Chelsea Manning has gone through more in the past few years than most people experience in their entire lifetime. From spending seven years in military prison for the notorious WikiLeaks scandal to coming out as a transgender woman, it's safe to say Manning is not afraid to make history. So for those asking — who is Chelsea Manning? The answer is activist, whistleblower, and possibly, if she has her way, U.S. senator.
On Jan. 14 Manning announced her plan to run to represent Maryland in the U.S. Senate seat as a member of the Democratic party. She will be going up against Democrat Ben Cardin, who has served two six-year terms within the Senate. While it's sure to be a steep battle to the finish line, if Manning manages to win the primaries and secure a seat in the Senate, she will make U.S. history by being the first openly transgender member of Congress.
Manning initially filed for her upcoming Senate race on Jan. 11, but didn't share the information with the public until she released her campaign ad via Twitter on Sunday. In her video, grainy footage that appears to be of the Aug. 12 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a Women's March, and protests against health care reform serve as background imagery as Manning discusses the current tense political climate in the United States. In the video she says,
We live in trying times. Times of fear, of suppression, hate. We don’t need more or better leaders, we need someone willing to fight. We need to stop expecting that our systems will somehow fix themselves, we need to actually take the reins of power from them. We need to challenge this at every level. We need to fix this. We don’t need them anymore, we can do better. You’re damn right we got this.
Manning ends the ad video with her well known hashtag #WeGotThis, which is referenced in her Twitter bio.
Manning first made headlines as a whistleblower in 2010, when she leaked about 700,000 government files to media organization WikiLeaks, resulting in her serving one of the longest military lockups for leaking information in modern day history. Manning was sentenced to 35 years in military prison for her role in the leak, but only served seven after her sentence was commuted on Jan. 17, 2017 by then President Barack Obama.
Manning came out as a transgender woman shortly after her sentencing in 2013. She announced her intention to transition to TODAY, where she asked for the people's support during this time. In her statement she said,
As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.
Since her release from prison, Manning has become a household name and activist within the LGBTQ+ community.
The visibility of openly transgender politicians has certainly increased over the past few months. On Nov. 7, 2017 Virginia elected its first openly transgender lawmaker, Danica Roem, unseating Republican Delegate Bob Marshall. Marshall is best known for writing the infamous Physical Privacy Act, a bill which restricted trans individuals from using the restroom which aligned with their gender identity.
Humanity 1; Transphobic politicians 0.
Maryland's primary election for U.S. Senate will take place on June 26. We'll see what happens from there.