trans* person’s gender, take solace in knowing that those people definitely do not care back. Think of it this way; by coming out in the first place, they were just keeping you in the loop.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Andy Coulson  

Andy Coulson: With former News of the World editor cleared of perjury charges, what will he do next?

James Cusick James Cusick
Jack Warner  

Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

Tom Peck
Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?