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Letters To Our Family (January 2017)

Dear Black/Pink Family

Hi, This is Bobbie from Texas and I would like to have a moment.

In reading articles in the Black/Pink it occurs to me that the paper is a clearing house for news that concerns transgender women and other LGBT people.

We need a little help, the  most dangerous ***** in America is one with a pen, a mission, and a will to change the system.

Everyone of us depend on the next sister and the information that she presents as news. We need more accurate information on where you come up with the information. Like, who did you talk to, where can they be written to, on what pages was this information?

“Go out, go out I beg of you
And taste the beauty of the wild.
Behold the miracle of the earth
With all the wonder of a child.”
-Edna Jaques

Please remember that you’re addressing family that are across America and a lot of time very timid girls.

Hows it going in Texas? Well, Trans-Pride-Initiative, PO 3982, Dallas, Texas 75208 fought to get University of Texas Medical Branch to open a clinic in Galveston, Texas..and finally all of the TDCJ Transgender women in Texas have a clinic, Dr. Walter Meyer Doctor for us.

I did not come to prison on hormones but UTMB Diagnose me with Gender Dysphoria and Nell Gather of Trans Pride Initiative fought tooth and nail to start me on the hormones. A real rare occurrence in Texas but it broke the barrier and now if you’re diagnosed in prison you will receive hormones.

The next problem coming up is gender surgery, is this winnable? You bet it is and there are silent activists that depend on the information you send to Jason. If you have information, please say something. As the poet once said, “They also serve who only stand and wait”. The information has to have who, where, when how and mailing. I will assure everyone that in Texas Prison, transgender women are very active in the cause and any help will be appreciated.

Jason and company, you’ve come a long way baby and brought us all to a level that is not possible without the news print. Information, combine knowledge, and patience to change society’s thinking is what wins the hearts and minds of opposing views.

Love
Ms Bobbie, TX

 

Hello to Everyone at Black and Pink,

As one of 15 trans women at this prison I’m the woman chosen as the first transgender spokesperson to the Inmate Advisory Committee. At first I wasn’t sure what to expect. Now 7 months into this, I have really found out that you have to have an open ear and do the best you can not to just represent everyone, but also as individuals.

Every transwoman is different and each one has different issues. And sometimes I do have to give tough love to some of them. Only because they need to hear the truth. Doesn’t mean that I don’t love them. It means that I love them even more. I do the best I can with all the girls even if they don’t listen. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to navigate the prison when you lived the things that they now go through.

Dealing with the staff daily and their complaining about the girls, I have to be a good listener. But I also have to encourage the staff to be professional in their approach and what not to say to the girls.

The main thing we deal with here is the proper pronouns. No girl here wants to be called anything other than what she presents herself as. The 2nd thing is, our respect. Because then we allow the males inmates to do it also.

I have learned to pick & choose my battles. I also explain to all the girls if it’s something you don’t like, then unite it up or we do a group unite up. Put it on paper and less verbal talk. I always tell them that any conversation with staff, to make sure you get the name. And you can say your piece in as few words as possible.

In CA, we have made great strides as far as hormone therapy and S.RS and now we await on what female items we can get. These things weren’t easily done overnight. But girls like Shiloh and Michelle helped to make it possible. I am the girl that is about the principle of it and not just the items.

Anything that you wish for is possible if you keep your focus on the fight and stay way from the crap that doesn’t mean anything. You can get a lot more done.

Black & Pink has been a place for myself and others to express what goes on and to guide and take ideas for somewhat of a better life in prison. So to my transwomen and men and my L.G.B.Q.I.A brothers and sisters, we will get there if we all rise up together. Believe in the words of POWER. With power you can obtain structure, balance, and hope. Love to everyone.

