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Chelsea Manning's Sixth Birthday Behind Bars — 29 to Go

Chelsea Manning

To the best of the outside world's knowledge, there was no cake, no candles, no presents, and no singing of “Happy Birthday” today for federal inmate number 89289, according to the nonprofit organization Fight for the Future.

But there will be cards, thousands of them, addressed to Chelsea E. Manning, who turns 28 today. It's the sixth birthday she's observed in a military prison, where she's serving a 35-year sentence.

Fight for the Future campaign director Evan Greer tells The Advocate she and her group have taken steps to address Manning's loneliness. The organization has launched a website that allows anyone with access to the Internet to send Manning a physical, hard-copy birthday card, with a customizable message, through the U.S mail, at no cost. 

So far today, more than 5,000 cards have been mailed to Manning through this project, according to Greer. 

In a handwritten letter, Manning shared with The Advocate her thoughts about this day on the calendar. She expressed her gratitude for being selected as one of 2015’s 40 Under 40, saying the honor “means an awful lot to me, especially right now, when I have so many battles to fight every single day.” 

The last day Chelsea Manning was free was May 28, 2010. For the last five years, six months, and 19 days, the former Army intelligence officer convicted of leaking government secrets to Wikileaks has been in a prison cell, segregated from her fellow inmates and from the outside world. 

Many of her 2,028 days of imprisonment have been spent inside Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where she was transferred in 2011. There, she blogs for Medium and she tweets. 

She is provided hormone treatment, gender-appropriate prison garb, and cosmetics. But even though her female name and pronouns are recognized by prison authorities, she has been ordered to keep her hair short according to standards applied to all men in the Army, a decision that Manning described in her letter of November 18 as “devastating and humiliating.” 

Looking ahead to her birthday, in that letter the former Army private first class told The Advocate she was contemplative: 

“Next month is my birthday  — my 28th birthday, and my sixth in prison. I can’t really remember what the world felt like on that day, but I hope that  — maybe one day  — I will feel that again, even if it’s not as exciting or fun as we all expect it to be.

“I will certainly be thinking about your choice on my birthday, and it will be just that much brighter, thanks to you.”

Manning closed with an offer to “write me back any time.” 

Anyone who wants to send Manning a birthday card can do so here, and there is more information. including her mailing address, here. Read why The Advocate chose Manning as one of the year’s 40 most intersectional LGBT people under the age of 40 here.

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