Some call her a traitor. Others call her a hero. Now, you can call her a model. Renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz photographed Chelsea Manning for Vogue's September issue, the magazine announced Thursday. And although the issue hasn't hit newsstands yet, the famed military whistleblower and transgender activist has already been targeted by internet trolls over the photo shoot. Manning, however, doesn't have time to worry about what her haters think.
Although Manning, who was sentenced to prison for leaking a trove of classified military documents in 2013, has kept a relatively low profile since being released from prison in May, she's recently begun stepping out, with her Vogue photo shoot being the latest example. But being an outspoken public figure – especially one as polarizing as Manning — means Manning has been forced to deal with an unfortunate amount of transphobic haters.
When news of Manning's forthcoming Vogue spread broke on Twitter Thursday, some social media users were quick to lash out at the transgender activist with hateful vitriol. Manning, however, was ready. As she has in the past, Manning used her official Twitter account to take on many of her critics, shutting them down with her own cheeky and emoji-laden responses.
"Really dont [sic] care," Manning tweeted to one Twitter user who claimed "the people" were watching Manning's every move and listening to her every word.
"Somehow im [sic] okay with this," Manning tweeted to another Twitter user who'd attempted to argue the vintage-inspired red bathing suit Manning donned for her Vogue photo shoot was proof her brain was "screwed up"
"Yawn," was the simple, yet effective, reply Manning tweeted to a Twitter user who'd taken it upon themselves to edit Vogue's headline to read, "Chelsea Manning is a traitor. Now he's focusing on himself."
Perhaps the real power of Manning's responses comes from her effective and unapologetic use of emojis. Earlier this month Manning revealed her emoji dropping skills came for years of practice. "I have been using emojis =) in one form or another =^.^= IRC, forums, instant messengers since the late 1990s," she tweeted Aug. 8.
To be clear, Manning is way more adept at emoji speak than most. For example, to a Twitter user who seemed convinced Manning was photographed for Vogue only because "the progressive press" celebrates those who "hate" and "damage" the country, the transgender activist tweeted a two-word response — "uh what?" — sandwiched between six emojis: side-eye smiley face, unicorn emoji, butterfly emoji, sunglasses-wearing smiley face, rainbow emoji, hearts. Consider the mic dropped.
In early 2010, Manning leaked more than 700,000 classified documents and videos pertaining to a range of topics, including top secret military operations, the United State's failure to investigate reports of abuse, torture, rape, and murder by Iraqi police, and a July 2007 U.S. Army airstrike in Baghdad that killed two Reuters photographers. At the time, Manning's release was considered to be one of the largest unauthorized leaks in U.S. history. She was arrested in May 2010 with 22 charges levied against her, including violating the Espionage Act and, more seriously, "aiding the enemy."
In 2013, Manning was acquitted of "aiding the enemy" but convicted of 17 of the 22 charges, including five counts of espionage and theft. She was sentenced to 35 years in prison. However, former President Barack Obama commuted the rest of Manning's sentence shortly before he left office and she was released from prison in May.
Manning has since remained a polarizing figure in America. And although she's not shy about taking on her haters over Twitter, it is sadly unlikely Manning has seen the last of transphobic internet trolls.