Saturday, May 30, 2015

‘The Boston Bomber’

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The verdict is in: Guilty. And the penalty?  



I must have watched and re-watched this on every news channel over the weekend. People around me would ask how I felt about it and I would say to them that I expected the guilty verdict, but nothing else. What I do not agree with is the penalty of DEATH. When people hear that, they are clearly shocked or confused.

First. Let me say that I am a supporter of the death penalty. I believe there are people who commit heinous acts that need not continue breathing. My issue with the death penalty however, is the process of appeal. Many people live on death row for decades and the appeals cost millions in state tax dollars. I feel that one appeal is certainly warranted but not 3,4 and so on.

In Tsarnaev’s case, I feel he is better suited in some dark, dank cell for the rest of his natural life. He is young, which means he will have a very long time to live in complete isolation. Let me tell you, as someone who was in isolation and a single man cell for years, that it can, and will drive you crazy eventually. 

My biggest concern however, is not for Tsarnaev, but for the victims. The victims will have to relive their experience at every appeal his attorneys file. It is unfair to them. This justice system is meant partially for the victims to have closure and that will not happen if there are 20+ years in appeals. So for those reasons, I hope he does not allow his attorneys to continue in appeals court. It would be idiotic of me to expect him to think of others though and so, for that, I will not be surprised to see this ordeal continue on into the years.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed. No matter what the outcome, we will still remain Boston Strong.

‘Unlikely Friends’

Monday, May 18, 2015

Throughout the months of March and April, I was experiencing a significant amount of disdain for the people I lived around. The particular hut that I lived in was no longer seen as an ‘Honor Inmate’ location and therefore, was used to house anyone. I became acutely aware of the fact that almost everyone around me was smoking the synthetic drug ‘spice’. If they weren’t smoking it, they were friends with others who were.

Spice is an epidemic in prison and I am sure it is outside these walls as well. I am not going to elaborate on drugs in prison because. I assume that my readers are intelligent enough to realize that drugs are a problem here. The unfortunate thing about spice is that it is impossible to test for it in here. It literally makes people act insane and frequently, they simply fall out and stop breathing. All in all, these are not good things – and living around people that partake – was really not a wonderful experience. The ‘Spice Heads’ (as I call them) combined with the drama from work and being on call 24/7, caused me to reevaluate my situation.

I drew the conclusion that I needed to move across the street to Yard 2 and live around individuals that I have not only known for many years (at various prisons), but also, knew that there would be no drama, no spice and a certain amount of camaraderie. This is a much better situation except for one detail. The individuals I live with now are skin heads. When you take that into account, someone like me should not – in any way – be accepted as a friend, or into their fold. I pretty much stand for everything they don’t and you would think that it would be the basis for a big, big problem. Oddly however, it has never been an issue and believe me when I say, that these are not new friendships in the making. I have been friends with a few of them for over 12 years now.

I have debated for awhile on whether or not I should write about this particular subject because I do not want to come across as a total hypocrite to my own people. I also do not want to appear to be a supporter of skin head nation. What I do want to do is to open peoples eyes. We all have different beliefs and ways of life. We all judge and have our limits. Many of us believe we are ‘right' and that others are ‘wrong’. Sometimes, we have no sensible explanation for things and when people ask me how I could possibly be ‘friends’ with these guys, or why I think that they are friends with me, I give the reasons as I see them. Unfortunately, they have never experienced the same things I have and cannot understand what I speak of. For you reading this, I will try to break down the reasons and maybe, just maybe, you will understand why we have come to a place where we accept one another.

Before coming to the North Unit in Florence, I was always unlucky to have been housed in some of the most violent prisons in the state. 95% of the time, I was the only homosexual accepted because of how I carried myself. Also, I have always straddled the proverbial racial fence because of my mixed heritage, of how I speak and behave. My overall prison demeanor has always pretty much been testosterone storming, masculine, and very “take no prisoner” in disposition. Tough characters relate to one another. 

In addition, when you go to war with someone, or in our case a riot – you learn a lot about people in their most vulnerable form. A couple of these guys I am living with now have literally pulled me out of harm’s way because they respect my character. They have fought for me and stood up for me at times when I was unable to do so for myself. That is really the only explanation that I have and all I can hope, is that somehow you can understand how this very unlikely group of friends has developed.

I moved to Yard II on the 21st of April and decided I would rather be at peace, around people I knew and trusted then to stay and deal with the nonsense of where I was.

