When President Barack Obama commuted the sentence of whistleblower Chelsea Manning at the end of his second term in early 2017, reaction in the United States was deeply divided. Some saw Manning as a traitor to her country, others as a heroine of free speech.
Seven years earlier, Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning had gone to prison for passing on more than 700,000 confidential state documents to WikiLeaks, founded by Julian Assange. Some of the documents contained evidence that the U.S. Army had committed misconduct and war crimes in Iraq.
Manning was quick to announce that she wanted to transition, but she wasn’t permitted to stay in a women’s prison, or even let her hair grow out. How did this vulnerable transgender woman survive in such adverse conditions? And if you aren't born as you want to be, how do you find out who you really are while living under a microscope? In XY Chelsea—the title comes from Manning’s Twitter account—a probing, assertive camera goes in search of the person behind the media.