Lisa, CA

 

Dear Black and Pink Family

My name is Antonio I am currently an inmate housed in PA. I am Bisexual I am going through hard times right now with the CO’s playing with my food I be scared to eat some nights or sometime I just don’t eat and put grievances in but nothing happens the CO’s try and give me frivolous misconducts that don’t stick so they play the food game I don’t know what to do I’m so scared I fear my life is in danger if there is any way that y’all can help please do.

P.S. I would like to say sorry to a friend we had an argument a few months ago and haven’t spoken since so if you read this Bookie I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart please believe you would always have a friend in me I love you Bro.

Antonio H., PA

 

Dearest Brothers and Sisters in the cause,

How great it is to read this publication and know that there are others fighting in the movement for LGBTQI rights in prison. I am sending you all courage and resilience to overcome trials and torture perpetrated by Department of Corrections Staff as well as hate-filled inmates. Your struggles, pain, and harassment are not in vain. We are making progress and will eventually stamp out the bigotry that permeates thru our environment.

My name is Michael R and I have started the movement here in Arkansas prisons. Along with some of our sisters whom I would be remiss not to name: Bluebird, Skittles, Ta’ta, JoJo, and Strawberry – I have accumulated the information needed to start a revolution – rather, further the revolution started by our Black and Pink family. This revolution is both legal, as I have had a success in that area recently, and “behind the scenes,” making the waves where it’s possible, when it’s necessary, and in radical form against the racist, homophobic Prison Industrial Complex.

I grew up a Roman Catholic in Harrison AR. Harrison is the Regional Headquarters for the Ku Klux Klan here in Arkansas. The “Grand Wizard” resides there. I mention this to indicate that I am in no way unfamiliar with racist, anti-gay rhetoric and propaganda. Unfortunately, this diatribe I was consistently bombarded with (racist from the outside, anti-gay from my Catholic family) instilled enough fear in me to stay closeted until I came to prison. My story is not so different from many, my repression was a main contributor to a heroin, cocaine, and alcohol addiction that destroyed my shell of a life. I came to prison at 20 in 2010, came out to my family in 2015, and only my grandmother “rides” now. Not that it wasn’t controversial at first, but after we got past the initial stereotypes and my being rebuked in the name of Jesus Christ, we do well 🙂  But this isn’t about me personally. I’m a 27 year old white, very gay male who’s past fear, self-hatred, and loathing, and 7 years in prison have forced me to become a radical advocate for LGBTQI AND women’s rights.

I would also like to say that though the Catholic Church’s official teaching is against homosexuality I have not abandoned my faith. I believe it to be my responsibility to fight for change within my church. After all, He is my God and Jesus died for me as well. But this isn’t about Religion either, though I TOTALLY support ANY and ALL belief systems that make us better people and teach us to love others.

After corresponding with Just Detention International (formally “STOP PRISON RAPE”) I received a Federal Copy of the Prison Rape Elimination Act. I had been ignorant to the fact that verbally abusive terms used toward sexual orientation in ANY derogatory way is considered sexual harassment. As I have always been a believer in the Grievance Process, I started filing paperwork every time an Officer referred to me as a “Punk, Faggot, Dick-sucker” or any other vulgar term. Then I filed more paperwork if they retaliated. Many of them were actually shocked that I took umbrage at such abuse. Their hubris was disgusting as I listened to them deny their actions, then have the audacity to pontificate these self-righteous platitudes of perfection, appearing as if they were the victim. They had the Command’s sympathy as I am incarcerated in Arkansas, the most backwards, hill-billy, incestuous state possible, and all here believe my lifestyle to be wanton.

But then I obtained some legal counsel from a paralegal friend, and I started quoting the PREA Act on my grievances. I was eventually brought in to be placed on a Computerized Voice Stress Analysis (CVSA) (lie-detector test). I waited until we were being recorded and notified them that according to the PREA Act, it was ILLEGAL to place an inmate on “any truth-telling device” when they’d made a sexual harassment allegation. Never-the-less, I was threatened with disciplinary action. I took the tests, OBVIOUSLY passed them, and waited to hear back from Internal Affairs.

