With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi finally announcing an impeachment inquiry for Donald Trump, whistleblowers are currently the talk of the nation. While we all should be thanking the brave individual who disclosed that Trump was pressuring Ukranian officials to interfere in the upcoming 2020 election, we would be remiss if we didn’t discuss the treatment of Chelsea Manning, a trans woman who is still imprisoned for information she made public.
The controversy began when a source reported that Trump had contacted Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to “investigate” Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, ahead of the 2020 election. Biden continues to lead most Democratic primary polls and could end up being Trump’s opponent in the general election.
This admission is being praised by Democrats, progressives, and others critical of the current administration, but we also need to concentrate on others who have been locked up for the same thing. For the last decade, Chelsea Manning has been one of the world’s most prominent (and for some, controversial) whistleblowers, but during that time, she’s been locked in prison over and over again with little attention paid to her plight.
Manning had already served seven years of a 35-year prison sentence for leaking government documents to WikiLeaks when her sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama in 2017. A former U.S. Army soldier, she leaked over 700,000 classified and sensitive military and diplomatic documents. She was jailed again on March 8 for refusing to answer a grand jury’s questions about WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. The government has announced no release date for Manning, and she remains jailed to this day, as activists and supporters call for her release.
Not only is Manning facing enduring and indefinite punishment for her actions, but the fact that she’s a trans woman makes her detention much more dangerous. Trans people in prison are often housed in facilities that do not match their gender identity, raped, misgendered, and denied transition-related healthcare. A third of trans feminine people reported being sexually assaulted behind bars and 44 percent of trans prisoners say they are sexually harassed.
Like many trans prisoners, Manning has spent much of her time in solitary confinement. She spent 28 out of her first 63 days in prison segregated in a cell smaller than a horse stable, with no windows or outside contact for up to 22 hours a day. Solitary confinement has been shown time and again to be harmful, leading to mental distress and suicidal ideation; it actually puts the prisoner in more danger than being a part of the general population.
Manning was temporarily released in May, but when she didn’t testify again, she was reincarcerated until either she agrees to cooperate or the grand jury dissolves in 18 months. She’s being fined $1,000 every day she’s locked up.
Paying attention to the latest news about whistleblowers is important, but it can’t be the only thing that’s on our minds. We should continue speaking out about Chelsea Manning and the atrocities she’s been subjected to. We should make sure that, as much as possible, we say her name. On the website for a documentary about her, those working with Chelsea Manning say you can support her by giving money to her legal fund and writing her letters while she’s incarcerated.