Terri Been had exactly one month left to save her brother’s life. In May of 2016, the state of Texas had scheduled an execution date for her 42-year-old brother, Jeff Wood, and Terri was counting the days until it was time to count the hours. On August 24th, 2016, Jeff was to be transported from the Allan B. Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas, to the “death house” in Huntsville, where he was to be killed by lethal injection.
For hundreds of years Baiersdorf, a Bavarian village, has cultivated horseradish. It was quick to put it in use to celebrate the Führer. For the harvest festival peasants made swastikas out of horseradish stalks. Soon, Main Street was renamed Adolf Hitler Street and Seligmann Street became Horst-Wessel Street. The little park in the center of town became Adolf Hitler Park, and its big oak tree the Hitler Oak.
When I visit Alex – a few days before what would have been his stepson Pete’s 26th 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.
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.
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.
King Kudzu sits next to his little house by the side of Route 441 surrounded by reindeer. There is kudzu everywhere. Kudzu stars, kudzu Christmas trees, kudzu angels. It is only late August, but already the King is getting ready for Christmas, the busiest season. He is the creator, soaking and cutting and weaving, occasionally glancing up at the sky. The early fog has risen, making space for the summer sun. How could you not believe in something bigger?
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.