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By Jonah Bennett
In an extensive profile by The New York Times Magazine, Chelsea Manning describes his own increasingly bizarre behaviors that took place before and after he decided to leak more than 700,000 national security documents to WikiLeaks.
After deciding to join the Army following the 2007 surge in Iraq, Manning, an intelligence analyst, handed WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of American diplomatic cables and reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, which constituted the largest leak of classified documents in American history. Manning claimed he wanted to start a public conversation about some of the events happening on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan hidden from the view of Americans back home.
He was convicted in 2010 under the Espionage and Computer Fraud and Abuse Acts. President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s 35-year sentence as one of his last acts in office.
According to The New York Times Magazine profile, the lead-up to Manning’s career in the Army is clouded by severe gender dysphoria, which Manning says he experienced at the early age of five, as opposed to spontaneously feeling the urge to transition genders after leaking documents. At that early stage of his life, Manning reportedly told his father he wanted to be a girl, which his father brushed off, citing the fact that Manning biologically was a boy.
That didn’t stop Manning from putting on his older sister’s clothes and makeup, even coming out as gay while still in elementary school. When his parents split from divorce and Manning moved in with his mother Susan in Wales, the crossdressing increased.
By the time Manning moved back stateside, it was 2005. He decided to wear eyeliner regularly in public but could not shake his misery and several sessions with a psychologist didn’t help.
In 2007, Manning decided to join the military and attended intelligence school at Fort Huachuca in 2008, soon deploying to Iraq with his unit, where the torment followed.
He started smoking a lot, binge eating and drinking large amounts of coffee as an “escape or way to feel like I’m not there anymore.”
After he had leaked the documents and was still deployed, Army investigators found in hindsight that Manning was starting to become unglued, often exhibiting blank stares.
In one case, Manning was discovered on the floor of a room with the words “I WANT” carved into a chair.
The bizarre behavior only became worse after Manning was held in confinement, at which point officials observed him “yelling uncontrollably, screaming, shaking, babbling, banging [his] head against [his] cell and mumbling.”
After just a week of confinement in Kuwait, Manning tried to put together a noose to hang himself in a half-hearted suicide attempt.
“I just start yelling, at no one in particular, or singing at the top of my lungs,” he said of his time at the brig located in Quantico, Virginia.
Although Manning had at this point come out as a woman, but the Army did not permit hormone therapy in 2013. Manning felt he was being “poisoned” by testosterone in his own body.
The Army somewhat relented in 2014 by sending women’s underwear to Manning’s cell after a clinical evaluation revealed Manning was “experiencing significant distress and is at high risk for serious medical consequences, including self-castration and suicide.” He was granted hormone therapy in 2015. The Army provided him with gender-reassignment surgery later when he attempted suicide and went on hunger strike, making Manning’s case genuinely unique in almost every facet, a fact Manning will soon tell in greater detail in a 300-page memoir and appearance in a documentary called “XY Chelsea” later this year.