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Letters to Our Family (June 2016)

To everyone in the LGBTQ Community,

I would like to reach out and 1) say thank you for all of your time that you have put into the Black & Pink newspaper. It is all encouraging to see that there are people out there who understand and know exactly what I am going through. It’s excellent that there are newspapers, magazines, and all the resources that help us when we need it. And 2) The poems, letters, pictures, and thoughts are Amazing and thoroughly interesting. They have gotten me started to express myself in more ways than just writing letters. I now write poetry, lyrics and I also draw. At one point in time I Thought that I was alone in this world of “Str8 people.” I was hated, harassed, beat up, twice, tormented, disowned by my own family, and illegally contained by law enforcement. I was literally put through Hell. Then someone put the Black & Pink magazine/newspaper in my hands. And I read it from front to back. It opened my eyes to a hole new world. It has given me ways to cope with all the torment, hate, disregard, and threats that come from all the “Str8” inmates and C.O.s. I want to also say that it has helped me to understand why people act this way towards our community.

I forgot to mention that I am a 27-year-old bisexual man who likes men more than women. Don’t get me wrong I still like to be with women. But I find that men know exactly how to treat another man. They also know how and what to do to please another man. Since I have been here in Montana State Prison I have met quite a few Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender inmates. And yes we have all stuck together, no matter what. In this prison we are a tight knit community. So once again I want to say thank you immensely for all the positive things that each and everyone one of you have put in to Black & Pink. Now I would like to offer some encouraging words, thoughts, and feelings to those of our community who have struggled and are continuing to struggle with all of the road blocks that are being placed in our way. Now I am still dealing with people who hate and torment the LGBTQ community. So I am not saying that I have overcome all obstacles, because I haven’t. But I will say this. I have learned of ways to ignore, block out, and deal with each and every attack. So here is my words, thoughts, and feelings.

On the topic of abuse (whether it’s verbally, physically, sexually, mentally) by all those in the law enforcement. My adoptive mom has always taught me that no matter what happens if you ignore them and show that it doesn’t bother you, they will leave you alone. Well for the most part it is true. Not always but mostly. But I look at it this way. Out of the “Str8” individuals about 75% of them that tease, torture, and harass us, is because they are in the closet and afraid to Come Out. Remember: people can’t make us angry. We only let them push our buttons. We have to show them that what they say and do can’t and won’t affect us. Another thing that I have learned is an expression passed down from another man. He said to think of this phrase and repeated it over and over until it is embedded in your Mind. The phrase is “This too Shall pass.” My adoptive mom also taught me “to do as thy will and it harm none.”

So stay positive, help your fellow LGBTQ peers and know that for every action there is a reaction. For every positive action is a positive reward. And every negative behavior has a negative consequence. I am very proud to be part of a community who has each others’ backs no matter what. I want to wish all my fellow LGBTQ inmates and “free world” people all the best.

And I also wish to let every one know, who has lost someone in that Florida Club shooting, that each and every one of you are in my prayers. Even though I was locked up here at Deerlodge Montana State Prison, it still hurt my heart to know that someone could be so ignorant. I have been part of the LGBTQ Community since I was 13 years old and Since then I have watched a lot of “Str8” individuals just destroy our hopes, lives, well beings and our Freedom. But I say NO MORE! We deserve happiness, love, companionship, freedom, compassion, loyalty and the right to be equal. We have to fight for what we deserve and want. We got to stop letting people walk all over us like we are a welcoming mat on a front stoop. Because we are humans, and we deserve to be treated as an equal person.

I hope to meet more of my fellow community when I get out/released from this prison. I discharge July 25th, 2018 so I hope to see a positive change, even if it is a little one. Because nobody is perfect and change is slow. It doesn’t happen in one time. So stay positive, “Do as thy will an harm none” and remember This Too Shall Pass. I will everyone a happy, positive, and stress and drama free holidays, whether you are locked up for free.

Peace be with all of you, and Blessed Be,
Nemo (MT)

 

Dear Black & Pink,

My name is DH which is my birth name but, I go by my real name which is Ellis. I am writing this letter in regards to transitioning in prison. I have been in transition since October 2016 which has only been six months. I have lived my life behind the mask of society’s ridicule and judgement for 38yrs of my life. I came to prison very unsure of myself in this body but, I never stopped trying to find a way to accomplish my goal of being my true self and living in a body that matched.

I wrote to the ACLU and to LAMBDA LEGAL, and to Washington State’s very own Columbia legal services to assist me in this fight against Washington Correctional Facility for Women and their old conservative beliefs about what is considered ‘medically necessary.’ If I had to choose between being what the system claims is normal and being a trans man I would choose what I considered my normal and that is being a man. I asked all of those places for assistance in helping me get hormone therapy through my facility which was a fight in itself and to no avail the fight was left to my mental health provider who did his magic and made it happen. I am very grateful to my doctor but, he had to fight with his cohorts to prove I displayed gender dysphoria.

