Chelsea Manning. (U.S. Army / AP)

“The first time I passed as a woman in public was on leave in the US from my deployment to Iraq in February 2010,” wrote incarcerated, transgendered whistleblower Chelsea Manning at The Guardian on Friday.

“I’d long known I was a woman, but I’d been afraid, and a bit embarrassed, to appear publicly as myself before this.”

Not only was I worried that I could lose my already-tenuous connections with my family, but I was terrified that I could face administrative, or even criminal, charges from the military. It was the height of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” and we in the queer and trans community lived in fear on a regular basis.

Then I went to Iraq, where death was all around me. It made me realize just how precious and frail life really is. I decided I wanted to take the plunge, and do something that I wanted to do, for once. For myself.

I remember nervously shopping for the clothes I wore that day. I had decided to go into a department store and buy a gorgeous casual business outfit. I walked into the store and snuck over to the women’s section. I was wandering around for 10 or 15 minutes looking at many outfits in many different sizes. I realized that I didn’t know where to start.

It was then that one of the sales associates walked over.

“Can I help you?” she asked.

Continue reading here.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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