Saturday, February 28, 2015

‘Alternative Lifestyles and Correctional Officers’

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The politically correct term for the LGBT community within a prison facility is ‘Alternative Lifestyle’. I have to tell you that I HATE that title. I always have and always will. To say that I am classified as an ‘Alternative Lifestyle; makes me feel as if I have somehow chosen this way of life rather than simply being the gay man that I am. It’s an unfortunate truth that I alone will never be able to change that and so, I have learned to swallow a certain amount of pride and simply accept it.

One would think, as a gay man, that all gay men would be a united front within the correctional system. I have touched on this topic previously (see related blog entries below) and explained that we are not in fact united. In fact, we go so far as to divide, segregate and ‘click up’ into our own distinct sub categories. As a reminder to those of you who have not been following this blog since the inception, these are the categories of the ‘Alternative Lifestyles’ in prison:

Gay Men  Guys who work out, excel at sports. Have masculine/heterosexual mannerisms and are generally accepted by the ‘straight’ male inmates without issue. They tend to not associate with anyone in the LGBT community in prison.

Gay Boys  Guys who are effeminate and go out of their way to present themselves as ‘pretty’. They tend to wear form fitting clothing and like to have trysts whenever possible. They are struggling to find their niche of acceptance.

Queens  Guys who present themselves as female and take on pseudo female nicknames such as “cocoa”, “Asia”, “Hollywood”, “Candy”, etc. They are a force to be reckoned with and aggressive when travelling in packs. They are comical and entertaining to watch amd I mean that in a very heartfelt way.

Chicks  Guys who are physically transitioning into females. They have  had hormone therapy, implants, injections of Botox and fillers. Since they are not complete in their gender reassignment and still have male genitalia, they are housed with men in general population. In my 13 years, I have only met one Chik and she was only on the yard for a few weeks before being moved. She received multiple disciplinary infractions and was reassigned elsewhere. Beyond that, she was treated well by both inmates and staff.

So, now that you have a baseline, I can address the question of what the dynamic is between correctional officers and the ‘Alternative Lifestyle’ population.

I am not certain what is assumed, but I am here to say that I have never had any issue with staff because of my sexuality. I think, and I can only say this because of the type of questions I receive on this topic, that the public speculation is that gay men are treated terribly by the officers. I have never personally witnessed that behavior. I have seem both officers and the administration personnel go out of their way to ensure safety and comfort for the gay community in prison.

I think that somehow there is a cloud of misrepresentation regarding LGBT inmates and officers. The general, free population hears horror stories of what it is like to be gay in prison. While many of those stories may be true, it is typically not because of the officers, but rather, the fellow inmates. The officers, (at least the ones I have known) treat gay inmates like everyone else – which is a good thing. If nothing else, perhaps I can in this blog post, clear up that misconception for you.

The inmate on inmate issues will forever be present and it really is about the “leader” vs. the “follower” in here. The majority of inmates are followers and they are this way in hopes of being accepted and for their own survival. The leaders are typically narrow minded, and like true politicians, tend to forget the bigger picture. Unfortunately, they do not forgo their own personal beliefs in order to create peace and order among the greater population. If you are curious as to where I stand in this whole mess, well bear this in mind; I have previously been a ‘leader’ (or as they call them in prison: a “Head”). The only reason I was successful in it was because I knew the right people and that I am considerably more intelligent than many of the other inmates. That said, I was able to lead a lot of “thirsty people to water”, in a manner of speaking. What I failed to realize was he huge amount of energy it took from me.

Today, I am an independent. I’m just DAVID . My reputation is pretty solid and because of my prison history, nobody can really tell me what to do. For clarification, I categorize myself into the ‘Gay Men; group. I am guilty in that I do not really associate with anyone else in the GLBT community we are all very different in how we live day to day. Sadly it is also about survival and reputation. It doesn’t make me feel good, but it is what it is.  Consequently, the LGBT community does not care for me or for that matter, any of the other Gay men. I gather that they feel since we do not socialize with them, that we somehow think we are better than them. Perhaps they presume we do not care about them. Simply put, the fact is that we have chosen different paths in how we serve our prison time.

