Dear Black & Pink Family,
My name is Charles and this is my first letter to our magazine. I am 28 years old and have been incarcerated since 2007. Being bisexual is hard in prison and trying to keep it hidden is devastating. There are risks that all LGBTQ people suffer and face, but there is no other way we want to be.
We want to be who we are and do not want to hide, and we shouldn’t. I am bisexual and proud of that. Prison is not good for anyone, true; but it takes greater toll on us than many of those incarcerated choose to be aware of. An old saying is that “Who guards the guardians and who watches the watchers.” This came from an old Roman phrase that is translated from its Latin form. This is a major problem with the prison concept and its application: There is nobody watching those who hold the lives of the prisoners in their hands; no system of checks and balances.
I am a young man with an old soul and often portray a wisdom and maturity that is far above that degree shown by many people my age. Sadly, this tends to leave me isolated and lonely. In prison this is worse.
On top of being bisexual and convicted of an SO offense, I suffer from a developmental social disability known as Asperger’s Syndrome. It is part of what is referred as the autistic spectrum, however, it is not the same as being autistic. The major difference is that autism is a disability that has a very isolative and anti-social desire; whereas Asperger’s is a disability which displays “normal” or “higher” degrees of intellectual adeptness and a desire for social interaction. However, while Asperger’s patients crave social interaction, there are issues we face with interpretation of social cues. In my case, I have a “high function” Asperger’s diagnosis. I am highly intelligent, very inquisitive, and observationally astute. In prison the traits are dangerous to possess, because the staff really hate it when you maybe—or are—smarter than they are. Oops, can’t have that. Worse, however, is that I am also possessed of a tenacity and persistence that shames much else. When I latch onto an issue, I won’t stop until I am satisfied with the result.
These traits do not make me very well-liked. Indeed, they are very difficult for those who choose to be my enemies to overcome and accept. They also make me rather abrasive and irreverent. I love a good argument, but I dislike violence strongly. I avoid it if it is at all possible. That is not good in prison as people tend to think that you are a pushover if you exhibit control—particularly other inmates.
Prison is unfortunate and is a massive place of suffering and those who run these human sweat shops would rather view us as animals than as humans. In 7 plus years, I have learned that well. Psychologically, it makes it easier for them to disregard their harmful actions to see prisoners as lesser beings. I am big on the concept of analogy as it is very effective. In this case, go back to World War II and consider the racist slurs used by American GIs for the enemy. Japanese people were “Japs” or “Nips”; Germans were “Krauts”. American troops did this as a subconscious psychological defense in order to kill the enemy without feeling the natural distress of a human killing another human. The slur hid the fact that the enemy is just like you. Prison officials do the same: “Staff” and “Inmate”, “Prisoner”, “Convict”… sound familiar?
I have received the Black & Pink newsletter for about a year now and it is always a joy to read. It is comforting to know I am not alone in my suffering. I love all of you. Your strength gives me courage and hope to continue my battle for justice and to defeat the P.I.C. Many letters I’ve read speak of torment, torture, harassment, and abuse at the hands of prison officials. I am no stranger to that! The problem that I see as the biggest obstacle is a lack of unity in the prisoners. Prisons exploit and encourage that. Prison is a microcosm of the “Class warfare” we see in the outside world macrocosm. Without division of people into gangs, clicks, and such garbage, prisons cease to be justifiable because the conflict does not exist. Prison amplifies this by placing large numbers of people in spaces of insufficient size with too little of every resource.
This encourages competition for resources, which causes conflict and fighting. Such activity is how prison officials justify the abuses and deprivations they employ. It is a self-perpetuating cycle and many prisoners blindly participate. The march to the trough, never aware of the slaughter that awaits them. It is so stupid that I would love to just scream: “YOU IDIOT’S. DON’T YOU REALIZE WHAT IS GOING ON!?!”
The problem is that it isn’t just us, LGBTQ family, that need to unite and face the P.I.C. and its cronies. We are strong, sure, but not THAT strong. We can’t fight this battle and win alone. We need allies. We need to unite not only the LGBTQ community, but all those who share the common ground of desire for change and dismantling the P. I. C. Common ground is what we need. I love you all for giving me hope and strength. When I read what each of you contributes, I know I am not alone and I take heart from that. Brian, in Pennsylvania shot my heart out in the December 2014 paper. He stole the very words that I hold true. His letter is a light for me and proved to be the very support I need and still need now.
So, my family, keep your will strong. Never give up and never give in. Your hope is mine and my hope is yours. We are strong because of each of us, but we are stronger together. We don’t have a local “chapter” of Black and Pink in Wyoming, but I got a card from Sage in Boise, Idaho. I am grateful for that. It was a great gift and I am grateful for your care Sage.
Keep strong my family. Charles, (WY)