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Letters to Our Family (April 2015)

Long time reader, first time writer.

First I want to send love to all my brothers and sisters, awesome sauce.

Alright, down to business. I’ll start with a small brief of me. I am a 26 soon to be 27 MTF who is serving a 25 70%. I love reading the paper every month, sometimes it’s the only mail I get. The letters in the paper gave me the courage to come out to my mother finally.

Still no thoughts on it from her, but she has reassured me no matter what she loves me for me.

I have always felt as if I was being forced into a “norm” when i was young. I was the “strange” one in the class. Playing with dolls and not the cards. Throwing a fit if I couldn’t be the “Mom” in a game of house. Always told “No thats for little girls, you’re a boy! You know the jist. I conformed to a point.

Borrowed my sisters clothes without anyone knowing etc.

I fought with the whole thing internally for years. Every time I had a chance to breach the subject, I would make some excuse not to, or, it wasn’t the right time.

Once I got on my own. I was Sean by day and Vanessa by night. I had my own wardrobe, makeup, etc…When my family would come over I would make the excuse “oh my girlfriend must have left that here” stupid stuff you know deep down they don’t believe. Ignorance is bliss, or so they say.

Doing all the hiding, being dual persons takes a strain on your mind. As it did with me, I was paranoid of someone finding out… my “dirty little secret” (my mothers words not mine.) I developed a form of schizophrenia and was having panic attacks in the middle of stores, I was bulimic and anorexic, I had insomnia, and to top it all off I lost my freedom, my will, my child & my sobriety.

I had no idea what was wrong with me, so I medicated with things that made me not feel – pot, cocaine, LSD, shrooms, and pills. I was suicidal and hated myself. I tried to find any information I could online, but the most I found was “her heroic story” crap articles.

I told you all that so I could tell that one sister out there who is screaming at the top of her lungs to be heard. You are not alone. When you walk into that room filled with who you decided to bless with your heart, enamored, open to the wounds that will come, know in that blessed beautiful heart, you do not stand alone. You stand with an army of your sisters and brothers behind you. Know, you are not alone. I feel as if I can’t say it enough. Please know that you are never going to be alone in your walk. I stand with you hun.

I hope that I have reached someone who is in mental limbo, who is terrified of opening that door. Goddess knows, I was.

I have met so many of my sisters since I was first incarcerated in 2011. It angers me that Iowa does not have a policy to help. All they have is a policy to hinder. I have had them either laugh at me me or say “it’s just a phase”. My a$$, a “phase” lasts a few months not a life time. So, wish me luck. I am going to start the light for transwomen in Iowa.

In my opinion, it is cruel & unusual punishment to be forced to live in a prison inside a prison. I find that my gender in a prison & I am long over due for discharge from the prison of being male.

For now & always
Vanessa, Iowa

 

Hello Black and Pink family,

It is so good reading your letters in each newspaper. You let me know I am among friends and not alone in this prison complex.

Ever been in a room full of people and felt alone? Happens all the time in prison, right? Well, friends, we are not alone! We have each other! Look around and reach out to your fellow Black and Pink family members. They are easy to spot. We stand out amongst the straight population. We are the most beautiful people you see in these hallways and dayrooms.

It is difficult enough to be in prison, but to be in prison and be “different” is very hard. Sure we are different, but being different is a great thing. So find friends like you and stick together! Give each other big smile when you see one another!

Keep your heads up and stay strong! We will get through this together!

For the struggle,
Michael, Texas

 

“Like a Rabbit (just because you’re trans, you are all about sex)”

Life as a transgender woman in the male prison industrial complex is ripe with drama and landmines, that force us women to live a life of tip-toeing on eggshells. Many people have a tendency and desire to interpose their own uncontrollable lust onto others around them, especially men, who seem to assume that since they would screw pretty much anything with tits and a heart-beat, that women and trans women want to get laid by any man with a heart-beat.

Just recently, I experienced this misconception once again; being housed among men means that I’m often accused of hitting on and “chasing” guys in my unit or watching them in a sexually lustful manner. As I said recently, I was the butt of rumors that said I was hitting on and pushing myself on three “straight” guys in my unit; even though this was COMPLETELY untrue, it was taken as the truth by the masses due to my being transgender. This becomes a dangerous game because it invites violence, paranoia, and potential sexual assault against the transgender individuals in that environment. Such is why transgender women will NEVER be safe within a male-populated facility. How are we supposed to address this kind of situation? The trans women are forced to live with not only the “normal” unwritten “prison code” but we’re forced to live subjected to many unwritten “codes” and rules of conduct/”engagement” that only apply because we live outside the accepted gender binarism of the community/environment.

Every day we are subject to cat calls, heckling, and vicious gossip about our every move and breath. How can we live in such an environment safely? Thus we are thrown into a massive liberty issue where we are forced to be sheep amongst a pack of wolves, and our safety & well-being is in jeopardy every day.