Truthfully, after further analysis, the larger LGBT community may well be stronger than the Gay Men simply because they stand tall exactly as they are. Gay Men, are more accepted by everyone, but perhaps on different terms.
There will never be any way to fix this. It will go on forever – just as it does outside these walls. It is our own fault and we have no one to blame but ourselves. The only thing we have in common is the fact that we continue to be misunderstood. 

Related Posts:

‘An Open Letter to Dan Savage’

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Dear Dan,

I am embarrassed to say that up until today, I had never heard of you or your column. You see, I am incarcerated and, as you might imagine, I have very limited access to many things going on outside of these walls. I have no access to the internet. (This blog is managed on my behalf, by a close friend who acts as my blog master.) 

Today however, I awoke to your interview on CBS Sunday morning. I was instantly intrigued, and with that, came the motivation to write this blog entry. I realize there is a huge possibility that you may never read it, but still, here I am, pen in hand.

You see, it is not every day that someone can cause me to question my own beliefs. I am pretty confident in how I have come to view the world, religion, sex and relationships. I am so sure of myself that I have blogged about there things. Like you, I have even given advice when solicited for it. I like to think I am a forward thinker and that I am open minded. I have never fit into a ‘box’ and have never wanted to. Being a bi racial, gay, Jewish man has always set me apart from most, and I embrace the fact that I am different. There are things however that would make me come across as traditional, specifically, the view I hold on relationships. 

Your segment on TV this morning was structured around your own view of relationships and with that, why you feel the way you do.

“Monogomish” was the term you use to describe your own marriage. At first, I was surprised and put off by it because emotionally I may be in denial when it comes to realistic monogamy. Don’t get me wrong…I want to be monogamous and believe that I can be. If my partner and I do choose to sleep with someone else together in a ménage a trios, or independently, what happens to that commitment to one another? 

The way you explained it was so eloquent and genuine. You are absolutely accurate in saying that when two people commit, they choose to be monogamous. But that doesn’t mean that they would never think about having sex with someone else. I think that, even the most committed of couples think about sex with other people and likely may not want to admit that to one another.

For me, I believe that is my partner had sex with someone else, I would likely want to discuss it, but I may honestly say that it wouldn’t be a relationship-ender for me. Perhaps that fact alone means I have evolved a bit in the relationship category. I don’t know. We are human beings and we make mistakes, etc.. I am a true poster child of what not to do, but that’s life.

At this point, I can tell you that I have a profound respect for your openness and for living your life as authentically as you can. Thank you for that and know that, if nothing else, your segment reached someone in a very unlikely place.


‘Beautiful Men, Different Reasons’

Monday, February 9, 2015

You may feel that as a gay man, I am a connoisseur of men. That may be true when it comes to eyeing the male body in its natural state, however I see beauty in a variety of ways. It is not always driven by my loins or a fantasy of ‘what ifs’. I have found that over time, I have matured and with that, so too has my palate. The following are some of the men whom I find beautiful and intriguing. I am certain that a few of these men may surprise you, but I hope that you can find a mutual appreciate for my reasoning.

Nick Denton, Founder of ‘Gawker’
I saw him speak on TV and he captivated me immediately. I was unaware of his sexual orientation at the time but I loved his sense of realness. He is authentic and humble while still coming across as genius. The man is a risk take and has accomplished great things. I would love to sit with him over coffee one day and just pick his brain. The fact that he is open about his marriage to actor Derrence Washington is only a bonus in my eyes.

Stephen Bishop, Athlete turned actor. (Currently plays opposite Gabriel Union on the hit show ‘Being Mary Jane’)
Physically, I have to say, this man is A++, however he absolutely much deeper than his appearance. He is a thinker and committed to following his gut in life, love and career. He is, without a doubt, the closest to what I would consider to be a ‘spiritual man’. For him, it is clear that he has allowed the serendipitous events of life to lead him in his journey and I applaud him for that.

