Chelsea Manning is the star and guest editor of Dazed’s spring 2019 Infinite Identities issue, and in her cover story interview, Manning describes how her life has changed since her release from military incarceration in 2017 — although she explains she’s no longer interested in discussing what led to her imprisonment. “These parts of my life are over,” she says. “This is definitely something I share with a lot of former prisoners; we don’t like to bring up our time in prison and the things that got us in there. It’s really hard.”
Manning also reveals that she first contemplated transitioning at 18, but that the idea was too “daunting, and I did the opposite: I went into the military. These kinds of things are very emotionally weighted for me, so I just have to move on.”
The story is littered with interesting bits of information about Manning, like the fact that she’s a self-proclaimed “clubber” who loves to dance, loves 90s classic Hackers (although she calls the technical aspects of it “terrible”), wears Dr. Martens boots everywhere (including in her cover shoot), has been using emojis since the days of AIM, and is a petite 5’2” — Gaga teas!
Manning gracing the cover of Dazed, a British publication, is significant considering the British’s media’s rampant transphobia. TERFs are endemic in the U.K., and Manning makes it clear that while she has become ambivalent about shutting down people she doesn’t agree with, she draws the line “when the implications of what you’re saying, even though you might not explicitly be saying it, are the elimination of entire groups of people from society...I can’t debate with a trans-exclusionary radical feminist, because they want me to not exist... You don’t hand them a microphone or give them a stage. If they do get one, then guess what? People are gonna show up and shut them down, because we are threatened, and if they get to debate and they win, we don’t get to be around any more.”
Manning also spoke about her activism, which she says is “not tweeting,” and admits that while she’s called a hero, “things are worse now. Even worse than they were in 2010.”
Dazed asked Manning to select seven trans and non-binary activists and writers, each of whom wrote their own piece about the issues facing trans people today. “Anywhere we turn in America, we see resistance led by those at the very margins – like the black trans women who picked up bricks at Stonewall,” writes Maya Little. “And what we see is direct action from a place of transformation, striking at the roots of an unequal society instead of pushing reformism.”