According to a report from TMZ, former U.S. Army soldier Chelsea Manning was hospitalized following a suicide attempt in her cell at the Forth Leavenworth prison. Manning, 28, was convicted of 17 counts of espionage back in 2013 for her role in providing classified U.S. government materials to Wikileaks, which resulted in a 35-year prison sentence. At this time,we are scant on details. One source claimed that Manning attempted to hang herself early Tuesday morning, but at this point, with little corroboration or confirmation, that's still somewhat speculative.
Manning has been imprisoned for more than the last three years, but she's remained a public figure ― beloved by some, scorned by others ― throughout her time at Leavenworth. She authored a controversial op-ed on how to handle ISIS back in 2014, just over a year after her sentence began, and her advocates and supporters have tried to buoy her spirits throughout her imprisonment with letter-writing campaigns and birthday well-wishes. According to TMZ, Manning has since been released from the hospital, but is still currently under observation.
Reports of Manning's attempted suicide have stirred up sympathy and vitriol from people on the internet. The Twitter account @YourAnonNews, an outlet for news and comments from the hacktivist collective Anonymous, offered support, tweeting that Manning was "in our hearts and thoughts." But not everyone has been so respectful, heartfelt, or sympathetic.
While there's not much surrounding information regarding these reports just yet, it's important to note ― not just to contextualize Manning's story, but also to recognize the situation on a broader societal level too ― that Manning is transgender, and transgender individuals still face high rates of suicide and discriminatory violence. It's a grim and distressing commentary on our culture's handling of transgender issues that there isn't more outcry or recognition of this fact. More than 40 percent of trans people attempt suicide at some time in their lives ― a rate ten times higher than that of the general public.
Obviously, as a prisoner, Manning also lives under uniquely difficult circumstances, so her gender identity isn't intended to answer "why" this might have happened. But negligence and disregard for the lives and dignity of trans Americans is nothing new, and it's very important to point out in times like these.