THE BAD RAP: Chelsea Manning

On September 22, Chelsea Manning arrived at the St-Bernard-de-Lacolle border in Quebec as a temporary visitor to Canada. However, she was denied entry by border officials on grounds of treason.

Manning Tweeted a document from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), which appeared to be a report under Subsection 44(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The document reported her to be “inadmissible” due to the charges made against her under the United States Espionage Act.

She was convicted in 2010 of leaking classified American War logs and video clips of Iraq and Afghanistan, which were subsequently uploaded to WikiLeaks by the site’s founder, Julian Assange. She was due to serve thirty-five years in military prison. In January, former president Barack Obama commuted her sentence, but he didn’t pardon her.

She wrote in two subsequent Tweets that the laws cited by IRCC Canada are “not similar at all” to the reasoning in the document, and that she’ll be “challenging [her] denial of entry” at an admissibility hearing.

I have somewhat of a neutral stance on whistleblowers and the leaking of classified documents. On one hand, if the confidential information leaked contains personal details on the general population — such as you and I — then it endangers all of us. However, when one leaks information exposing inhumane and corrupt actions of the government, I’m far less angered by it.

Manning has already apologized for her actions, saying she is sorry that “[her] actions hurt people” and that “[her] issues [were] not an excuse for [her] actions.” Her public stance has shown not only that her intentions were good, but also that she clearly regrets leaking the classified information.

But Manning is not just a controversial figure in the military world; she’s something of a hero to much, though not all, of the transgender community. Making the decision to begin her transition while imprisoned, Manning caused an immense uproar of opinions, both negative and positive, from the public. Plagued by gender dysphoria, she attempted suicide twice. She went on a hunger strike to protest her rights to gender-affirming treatment to treat her gender dysphoria. The surgery was granted to her by the US Military after the American Civil Liberties Union helped her fight.

Transitioning while she was still in prison took guts. Going on a hunger strike after being denied gender-affirming surgery proved that she wasn’t afraid to back down when faced with adversity. Manning is a hero to the transgender community because by fighting for her rights to transition, she was indirectly fighting for the rights of other trans people who are dealing with gender dysphoria while incarcerated.

In 2016, while she was still in prison, the US Defense Department removed a ban that prevented transgender men and women from serving openly in the military. One could say that it was just a happy coincidence the ban was lifted shortly after Manning won her fight for surgery, but I disagree. Manning thrust trans issues into the spotlight, thus forcing American politicians to notice and do something.

Her advocacy for the transgender community hasn’t ceased after being released. She is still a strong advocate for trans rights and a prominent figure in trans issues.

For Canada to be so proud of its stance on gender equality, they sure haven’t done a good job at letting someone this influential to the trans community into the country. She probably would be a splendid addition to the discussion on transgender issues. I wish the Canadian government would stop being so afraid of offending the United States and be defiant for once. Let Manning in, and set an example to other countries that the crime or crimes a person commits does not automatically become their legacy.