Letters to Our Family (July 2014)

Dear Black & Pink,

Greetings to all of the Black & Pink family! Smile! I really love the writing from our community, it shows both good and bad things that us transwomen go through in men’s prisons. So I give you all a shout out to my LGBT family, especially my sisters that continue to stand up and represent who they’ve become and are! Smile!

My name is Shyla, 43 years old, Native/Indian transwoman here in a California prison. I have a story of struggle, I have experienced first hand the discrimination/hatred while transitioning, from inmates and c/o’s alike.

While at another CA prison, I got kicked out of the SHU and placed in Ad/Seg pending transfer in January 2013. I experienced sexual harassment by both inmates and staff alike, plus constantly getting my cell searched for “petty” contraband, “safety and security” were their reasons, but it was just an excuse to cover their asses. I was being subjected to “scapegoating,” by inmates/staff blaming me for whatever–kites, stealing items off of lines, things like that! I even had c/o’s hold, throw away, or deliver my mail to other inmates on purpose. These actions by inmates/staff put me in harm’s way while on the walk alone cages on the yard. I had enough of the “shenanigans,” so on January 1, 2014, I smashed my TV, boarded up, and dared for the c/o’s to rush me, but that just resulted in me getting sprayed, which got me in the mental health crisis unit for homicidal/suicidal thoughts for a week. Thought the abuse would be over- no! It wasn’t, far from it.

After being transferred, I never received any of my property when I was on the crisis unit, still waiting for an answer on that issue! While I was rehoused I got subjected to an assault by a c/o who placed me in the holding cage for being upset for missing an important committee. The c/o made an attempt for my hair tie- like really a hair tie can kill me while handcuffed. Seriously! I informed the c/o, “please don’t touch my hair, let me take the ponytail out”, and also I told him I’m an Indian transgender. The next thing I knew, I was in the air with his hand pulling my ponytail and his other hand grasping my throat. While I was on the ground (too shocked to say anything) the c/o was telling me in an angry/threatening voice- shut the f*** up or I’m going to kill you mothaf***er- while tightening his grip harder on my throat. Yes, it’s been medically documented. The ace card in my hand.

On top of that, there’s misconduct/falsified disciplinary reports and missing property. All these retaliation actions were probably to keep me silent since the c/o is well known and connected. Upon arrival at R&R at the prison I’m at now, I still didn’t receive my personal property- letters from family, photos, artwork of mine, legal paperwork, books, Native books and art! Only thing I received was an old pair of tennis shoes, sweatshirt, and an envelope with recent mail. I’m appealing so we will see what happens.

Well, B&P family, that’s my situation for being who I am, a beautiful N8V Transwoman! Smile! To my Sisters and Brothers, I thank you for your time, and no matter what I’ll be standing tall, proud, and representing! Smile!

Crazy N8VGrrl, Shyla, California


Dear Black & Pink Family,

My name is Jim. I am a new member of the Black & Pink family, so new I haven’t received my first copy of the Newspaper yet. I’ve been quite moved by the letters, I get a strong feeling that I need to be able to write to the person who’s written that letter because I felt a connection just by reading the letter. Like the writer and I should be pen pals. But I don’t know if it’s possible to write people directly while I’m still here in prison?

I submitted my letter for the pen pal program, I have high hopes of finding a true friend who understands me, because finding true friends while locked up has proven to be difficult. There are too many people who only pretend to be a friend when their true interests or selfish agenda are completely different. Has anyone else in our family had that same or similar experience?

With all my love and high hopes,
Jimmy, Pennsylvania


Dear Black & Pink,

Hello, I’m Ashley, one of several transgender inmates at my institution, a federal prison in Virginia. I am writing to share with everyone a long-awaited victory at our institution. After years of filing, and taking a case to court, four transgender inmates are now beginning hormone therapy, myself included! We consider this huge here because of their several years of repeated denials and stall tactics. I am also currently in litigation as to several issues, including the purchase and retention of female undergarments, purchase and retention of makeup through commissary or on SPO, and a prescription of Finasteride. One of the girls here is also battling for electrolysis. We all got started on 50mg of Spironolactone a day and 0.1 mg estrogen patches (Alora brand) twice a week. A couple of us have also seen victory in legally changing our names, myself included; now we are in the process of making it legal at our sentencing court and the BOP.

