On Wednesday, Chelsea Manning walked out a free woman from military prison after serving seven years of a 35-year prison sentence. The remaining 28 years of her sentence were commuted by former President Barack Obama as one of his last acts, just two days before leaving office. Manning was convicted in July 2013 on 17 out of 22 charges, including fives counts of espionage and theft. Manning did not immediately return Romper's request for comment. Now a free civilian, Chelsea Manning posted her first photo after being released from prison. Her photo auto-posted to her Twitter account, where it appears Manning has joined Instagram as @xychelsea87. While her Twitter account is verified, her Instagram does not yet appear to be.
The photo is simply composed: It's just a shot of Manning's feet in a pair of black Converse All-Star low top Chucks on a wooden floor as she takes her "First steps of freedom!" as noted in the caption. Fellow Instragrammers have already been commenting on Manning's first Instagram post — and they've been largely supportive so far. "Welcome to the world & nice shoes!" offered one commenter, while another called Manning a hero. Well wishes poured in from from around the globe, including Kuwait, Finland, and Wales.
An Army spokesperson confirmed to ABC News that Manning was released from prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, just after 2 a.m. local time on Wednesday morning. In a statement provided to ABC News, Manning spoke of rebuilding her life after seven years in prison. "I’m figuring things out right now — which is exciting, awkward, fun, and all new for me," read a second statement just hours after her release.
Manning's commutation and subsequent release have been met with much controversy. Former White House spokesman Josh Earnest told The New York Times in January that despite the controversy of Obama granting clemency, Manning went through her due process.
Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing.
But just days into his presidency, Trump called Manning an "ungrateful traitor" on Twitter, in response to a column in The Guardian written by Manning about Obama's legacy. In the same tweet, Trump also said she "should never have been released from prison," in response to Obama's commutation of Manning's sentence.
Manning's early release from prison may well have saved her life. Manning, who previously went by the first name Bradley, publicly stated she identified as female in August 2013, saying in a statement to The TODAY Show, "I am Chelsea Manning." While serving her sentence as a trans woman in an all-male military prison, Manning attempted suicide on two occasions.
Manning and her lawyers have argued the Army has denied her proper medical treatment and care for gender dysphoria. Manning was eventually allowed by the Army to undergo hormone replacement therapy while in prison, however, she has likely lost the military transgender benefit of gender reassignment surgery upon her release from prison Wednesday. Representatives for the U.S. Army did not immediately return Romper's request for comment.
For now, Manning's first Instagram post provides a brief but powerful glimpse into the meaning of freedom — which for Manning, means living her life fully and freely as a woman.