Last August, the Army private now known as Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in military prison. A day after the trial, Manning announced plans to undergo hormone therapy and begin public life as a woman. Her coming-out shone a light on a population that media rarely discusses: transgender women in prison.
I have a fat, accordion-style file folder—each section stuffed with mangled envelopes from across the country—full of heavy-hearted, handwritten letters from women I’ve never met. Shaylanna, Venus, Prada, and Eva: every letter flaunts the industrial, pre-stamped return address of a state prison, and every signature is a transgender woman living in a male facility.
Decades from now, we might reflect on these sweltering few months as the Summer of Dolly—a time when everyone’s favorite rhinestone-studded, sky-high heel wearing, bleach blonde beehive-sporting songbird showed that she can still cause a ruckus even at 68 years old.
Ariel Schrag started her career making autobiographical comics in high school. Her comics exploring her life and queer identity articulated in a deft style what it feels like to grow up as a misfit. Her debut text-only novel Adam (out this June from Houghton Mifflin) is also about a nerdy teen who doesn’t fit in. But in a departure from her earlier work, this time the self-conscious protagonist is an adolescent boy.