Since relocating, I have been able to hear myself think. I am not bothered by a bunch of immature inmate shenanigans and a huge bonus here: nobody smokes spice. There are only 200 men living on this particular yard so I have a small circle of friends. Really – that’s all I need.

My new mailing address:
David R McKinney

#169947 YD II - 4E 16

ASPC Florence – North

PO Box 8000

Florence, AZ 85132-8000

Saturday, April 25, 2015

‘Defying the Laws of Categorization’

Monday, April 6, 2015

It’s seemingly impossible to put me inside of a box. It would be easy to say I am a convict, a gay man, a person of color or simply a Jew. There is nothing simple about placing ourselves in a particular category though because, as human beings, we are deeper, more complex that just that. For me, I remember a time when all I wanted to do was ‘fit in’. I think a lot of kids and young adults do. It wasn’t I began to really know and accept who I am, who I wanted to be, that I was happy to be different. Within the 4 categories listed above that people use to define me. there are also inner categories that have evolved. Some, mind you, are black & white. Some, more than not, are very grey. It is for that reason that I believe that the majority of human beings, myself included, have begun to defy the stereotypical laws of categorization.

A Convict: The greater majority of people would think that all convicts are hardened, career criminals lacking in moral fiber in all areas of life. In fact, that presumption is true in only some instances. A great majority of convicts are 1st time offenders who made an very poor decision in life and regret it deeply. Some are guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Others were simply involved with the wrong people, be it romantically or platonically. Then you have men like myself, who have adopted some convict-like institutionalized behavior as a means of survival – but also, maintain a firm grasp on reality and a very strong moral compass. As far as the convict prison population is concerned, I will forever be an anomaly.

A Gay Man: Nowadays saying that ‘I sleep with and am attracted to the same sex’ works, but there is a lot more to the inner workings of being a gay man. The basic stereotype, I believe, is that we all well groomed, fashion forward, effeminate and outspoken. The truth is that the gay community has a number of sub categories such as bears, twinks, leather men, body worshipers, muscle heads etc.. A lot of gay men try to fit into one of these categories and it works for them. It has become apparent to me however, that I do not easily fit into any of them. If I don’t, then I believe it is safe to say that there are many other gay men who do not as well. Somehow, I have bits and pieces of all these categories within me, but I have no idea what it all means. I am pretty meticulous about my grooming but I do have body and facial hair most of the time. I am strong and masculine in my everyday life, but can also be submissive in my private life when called upon. I have worn a harness of two in my day and I do take pride in staying in great physical shape. I also play sports, enjoy the outdoors, getting dirty and a slew of other things that are not typically associated with the gay community.

A Man of Color: It took a very long time for me to stop caring about whether I was seen as a Black or White man. Unfortunately, I have never been accepted entirely by either the Black or White communities. The reasons may seem trivial, but they are real and they continue to happen to most people of mixed race. I have never fit a stereotype of any particular race or ethnic community and that fact became very clear to me when I came into the prison system. I am not Black enough…I have swagger but it comes from confidence rather than from being a Black man. I am not at all interested in Rap or Hip Hop music and lean toward alternative music instead. The Ebonic language is foreign to me most of the time. Racially, my differences, the reasons that I do not easily fit into a category, are the most prevalent. They were also the most tough for me to swallow. Now that I have embraced how I am different and have become proud of it, I can say with confidence that referring to myself as “swirly”, doesn’t bother me a bit

A Jew: Stereotypically, people categorize Jews as being thrifty, large nosed, intelligent, deserving and, for the most part, Caucasian. Some only recognize the Orthodox versus the Secular Jews and that is their prerogative. There are however, a great many converts to Judaism as well. Madonna and Amare Studemeire have both converted, to name a couple. They believe in what works for them, for their own faith. I do the same and I am proud of it. I do not need to shout it out loud it to the world for validation but rather, I will tell people, when solicited, about it. I share it with them with pride because it is what makes sense to me and, it’s what I believe.

You see, I am all of these things, and they make up me as a human being. I am not just a convict, a gay man, a person of color or a Jew. I am proud to not be categorized into a box.

I am proud to be just me.

’50 Shades of Gay’

Saturday, March 28, 2015

I was 10 years old the 1st time I looked into in a gay bar.

My mom and I were walking down Castro Street in San Francisco and doing some boutique shopping. It was a beautiful afternoon. Because the various bars were beginning to get populated, I assume it was probably around happy hour. I recall seeing this gigantic black man standing outside of a door wearing jeans, and what I now know to be a leather harness. His torso looked like a double black diamond alpine ski trail. Loud music was pumping out from inside and I kept seeing bright flashes of color. 