When I did hear back, I was notified that my claims had “No substantial evidence” and were found without merit. Now, a CVSA result is enough evidence to convict an inmate of sexually “inappropriate” behavior, but when it comes to sexually inappropriate behavior by staff it’s “insubstantial.” This was exactly what I needed to go to Federal Court.

Two months ago I was assaulted physically by two gang members for my orientation. I had notified staff that it was about to happen, they did nothing. Luckily I had paperwork proving I’d notified them. Then, I was moved to a prison across the street where all the inmates still interacted with those from the previous unit. I was attacked by four gang members. This because of the staff’s refusal to keep me safe. I was badly injured, and Medical refused to repair damage to my face. All this coupled with the sexual harassment led to my family finally retaining legal council. And I’m in the middle of a HUGE legal battle that is going to set precedents for Gay inmates.

None of this would have been possible if not for my adamant belief in utilizing the grievance process so I had paperwork to back me up. That’s my best advice to all of you reading that have been victimized by Inmates and Staff at your units. Use the grievance process! If they retaliate, use it again. We are soldiers in this battle. We HAVE to be. For those of us that have been BEATEN, RAPED, thrown into ISOLATION, VERBALLY and EMOTIONALLY ABUSED, we KNOW that this is a very real war.* It’s time to start fighting it as such. The time is now! We are the change! We will no longer bend over and be violated by this malfeasance! We will no longer let them have our “joie de vivre” (enjoyment of life).

There are those of us that are chosen to be the intermediary between our family and the corruption we survive in. If you are reading this publication, then I know you are sharing in the struggle. I know you are contemplating an induction into the movement (if you haven’t already made the choice). Equality has to become your ideology no matter the fear or cost. We have to ask ourselves if anything we do will ACTUALLY make it worse. If we have any shred of our humanity left to lose. If we are TIRED of being the victim! We have a responsibility to the rest of our family in other prisons as well. We have to unite and stand strong in our fight. To believe whole-heartedly in Love and Solidarity. This fight in prison seems to be the only place we haven’t made geopolitical progression. It’s time to change that. Let’s make our stand in prisons be genic from our “parents'” Stonewall. It may not be a menial task, but it is necessary all the same. This is our official “call-to-arms.”

It has been hard for me at times not to become that which I detest. Meaning that I “preach” against hatred, intolerance, and Bigotry… but at times what I’ve suffered causes a deep-seeded hatred to germinate within my very soul. I constantly have to remind myself that hatred is the cause of the problem. I cannot let myself be seduced by the pleasure of rage, as it bears no fruit in this fight. Easier said than done, but factual in its entirety.

I have read several articles that refer to the trivial fighting in the family. I completely agree that it’s critical to dissipate constant bickering between ourselves. We can’t hope to suppress the true enemy when we waste our energy destroying each other. It may sound like I’m writing in extremes, but is Chaos not what all of this is in its very essence? No, we must put our differences aside and present a united front to a government that believes who we are is in itself intrinsically disordered. It is time to instigate revolution and change. But we can only do it together.

Educating ourselves is as essential as breathing for us in the cause. We must know how to confront our adversary on their ground. I have began taking a paralegal course from Ohio University that was made specifically for inmates. I will fight on legal ground for our family both now and when I’m free. I will not forget the atrocities suffered upon us by the Department of Corruption. I will also say that it is just as essential to make use of your Law Library. Learn your rights as an inmate, and don’t stop until you are treated with the respect and dignity you deserve. Remember that we suffer with those we have seen suffer.

In conclusion, I am sending all of your prayers and thoughts. Don’t lose hope, persevere in persecution, and stand to fight another day. I am your brother in the revolution, I love you all.

Love and Solidarity,
Michael D. Reding

* in this sentence in the original, the all-caps words are actually underlined, capital first letter but otherwise low-caps.

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