This beautiful watercolor was a gift from the artist, Brian Dawn Chalkley. I have been writing about their work for nearly two decades and the last time I saw them, they gave me this image. The blurry lines, the vague body outline, the smudged makeup, so perfectly captures the inarticulateness of a trans non-identity that Brian Dawn and I share. It captures a time before trans sophistication, before trans was acceptable, trendy or even legible. It captures a past that we can barely recall or give name to. Brian Dawn writes “For Judith Jack Halberstam. Trans Fucking Baby!” below the self-portrait. I recognize the spirit of the dedication. I see something of my own blurriness here. I do not want to see clearly. The rain is never gone.
Jack Halberstam is Professor of Gender Studies and English at Columbia University. Halberstam is the author of seven books including: Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (Duke UP, 1995), Female Masculinity (Duke UP, 1998), In A Queer Time and Place (NYU Press, 2005), The Queer Art of Failure (Duke UP, 2011), Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal (Beacon Press, 2012), and a short book titled Trans*: A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variance (University of California Press). Halberstam’s latest book, 2020 from Duke UP is titled Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire.
Places Journal awarded Halberstam its Arcus/Places Prize in 2018 for innovative public scholarship on the relationship between gender, sexuality, and the built environment. Halberstam is now finishing a second volume on wildness titled: Unworlding: An Aesthetics of Collapse. Halberstam was recently the subject of a short film titled “So We Moved” by Adam Pendleton. It is playing at MoMA until January 30, 2022.