We want to publish this story to inspire everyone not to give up– keep fighting; the war is far from over but this is a major battle won. Keep your heads up!

All my love,
Ashley, Virginia (Federal prison)


Dear Black & Pink,

Hello, my new family! Thank you so much for your wonderful and uplifting writing! I am a Gay inmate in a Pennsylvania prison, and have been having tons of issues with the guards and inmates. I am on the Restricted Housing Unit in a single cell with a camera watching/recording my every move 24/7. The prison officials claim it’s for my own safety and the safety of this institution, but in reality it’s retaliation and discrimination because I am HIV+. I’m being forced to wear a spit mask over my head, because the guards say that I’m a health risk, that they don’t want me spitting on them, they are afraid of getting AIDS. I know saliva cannot carry the HIV virus, but this shows how ignorant the prison system is concerning LGBT and HIV/AIDS issues. Medical Dept refused to even acknowledge me. The prison doctor told me that the prison health care insurance plan does not pay for HIV antiviral medications, that I have to pay for the meds if I want them. Luckily, a friend in Utah, a Gay Mormon, who is rich, is paying for my HIV meds.

I want to respond to an article in the April 2014 issue by Chris. I too was molested and violently raped as a young child, by my aunt from age 5 to 9. I told a teacher, and my aunt went to trial, but I was threatened by family members, and so I denied everything in court. After this, the sexual abuse intensified 10X. There were other reports about my aunt, and she got away with it all. She has three kids of her own. Out of anger and hate, I molested her son. I am filled with severe shame and guilt and pain. I told a psychologist, and I just wrote a letter to Indiana County District Court giving my full confession.

I wrote to the Sex Abuse Treatment Alliance (SATA) requesting treatment, because I’m not getting it here. SATA works on issues of sexual abuse and its prevention, and runs “Sex Offenders Restored through Treatment (SORT), an outreach program for incarcerated abusers and their families. SORT works to promote restoration of people who have sexually offended by establishing alternatives to incarceration; and to foster a sense of community, responsibility, and concern between offenders nationwide through correspondence with people incarcerated for sex offenses and the SATA-SORT Newsletter.” Sex Abuse Treatment Alliance, P.O. Box 1022, Norman, OK 73070-1022.

For my brothers and sisters who are in Segregated Housing, Restricted Housing Units, and Solitary Confinement, here is a book to help: Survivors Manual: Surviving in Solitary, a manual written by and for people living in control units, created by the American Friends Service Committee. This book is the prison segregation victim’s BIBLE. Write for a free copy: AFSC Prison Watch Project, 89 Market Street, 6th floor, Newark, NJ, 07102. (Also available for $3 plus $3.50 shipping at Quaker Books of Friends General Conference, 1216 Arch St. #2B, Philadelphia, PA 19107. And for free online at http://www.afsc.org/story/survivors-manual-those-suffering-solitary )

As Human beings, we need nurture and some type of Spirituality. For non-discriminatory interfaith spiritual help, write Human Kindness Foundation- Prison Ashram Project, PO Box 61619, Durham, NC 27715. They provide free books, usually written by the late Bo Lozoff, and a free newsletter. HKF changed my life.

We need to make a change to the laws governing LGTBQ rights and LGBTQ prison issues. There is an old saying- if not me, Who? If not now, When? If we all work together, and fight this oppressive system, victory will be ours! I have strong faith that soon We Shall Be Free!!

Well, family, I must say goodbye for now. I love you all! Peace out Family, my Peeps.

Your Brother,
Tom aka Gizmo, Pennsylvania

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