Fight for love and life
Jakaelynn, NY

 

Dear Black and Pink Family,

Hey everyone it’s your girl Nicki writing to all my fellow TLGBQ family currently incarcerated. I hope everyone is in good health and high spirits. As for me I am good! I’ve been here in the pound going on 18 months! Supposedly Texas is supposed to start kicking out all drug related charges! But we all know how this shit in the system works! I’ll believe it when I see it.

I don’t know if any of you remember me? I am a Hispanic transexual. I was an adult model / working girl before getting snitched on by my so called boyfriend. Now I sit here in this redneck Texas prison! Stripped of all the things I love dear. Like my freedom, my beautiful long hair, bra, etc. This shit is not cute! Not only do I get hated on by some (gay inmates), I get hassled by the (gay guards) and a couple of female ones too!! Luckily I haven’t had anything extremely crazy happen, because I’m seriously just waiting for one of them (the guards) to make that wrong move so I can make the right one! And utilize my rights against them and suppression system.

The COs fail to realize by putting “us” in situations, they are putting “us” at bigger risk. Not only by them, but by the other inmates!!! I’m at a pre-release unit so it’s cupcake here, but the guards are a lot crazier, but anyways to all the family out there dealing with these things, don’t be afraid. Put that paper in their life. Especially my TS girls!! I love reading how empowering we all are becoming all around the world!!! Girls like: Laverne Cox, Cece, Isis are all paving ways for us!! Anything is possible! Keep your heads up my love!

Also shout out to you all my sisters and brothers that work out!! Work bitches lol… I recently lost 36 pounds. I stopped eating spreads weekdays and only spread on weekends. Basically weekends are my cheat days. I don’t overindulge though. And drink lots of water and I’ve incorporated strength training into my workout. I do squats, lunges, squat thrusts, etc and I do a lot of cardio and abs. Also I love planks. I get a subscription to Shape and Fitness mag! So I use their workouts too!

I love you all!! Till then your sister,
Nicki, TX

 

“Beyond the Looking Glass”

Sometimes our regrets seem to smother us, the emotional baggage it causes weighing down our shoulders until it takes every ounce of energy & strength to take that next step forward. We dwell on questions like “what if” and “why didn’t I,” even though they’re impossible to answer, and only poison our ambition & spirit.

Late at night when I’m left to ponder where my life has come to, and surrounded by a deafening silence, I am haunted by everything I could have done differently. Memories of what appear to be “better” days play in slow motion across my solitary mind… along with the faces of everyone who has cared about and/or impacted my life in one way or another. For a long time I allowed myself to become obsessed with those reflections of a life that is now only memories, and I cried and mourned those memories; allowing myself to “fall into the looking-glass” and be driven mad by “what if’s” and “could have been’s.” What I failed to see though in those images was the promise of the future, and opportunity; you see the looking-glass is the most deceitful object in our heart & soul, ***the looking-glass does nothing but lie***. Its point of being is to show us what we missed out on, to second guess ourselves, and to degrade our hope for the future; it does this by playing on repeat the moments in our lives that make us want to go back in time and relive it either to change it or because we feel life was never better. What doesn’t show is what led to that great moment, or how that mistake impacted us and/or made us into a stronger person… we are blind to the cracks in the mirror that are meant to remind us that a perfect life is meaningless, and a damaged or “thread-bare” life is the developer of compassion, empathy, courage, and strength.

Coming to prison was the lowest point in my life and left me feeling empty and a disgraceful failure; it made me ask where I took the wrong turn. Two years and 6 months later I now know that I NEVER took the wrong turn but rather chose to walk my life’s path with my eyes closed, and caused myself to stumble, fall, and land in a deep pit because I never saw the bridge that would have taken me to the other side safely. So as I begin my journey as a recently “out” transgendered woman; and learn to allow myself to live and allow the true me, Jakaelynn [Editor’s Note: for confidentiality, we do not publish full names], to shine through; I’ve put that looking glass on the curb so it could never smother me again. The past is great, & many say “if you don’t know history, you’re doomed to repeat it,” but it has no place in our future… we must be courageous enough to see beyond that looking-glass to what opportunities lie ahead of us. Because sometimes our greatest failures are what become our greatest successes that set us free! Prison has become a reality check, and literally saved my life… from alcohol and drug abuse (as “self-medication”) to the dangerously promiscuous life I was living. Am I saying that I’m glad to have ended up here? Absolutely, not! But what I do know is that it took my hitting rock-bottom to be able to get back to the surface to breathe, and to finally see that life is too short and unpredictable to not live it true.

So I beg you, shatter your looking-glass and set yourself free of the bindings of the past! No matter what you could have done differently you are blessed with unfathomable opportunity ahead of you that you’ll NEVER see if you stay locked in your room staring into a mirror of memory that will NEVER change. Life is not easy or clean, and we are all bound to have regrets; but in the end those regrets and messy moments make life the unique and enjoyable place it is, because if you didn’t know regret and failure we’d never know joy and success!

#SRLP, #Hope&Faith, #LookingGlass, #BeingTrue2U!

Fight for love and life!
Jakaelyn – New York

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