Dominic Corbisiere, Chef, US Navy Man and Grandfather
He is probably the most influential man in my life. He was an Italian immigrant in every way. As the consummate lady’s man, he could work a room like no other. He was a man of great conviction and lived his life with respect to what is right versus wrong. He taught me to love and to speak through food. In life, he always stayed true even in the ups and downs. I wish I had his peace of mind and ability to always remain calm.

Gio Benetez, ABC New Correspondent
I followed him in the Miami area before he made it ‘big’. He is kind, patient, and has a raw appreciation for the life he has made for himself. There is nothing “celebrity” about him and that speaks volumes about who he is as a man.

Alan Comming, Actor, Activist, Author
In a way, I would have put him 1st on my list, but I am not compiling a “best to least best” list here. I have been a fan of his since he was beginning on stage. Slowly he has given us the privilege of learning more about him and in that, I have found many similarities in how we think. He has gone through many changes in life and come out on top. He inspires me to keep my head up and continue on.

Jason Collins, Athlete, Activist
There have been others before him who have come out as a gay man, and many more will follow. For me, Jason had a different challenge. He was not only a black man, but he was an active, professional athlete. For as long as I live, I will forever remember his ‘coming out’ press conference. I could tell that he was finally choosing himself over everything else as he spoke. I felt it. His journey, at that moment, was so important for Americans. Thank you Jason. You ROCK!!!

Shawn T, Fitness Expert
He doesn’t know this, but he was incredibly influential in my personal decision to focus on fitness as an occupation. He forced me to relate to him without even trying. He is bi-racial, gayu and successful in a field that I hope to excel in. What’s awesome about him is that in all of his successes, he has managed to maintain a sense of normalcy in his life, yet he hasn’t ‘settled’. He makes me fight harder every day in achieving what I want.

Dyson Villarson, Student, Dreamer, Friend
The man has just as much, if not more, drive and ambition than I do. He continues to make me pause and re-evaluate life in terms of what I want and need versus that which other people want and need for me. My appreciation for him has no bounds

‘I am beginning to believe that procrastination is an epidemic’

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Sometimes you have to sit down, take a deep breath, survey the proverbial land and get your bearings again.  It becomes necessary to re-focus your lens again, if you will. What is it that causes us to continue on – while actively (and sometimes subconsciously) choosing to maneuver around the tasks that truly deserve our more immediate attention? For me, more times than not, it is fear. If that is the case for everyone else, I simply do not know.

There is irony in the fact that so many of us will gladly offer our time and energy to help other people deal with their issues and address things in their lives. But when it comes to our own “STUFF” however, it more often than not gets discussed and considered, and nothing ever happens.

A year ago, I mentioned how incredibly frustrating it was for me to sit by and watch the people I care most about, actively choose to not take advantage of their lives, their choices etc.. Innocently, I hadn’t looked in the mirror. Mind you, I was taking control, being productive and living each day as much as I could in this environment. Still, there were things that I actively chose to ignore as well.

I am not ignoring things now. I am embracing everything… even the complex and awkward things. It’s incredibly difficult to do – and it would be so easy to revert back to my ‘ignorance is bliss’ state – but now, it is too late. Now I realize how many things went unattended because of my own personal fear. I do not want to procrastinate things in my life for the wrong reasons. Clearly, it doesn’t do me any good!

I am penning this entry primarily for those who are closest to me. We, as a familial unit have been making some very big changes and I am hoping we can all stand back and agree, that we can’t stop now. It would of course, be easy to do, but I don’t want to take the easy road anymore.

I just hope that those of you who are constant followers of this blog take these words to heart. Regardless of how you choose to receive the message in this entry, it affects everyone.

We as human beings, can always use some motivation. I know I can.