Saturday, December 8, 2012

Knowing that you do not belong, can be a tough pill to swallow

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I had an epiphany yesterday. I had left the office with John and we have about a 15 minute walk from our office to the point of entry to our dorm. Usually that 15 minutes turns into 45 minutes because we are stopped every 20 feet or so by random inmates so that they can ask us questions about the yard. On this day, I fell behind John and took a moment to study this great friend of mine. John is arguably the best friend that I have ever had since being in prison.

We are by appearances, the ‘odd couple’, but only if you see us as inmates. He is white and straight. I am, for all intent and purposes, black and gay. He is a South Beach Miami native and I am from San Francisco. We have each other’s secrets though and that is the binding factor. The both of us were brought up in cultured and educated families. We have the same interests and enjoy each other’s humor. Then we come back to the secrets. The biggest secret is that we both have strong Jewish ties within our families and well, that would be a serious problem for us in this place. Secretly, we also both find half of the people that we pretend to like, disgusting. Last; we both know that we do not belong in this place.
Now, for me, I have a reputation of being someone who has really pushed down the barriers in this environment. Because I am openly gay and multiracial (half black/half white; a lighter shade of brown), raised in an upper class family with little or no connections to the streets or gangs that run them, I should not ever be permitted to hold a “position” on a prison yard. I should be scoffed at, made fun of and told to stay in my place. I have worked hard at creating my own niche’ and developing my reputation. I have also maneuvered my way into making very good friends with the convicts who run the show that most are afraid of. All of these things have aided my survival. It took a tremendous amount of work, and a considerable degree of maintenance. Trust when I say, very few others can successfully pull this off.  I am alone though. I know that I do not belong here. These guys who have accepted me, and at times even protected me, have no real idea of who I am. It is sad, scary and unnerving all at the same time.

It occurred to me that I have in turn, taught John how to successfully operate in the same fashion. When I met John, he was reclusive and everyone believed he was soft. Now, he is seen as a man with a plan. I feel as if I have been unfair to him because now, he will continue being this new version of John for the rest of his incarceration. I paved the way for him, because the head of his people (the whites) is a good friend of mine, and as soon as the bond between John and I was noticeable, everyone’s attitudes changed toward him. As soon as John became aware of that shift, I began teaching him. He is very capable, but I have explained to him that popularity in here, can be very dangerous and incredibly exhausting as well.
The best way that I can explain it is; if a shy, quiet type in high school becomes friends with the a very popular kid, things will ultimately change for that quiet, shy kid. The same dynamic occurs in here.

Not too many people can claim that they have created their own acceptance. Do I belong? I suppose I do, but only under false pretenses. I am not sure if that is something that I should be proud of.

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