Manning makes a splash

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Chelsea Manning the day after her release. AFP/BALESTRAMEDIA

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Transgender soldier Chelsea Manning, the former army intelligence analyst jailed for leaking troves of classified information to WikiLeaks, has turned heads by posing in a red one-piece bathing suit for the September issue of Vogue.

“Guess this is what freedom looks like,” Manning said in social media posts that included a picture from the shoot with celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz, showing Manning walking on a beach, her hands in her wet hair.

“Chelsea Manning changed the course of history. Now she’s focusing on herself,” says the headline of the fashion magazine’s long-form interview with Manning, who has become an icon for transgender activists.

The photo and the article garnered major attention on social media Friday, eliciting comments both for and against Manning, who will turn 30 in December.

Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2013 for leaking more than 700,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks three years earlier, when she was known
as Bradley.

She served seven years, and twice tried to take her own life last year alone, before then-president Barack Obama commuted her sentence just days before he left office in January. Manning was released from Fort Leavenworth’s all-male prison in May.

During her incarceration, Manning battled for – and won – the right to start hormone treatment. She now has cropped blonde hair and a decidedly feminine look.

For some Americans, she is a hero who paid dearly for leaking embarrassing US diplomatic cables and classified military documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For others, she is a traitor.

At press time, Manning’s tweet with the Vogue photo had been retweeted about 3,900 times, and had raked in about 29,000 likes.

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