Chelsea Manning — the transgender Army private sentenced in 2013 for leaking classified information, whose sentence was commuted by former President Barack Obama — took her first free steps on Wednesday. And Manning, 35, caught right up with 2017 by celebrating the moment the way anyone else her age might: by snapping a #shoefie of her feet in her brand-new Chuck Taylor All-Stars, which she then posted to Instagram.
“First steps of freedom!” she wrote next to the photo, which showed the bottom portion of black leggings and the Converse low-tops — black, brand-new, and scuff-free.
A post shared by Chelsea E. Manning (@xychelsea87) on May 17, 2017 at 6:39am PDT
The shoe choice seemed empowering and fitting, not only because Converse sneakers have long been embraced as an iconic symbol of unisex fashion in popular culture, but also because the brand itself has made a point of embracing its LGBT fans, specifically through releasing its “Proud to Be” pride line back in 2015.
Manning, who went to prison for sharing U.S. secrets with WikiLeaks, walked out of her maximum-security holding cell in Kansas more than 30 years early, and said in a statement, “After another anxious four months of waiting, the day has finally arrived. I am looking forward to so much! Whatever is ahead of me is far more important than the past. I’m figuring things out right now — which is exciting, awkward, fun, and all new for me.”
While imprisoned at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Forth Leavenworth in Kansas, Manning — née Bradley, who transitioned and changed her name to Chelsea while incarcerated — had to conform to male grooming standards.
“She has experienced trauma over the past seven years of her confinement, and the trauma from those experiences won’t just evaporate the day she walks out of prison,” noted one of her lawyers, Chase Strangio of the American Civil Liberties Union. “It’s going be a process for her to heal and begin to live her free life with more autonomy over her gender and her decisions and vision for the future.”
A post shared by Chelsea E. Manning (@xychelsea87) on May 17, 2017 at 9:34am PDT
She seems to have already gotten the hang of social media — soon adding a second Instagram post, of her first “hot, greasy pizza” — and is receiving lots of loving support there (along with some predictable trolling). Her #shoefie has more than 2,500 likes and a slew of comments, including “Here we go!! Queer Radical Vets for the Win,” and “Thank you for your sacrifices. Welcome home Chelsea.”
Some couldn’t help but dole out fashion advice. “Ffs Chelsea tuck your laces in,” advised one, as another noted, “I walked out into my new life 20 years and 9 days ago. You have so much to embrace and be grateful for. Don’t let the bastards grind you down girl! Sunlight is the best disinfectant and your truth — both personally and politically — is good for our democracy. Rock those leggings… (I know I do).”
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