Without the help from these places that claim they are fighting for the rights of prisoners, fighting for the rights of the LGBTQ community and also the rights of human beings. I am very upset about the responses that I received from these places because the excuses were that my case was individual and not big enough and it wasn’t a systematic problem. I thought to myself well what does that mean? I don’t just fight this fight for my self but for the many trans men who don’t have the right words, self confidence, or the courage to fight the system. I am not afraid to voice my needs. The fight I am fighting right now is not for just myself but for all Washington State inmates male and female to receive ‘medically necessary’ gender reaffirming surgery.

The State Department of Corrections offender health plan contradicts itself when it comes to deeming SRS medically necessary and not medically necessary by stating that the OHP follows the WPATH standards of care which states that SRS is medically necessary but then in the OHP states it is cosmetic surgery and is not medically necessary.

I have looked for policies to assist me in this fight but, the only policy that has any verb age with transgender in it is the PRISON RAPE ELIMINATION ACT. PREA. Does anyone realize that the only thing that the prison is worried about is if I am assaulted by inmate or staff or attacked verbally? What about the unfinished transition that they refuse to complete, doesn’t that set me up inside the walls to be a potential victim upon release into the community? Without the second step in my transition which would be top surgery how does it make sense for me to live a year in my new body and get approval for bottom surgery when I am clearly walking around with breast and a beard? Isn’t that confusing to society not to mention disturbing to myself? At this moment I feel deformed and like my body doesn’t match. The more testosterone that enters my system the more I feel like my self then I look at my body and feel the gut punch to the stomach at what I see. I am still stuck in is limbo. I am so furious at these places like the ACLU, and the Lambda legal for not jumping at the chance to take on the Department of Corrections conservative beliefs about Transgender individuals. Washington State inmates have rights to transition, won’t we get the help of our own state’s ACLU or Lambda legal so that we won’t be left behind California, Oregon, Vermont? I just want to be free on the inside and outside. I want to match.

Thanks for listening.
Ellis (WA)

 

To All of our B&P Family,

I just want to tell you all to keep your head up and never give up or give in, there’s a brighter day ahead and you don’t know what tomorrow will bring, sounds cliché, but it’s true. Also to those of you who are separated from your loved ones, stay strong and fight for it, give it all you got because it works out in the end. I don’t know what types of things you have been through, but if it’s worth it you got to fight, and when you feel down and feel like giving up or checking out early from this life, remember all of those who gave everything for us to be who we are and those who lost their loved ones to hate and those who have gone through the same type of horrible things you have…you’re not alone… even if your locked in the hole and you and your someone are apart. Your part of a bigger family and as long you really love each other, you keep each other in your heart… The people we love, I mean truly love become a part of who we are. Those of you in lock down I send luv and prayers out to you and hope that you will stand up and be strong for those you love and not let anyone keep you down.

much love and many prayers,
Mato Witko Oka (AZ)

 

Dear Black & Pink,

I wanted to pour my thoughts to you, to show you what Black & Pink really means to me. I was sitting in my cell tonight, and I received a holiday card from you. I really have tears in my eyes. I don’t have family to get cards from. I been on my own since I was 14 years old, when I told my Catholic parents I was gay. Since then I was on the streets. I didn’t know better, and I caught a prison bid. I have 7yrs left. I have really grown up, I won’t mess up again. I am 25 years old. I just want to find a good gay community, and do something good with my life when I get out. *I hate straight people.* I will only ever now, put my faith in the gay-nation. And the LGBT community will always stay strong, no matter where anyone is at, because of organizations like you.

I have been receiving mail now, from you, since the beginning of 2016. I read the magazine, and really learn from my gay-brothers and sisters, that are in them. I really try to, everyday, to keep my head-up. There are days, where I really want to break-down and give up hope, because I live in a deep black hole at this time, *but* when I read your articles, and when I see how your love is, for every gay man, and woman, I tell myself, it would be wrong to give-up because you won’t give up on a man like me. Black & Pink are leaders, for people like me, so it wouldn’t be fair to you, if I gave-up my hope and soul, because then I would be not only disappointing you, but the *whole* gaynation also. And I could never do that.

Everybody makes mistakes, but I deserve a 2nd chance. With out people like you, gay people in prison wouldn’t stand a chance. I can’t tell you how much I owe you. One day, when I get out in 2023, I am going to Boston, and I will pledge my heart and soul to your headquarters, to making and helping you guys continue to make the gaynation and even stronger nation for the future.

I wish there was a way, to set up pen pals with great gay-community leaders, that you guys are in contact with. I don’t get money, from the outside, so I can’t pay for a pen-pal account. I just want to be in contact with gay-leaders, because I want to show them that I could be a big help when I leave, and show the young gay men and woman that they should be on the right track. I want to help the ones in different community, who are lost, find their way back. I don’t want them to go through what I am going through.

That is one of the biggest reasons I love, Black & Pink, because you guys, are showing how much you really care, and how you let people like me, share my pain, and not judge me.

I really love the card you have sent me for the holidays. I love Bears. I really hope I touched your guys heart, with the words in this letter, like you guys touched my heart, by showing me how much you care. with much honor, and great love, your #1 follower, *my heart and soul*, is given to all my brothers and sisters, in the Black & Pink community,

Alexa (NY)

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