Chelsea Manning wears a hashtag necklace with a hidden meaning

Chelsea Manning attends Out magazine #OUT100 event presented by Lexus at the the Altman Building on Nov. 9, 2017, in New York City. (Photo: Getty Images)

On Thursday, Chelsea Manning made it official: She’s running for a seat in the U.S. Senate. And for the first time since announcing her campaign in the 2018 Maryland Democratic primary, the former U.S. soldier, who was imprisoned for leaking diplomatic cables, is discussing her political ambitions.

In the interview with the Guardian, the 30-year-old transgender woman discussed heavy, heady topics like what it feels like living in a world where a “militarized” police presence is everywhere, her decision to challenge a strong incumbent for the Senate seat, open borders, and more.

Within the story, though, lies a lighter detail that might be easily overlooked but is nonetheless important: [Manning] is dressed in black, as she was in the video launching the Senate campaign, in which she carried a red rose as a symbol of political resistance. In the bright light of the room, her eyes are piercingly blue-grey, topped by a slash of pink eyeshadow. She wears a silver necklace with a hashtag pendant; asked why, she replies without hesitation: ‘Twitter … got me out of prison.’” 

While the piece of jewelry is seemingly insignificant, for Manning, who underwent gender transition surgery and began publicly identifying as a woman in 2013, fashion and beauty help shape her new identity.

In August, Manning told Yahoo Lifestyle she carefully considers every aspect of her look, including what her lipstick signals about her mindset. “I choose my lipstick colors carefully. I’m not just saying, ‘I like this edgy color.’ This is an expression of my humanity. And beauty, to me, is self-expression,” she said.

Manning’s openness to communicate through sartorial choices reflects a larger cultural moment wherein it’s trendy to wear your politics quite literally on your sleeve. It’s fitting too that Manning’s interview coincides with the first anniversary of the Women’s March, where protesters across the world donned “pussy hats” and slogan T-shirts to pledge their allegiance to progressive causes.

As for Manning’s hashtag necklace, it may not be the flashiest part of her look on any given day, but that shouldn’t take away from the power of its symbolism, according to Manning. And what is personal style if not a representation of things that matter to you the most?

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