Chelsea Manning Reveals The Poignant Reason She Chose Her Twitter Handle

"She inspired me, perhaps without knowing it."

It's easy to look at Chelsea Manning's Twitter handle โ€” @xychelsea โ€”and not think much of it, but the social media moniker actually carries a great deal of significance for the former U.S. Army intelligence officer, and there's a very poignant, heartfelt story behind why she chose that specific handle.

But first, some background info.

In 2010, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for violating the Espionage Act by sharing upwards of 700,000 classified documents with WikiLeaks. Three years later, while still in prison, Manning came out as transgender and changed her name from Bradley to Chelsea. In 2016, the Army agreed to permit her to have gender reassignment surgery following a five-day hunger strike.


A frequent tweeter, Manning revealed the meaning behind her Twitter handle in response to a (less than kind) tweet:

As Manning went on to explain in subsequent tweets, the image the troll used (though not actually a photograph of Manning herself) is the very picture that inspired her Twitter handle.

According to BuzzFeed News, the person in the photo is July Schultz, a transgender woman living in Paris. The photo, which was taken at a demonstration for transgender and intersex rights in Paris in 2005, shows Schultz with "XY" written on the palm of her hand โ€” the same letters that begin Manning's Twitter handle and symbolize her identity as a transgender woman born with XY chromosomes.

As she explained on Twitter, Manning was unaware of the identity of the woman in the photo and even fuzzy about its context, but she did know the photo was taken before she came out, saying it inspired her to be "that bold."

"She inspired me, perhaps without knowing it, but she did," Manning added on Twitter of the mystery woman. 

Thanks to the magic of the Internet, Schultz saw Manning's tweet and sent out a message of her own, confirming she's aware of the impact she had on the 29-year-old American.

"This was happening in a particular context, just after I had gone to Thailand for sex reassignment surgery," Schultz tells BuzzFeed of the photo, adding she hoped the "XY" written on her hand would "make clear [her] situation as a transsexual woman."

And as it turns out, Manning and Schiltz have something of a mutual admiration society. While it was Manning who was inspired by Schultz's bravery in the photo, Schultz says she considers Chelsea Manning "a heroine."

Not surprisingly, Manning was happy to discover the identity of a stranger who had impacted her so profoundly, and thrilled to learn Schultz holds her in high regard as well. Following the discovery, Manning tweeted:

It didn't take long before other social media users weighed in, and many were heartened and moved by the connection established amongst the two women. As one person commented, "It's so beautiful when you find people who inspire you--or they find you!"

Schultz couldn't agree more, concluding to BuzzFeed, "I was really touched to have inspired someone whom I myself find very inspiring."  

Her sentence was then commuted by then-President Barack Obama during the final days of his presidency in January 2017. After serving just seven years of her 35-year sentence, Manning was released from prison back in May โ€” an occasion she happily documented on social media.


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