At some point, I wiggled free from mom, jogged up to the door and asked the big guy out front if I could look inside. He smiled a brilliantly warm face back to me and said ‘all right’. He picked me up so I could look into the windows and I saw huge women dancing about on a stage. It looked fun, and I remember wondering why they were so big. The man put me down in front of my mom who had finally caught up to me. She thanked him and he told me that one day, I would be allowed to go inside if I wanted to. I’d only have to wait about 10 more years. 

That club was the Pendulum and it will serve a purpose in my life forever.

As the years passed by I would poke and prod my mom’s gay friends about certain things and began to understand the diverse differences among the gay community. Keep in mind that my mom’s gay friends were RN’s and physicians. They had accomplished great things in their lives with their careers. Still though, when it came to their definition of ‘gay’, they had divided themselves up. The 1st groups I learned about were the “Bears” and the “Twinks”. Since those definitions were based primarily on physicality, it was easy to understand. But even though they were in distinctly different categories, they still socialized together and it wasn’t ever a situation to which there was an ‘us’ vs. ‘them’.

I am certain many will frown upon this, but by the age of 16, I had a fake ID and was hitting the gay clubs whenever possible. I never had sex with anyone, and I didn’t drink alcohol. I would simply dance and absorb the sense of belonging that I felt. It was like being free. Soon, I realized that some bars and clubs tailored themselves specifically to certain lifestyles within the gay community. I discovered that I was most comfortable within the leather and sports themed gay bars. Those establishments were filled with jocks and body worshipers. That experience helped me to realize and understand who I was.

By the time I was 18, I was DJing at one of the hottest gay bars in Scottsdale. It was a jock bar and I had developed good friendships with the staff and owners there. I was very in tune with all that was going on as far as drug use and prostitution. These were things that were also happening at straight clubs, but I never liked the way it looked, specifically, I never liked the way it made the gay community look. For me, my friends learned early on to never pass the marijuana to me because it would put me to sleep instantly. Since I love my sleep, cocaine or crystal meth were absolutely unappealing to me. So, if a lot of drug use was occurring around me, I simply accepted it subconsciously and continued to have my own version of a good time. I was still very young and naïve, but I was evolving quickly at the same time.

The one thing I remember most however, was the sense of belonging and camaraderie, It didn’t matter what lifestyle within the LGBTQ community you represented, you were accepted. More than that – you were supported. I am certain that there was judgment, cattiness and bad behavior amongst some, but I was afforded the privilege of not having to associate with those people.

Today, at 34 years of age, I have a decidedly different outlook on the LGBTQ community. Most importantly however, I miss them. I miss the feeling of belonging because I have been the odd man out in prison for so many years.

In my experience, those from the LGBTQ community who come into the prison system are perhaps more damaged, more lost than most. Many of them are HIV positive, have incredibly high levels of dug addiction and are willing to do just about anything for a dollar. It is sad and upsetting. The majority adopt female names regardless of the fact that there is nothing even remotely feminine about them.

In the beginning of my incarceration, I used to try to befriend other gays in prison, but it truly never worked out. I was quick to discover that many of them simply wanted me to be their financial supporter. Additionally, because I knew how to fight and defend myself, they also wanted me to act as their protector. (Unfortunately, most of them do not exactly abide by the rules willingly...) So, for my own sanity, I began to retreat from them. 

Soon enough, many of the gays began to view me as a threat and, as time passed, that sentiment was spread throughout the prison system. It was clear to me that because I presented myself as a ‘man’, because I was sober and didn’t fool around with other inmates, that I was somehow projecting myself as ”better” than them. In response, I began to judge and discriminate against them because I believe that their behavior was creating the basis for widespread homophobia in prison. Candidly, their drug use, behavior and promiscuity in this environment, embarrassed me as a gay man.

The very idea that I do not want to chance befriending any other gays I come in contact with - speaks volumes. I can’t say that all gay men in prison are like this, because I know that surely cannot be true. I simply wish that some of the ones here, in the prisons I have been at, would carry themselves better, or at least try to better themselves. This experience, when it comes to prison, has made me sad and very frustrated as a gay man.

I suppose, at the end of the day, that we, as human beings, are all intrinsically different. Because of our varying orientations, we will not always agree with how we choose to lead our individual lives. I mean, I realize that I am ‘David’, and yes, I am a gay man. That’s all I can be and work on - because the other various shades of gay, well I can’t let that affect me. ‘

Not in prison anyway…