When I visit Alex – a few days before what would have been his stepson Pete’s 22nd birthday – he offers to take me on a tour of Rock Springs. Clad in beige vinyl siding, the mobile home where Pete killed himself looks neat but impersonal. It hadn’t yet snowed enough to sugarcoat the scenery. Alex tells me that Danielle wasn’t able to return home after Pete’s suicide. She grabbed her pets and daughters and moved in with neighbors.
“My mom’s called me a radical, my dad’s called me a conspiracy theorist, none of my friends even know what I’m talking about,” DancingDark tells me. We talk via Skype, but I can’t see her because she has taped-off the camera on her computer. She is pretty damn certain that the American government is spying on her. Whenever she mentions a certain country (which, for obvious reasons, she asked me not to name) her computer crashes.
I have plenty of problems with Germany, but its people’s willingness to speak their minds and stand up for others isn’t one of them. Whatever you do, in Germany the public good trumps your individual desires. I believe what often stands in the way is Americans’ compulsive need to be liked. We need to learn to object and intervene—whether in public protest or simply around the family dinner table.
Amid bigotry and intimidation, transgender artists create images to empower their communities and normalize the myriad complexities of their experiences. Their individual voices are well-positioned to speak to the more complicated, emotional and institutional aspects of the trans experience. And their voices are more important than ever in times when we mourn democracy, decency and tolerance.
For several weeks in February and March, the Whitney Museum’s fifth-floor gallery has been drenched in the slamming of gates, the rattling of keys and the bellowing of prisoners and guards. The artist Andrea Fraser recorded the sounds at Sing Sing, the infamous prison 34 miles up the Hudson River, then fed them into a gallery that’s roughly the same size as the prison’s A Block.
These are dark days. But at night, for thirty minutes, we are in a position of tiny intimate power. On our warm island we don’t feel quite as helpless and paralyzed. My husband speaks the words of smart people loud and clear. I feel emboldened and safe. The existence of literature reassures me that I am not alone. Writers and artists and intellectuals are here. We are strong, we are smart, we are capable.
The mainstream conversation is colored by if-arguments, eerily reminiscent of the 1950s, when women without children were pitied (and, possibly, pitied themselves). If I had found the right partner… If I had had enough money… I don’t have any if-arguments (which doesn’t mean that things don’t go wrong in my life). I simply never wanted to have children. Not when I was 20, not when I was 30 and not today.
A 22-year-old college junior majoring in English literature, Beatrice had barely left her room in two weeks. At first, she’d had a gnawing sense that her friends were talking about her behind her back, privately hissing about what a terrible person she was. Soon, glances from family members telegraphed that they too were against her. She barricaded herself in her room. Her interest in food and sleep faded. She had a powerful urge to keep the TV on.
Every morning a group of us, including Oliver, would swim across Eagle Lake. Our host, Harriet, insisted on accompanying us in her little metal boat. The motorboats that in recent years had taken over the tranquil lake could not be trusted; it would be easier for them to spot a little boat powered by a very tall and assertive woman than the school of little fish that we were.
Oliver wore a red bathing cap.
For her multimedia ebook The Orphan Zoo Sabine Heinlein spent almost a year reporting at “The Farm,” a program for mental patients at the notorious Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens. Originally designed to teach its “members” confidence and skills by caring for animals and plants, the farmland had been fallow for years, the animals were neglected and at dawn drug dealers gathered around the nearby picnic tables.
Jeffrey Wood and Daniel Reneau had only known each other for a couple of months when Wood waited in the car as his new friend entered a gas station in Kerrville. When Wood, a 22-year-old with no prior criminal record, heard gunshots, he went inside the store to find the attendant shot dead. Reneau then pointed his handgun at him and forced him to steal the surveillance video and drive the getaway car.
The ‘Adopt, Don’t Shop’ brand was based on a noble sentiment. But with little to no oversight, it fosters an underbelly that has left the no-kill movement in crisis. The promise of life often leaves animals languishing in cages or transferred from foster home to foster home for years. They are given out sick, with minimal to no prior medical care. Hardly a day goes by when a rescue isn’t exposed for hoarding.