From The Guardian UK: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/17/bradley-manning-trans-hero-prison
In my brief time in jail I found a way to express my femaleness, but Manning has a lifetime ahead of him locked in a cage
Bradley Manning faces 90 years in prison and will probably die behind bars – and that’s not the worst of it. He’s been successfully brainwashed judging by his recent apology and appeal for leniency. I don’t blame him. He must feel powerless, on so many levels. When MailOnline.com published pictures of Manning “in drag” earlier this week, it revealed publicly what the transgender community has known for some time: Manning is one of us.
I personally regard him as a hero, but this isn’t an attempt to claim him, politically. There wouldn’t be much to gain by it. Even GLAAD and Human Rights Campaign have deserted him, sadly. Whether you see him as brave or treacherous, though, he faces unfair hardship as a gender non-conforming prisoner. I should know, I used to be one.
When I was 16, to my shame, I took part in a robbery. I was terrified of going to borstal, as anyone might be, but with the added fear of what happened to people like me there. Like Manning, I hadn’t yet transitioned, but I had always known who I was and that, eventually, I would have to do something about it. I also knew that, because I’d committed a crime, my transition would have to wait.
I was locked up for eight months. Inside, I grew my hair long and shaved my legs. I sneaked chalk out from my weekly art classes and ground it into dust so that when the doors were locked at night and I was alone in my cell, I could make my cheeks pink and lips red, and my eyes green. I must have looked like Grotbags, but there you go. It was torture not expressing my femaleness and I certainly wouldn’t have coped with 90 years of it.
Blogger Zinnia Jones, who spent hours chatting to Manning online before he was exposed as a Wikileaks collaborator, describes giving evidence at his trial: “I’ve talked about Manning as male, because there’s been nothing but silence and denial on this front from his family and his attorneys, and I simply don’t know how else to refer to him. But I do know what happens when you take one of us and lock us away for most of our early 20s, unable to access treatments like those he was seeking. It horrifies me.” She laments the fact that “he’s locked in a cage and I’m not, that I got to transition and he didn’t”.
Sadly this is what happens when trans people are arrested mid-transition. Take Senthooran Kanagasingham, who was Nina when she pushed someone under a train. I don’t excuse the crime, nor do I applaud those who advised Nina to suppress her identity ahead of the trial.