Transformers

Another installment of Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything. 

Benjamen Walker
Apr 22, 2014 · 4 min read
https://soundcloud.com/bwalker/toepodcast09

The day after Bradley Manning was sentenced to prison for 35 years for leaking documents to Wikileaks he made an announcement though his lawyer — in the future he wanted to be known as “Chelsea.”

This threw the free Bradley Manning movement for a loop — posters, billboards and websites had to be changed overnight. But according to Nathan Fuller, the press liaison for the Private Manning Support Network this was not a difficult transition.

The verdict is still out how Chelsea Manning will be treated while in prison, but there are many transgender people who have already suffered humiliation and violence while in penal servitude. Yvette Gonzales, a transgender woman, received harrowing treatment while serving her sentence at an all-male prison facility.

When she arrived she was told that, for her own protection, she was being put in solitary confinement— a tortuous isolation that she endured on and off for a total of 3 years and 4 months. Guards told Yvette that she would likely be attacked by fellow prisoners if she were permitted to live in General Population. But Yvette spent stints of time with other inmates and was never harmed by a single one. She even got nicknamed “JLo” by David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz.

Instead, she suffered a traumatic violation in solitary at the hands of one of the prison guards.


You may have heard of people who take hormones to transition from one gender to another, but have you heard of anyone taking hormones to live in the liminal space between the two? B. Preciado teaches at the University Paris VIII, and is one of the leading thinkers in the study of gender and sexuality.

In 2005 she undertook a radical experiment to crack open the idea that gender consists of just two identities: male and female. For 263 days she self-administered the hormone testosterone without a prescription from a medical doctor, and with no desire to transition from “female” to “male.” Rather, she was interested in challenging the “biopolitical fiction” of cut-and-dry “maleness” or “femaleness.” She wrote a book about the experience, which is at once personal and global in scope— full of rich philosophical thought and comprehensive historical analysis of sex, drugs, identity, and biopolitics since the 19th century. It’s called Testo Junkie. TOE producer Ravenna Koenig interviewed B. when she was in NYC for a lecture/performance.

Henry Darger is one of the art world’s most famous mysteries. He spent most of his life working at hospitals in Chicago doing janitorial work, when he died in 1972 his landlord discovered a pile of large paintings in his room most of them featuring little girls with penises. In 1990 Art Spiegelman published a few of Henry’s drawings in his Raw magazine (one of the first major publications to do so). I ask him if he ever imagined the mystery could be solved.

Jim Elledge is the author a new biography of Henry Darger called Throwaway Boy. He says the answer to the mystery of the little girls with penises can be found in Henry’s sexuality.

Was Henry part of a Gay or Transgender subculture? We have no way of knowing for sure. But Henry Darger definitely had a long term serious relationship with a man. This is perhaps the most striking revelation in the Throwaway Boy

because the evidence is not something Jim Elledge found buried in the Henry Darger archives — or something hidden in one of the texts — its something thats been staring Henry Dargerphiles in the face all along.

Henry Darger only had three photos of himself and they all feature Henry and his friend William Schloeder — or Whillie. Jim Elledge says its time to acknowledge that these two men were more than just friends.

Jim Elledge’s new book blows up the idea that we don’t know much about Henry Darger. Throwaway Boy is an incredible work of scholarship, drawing from a wide range of sources city records, medical journals, newspaper accounts, Jim Elledge is able to show us the real world that Henry Darger, outsider artist, inhabited.

    Benjamen Walker

    Written by

    Radio, Podcasts, Comics, Documentaries. Current show: Theory of Everything (PRX —Radiotopia), Past work: WFMU, WNYC, BBC, NPR, The Guardian

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