In an unprecedented victory for LGBT representation in mainstream media, Netflix’s popular and highly-acclaimed digital TV series Orange is the New Black features Sophia, a character who is an incarcerated trans woman of color played by the outspoken transgender advocate and actress Laverne Cox.
The dramedy portrays the lives of women in an upstate NY prison, a topic with which SRLP is all-too familiar.
Laverne talks bullying in a recent interview with Vibe Vixen, recounting grievous childhood memories from Mobile, Alabama. For many transgender women – especially those who are currently incarcerated – the bullying continues long after grade school.
An SRLP PAC Member, The Peacemaker Laura Nicole Campbell, wrote to us and shared some of her experiences and thoughts as a transgender woman currently placed in an upstate NY men’s facility.
“Untitled Letter,” by The Peacemaker Laura Nicole Campbell.
My personal opinion is that the public media will never portray what it is really like to be Transgender in prison. The hardships and struggles we really face in day to day life. Just today a guy said to me “Hey you, gay guy, can you pass this for me?” He was trying to pass something to someone but with the blatant disrespect he showed by calling me like that I didn’t pass it. If he would have said something like “Hey excuse me but could you pass this for me please?” Shure I would have passed it, but the fact is people do not show that respect to anyone in the GLBTQ way of life. To them it’s all the same.
If you are Bisexual, to them you are gay. If you are Transgender, to them you’re gay. I was out at Rec today and someone I’m actually friends with asked me, “Yo, TJ are you really going to take hormones?” The way he said it kinda hurt my feelings. I answered though, “Yes, I’m going to take hormones when I get out on the street. I’m also changing my name.” He was interested in it like what it does. Me myself am Bisexual Transgender. I’m not even shure about that cause I’ve came to the conclusion that all guys want is a piece of ass. So I may be Lesbian Transgender. I like women but Identify as a woman myself.
But back to my main point. Social or Public media will not portray what it is really like in prison for us. The police calling us faggots and beating us up, stealing our stuff and harassing us. The government doesn’t want the public or the press knowing these things because it makes them look bad. The brutality and abuse we deal with is crazy.
The crazy thing is that it’s not just the police. It’s the fellow inmates also. “Faggot Bitch shut up you don’t deserve to talk, you should just be quiet like a good obedient bitch.” That’s the type of shit I hear every day. People asking me to not stand next to them or to “please stay away from me.” They act like I have the plague or black death or something. I actually had a guy say “I don’t want you around me because you’re gay.” Two days ago I was coming back to my cell from chow and the guy in front of me stopped at the bottom of the stairs and told me to go ahead of him then said to someone else “I don’t want this stupid faggot staring at my ass.” My personal opinion of that is that people are homophobic and/or insecure about their own sexuality.
Dealing with day to day life in prison is hard and depressing. Most of the time when it is portrayed in the media it is turned either into some stupid comedy shit or they don’t tell the whole story. The first two things people ask you on your first day is “Are you a sex offender?” then “Are you Gay?” I don’t judge anyone. Sex offender, Murderer, strait, Gay, Transgender, Lesbian. I don’t care. In prison we are all here together so why don’t we stop going against each other and just do our time and fight against this abusive, corrupt, bullshit system we call a government. Everyone has rights, but for some reason our government always finds a way to get around them then violate you then cover their asses.
I apologize, I’ve gone off track. In prison we deal with a lot of shit. Rape, Abuse, verbal and mental, among other things. We need to fight for our rights as human beings to stop the abuse and stop the Rape and stop the trash talk although everyone has freedom of speech. All I can think of for the talk is to ignore it. But we need to fight for our rights to be treated as human beings.
I will quote Sylvia Rivera. “I’m not missing a minute of this, it’s the revolution.” Now I will add to it. We need to fight for justice and freedom from this oppressive government. But also above all we need to make peace between people. We need to make a world where strait people, Gay people, Transgender people, Bisexual people all live in peace and harmony. The best way to show what we go through in prison is to have us tell our experiences ourselves. It sucks in here, Period. And I tell you this as a friend, if you are gay or transgender don’t come to prison. I speak out of experience. Prison for us is like Hell to a religious person. I don’t know if it is like that for everyone, but I know it was like that for me. I’m going home soon and I will fight for peace. I’ve made vows to do that. I vow to be oneness. I vow to be diversity, I vow to be harmony, I am a Peacemaker and I will not rest until there is peace.
The Peacemaker Laura Nicole Campbell
The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination or violence.
This blog, which features letters from our Prisoner Advisory Committee (PAC) members, is just one way we overcome the enormous state-created barriers to communication and political participation for the people who are most affected by the prison system.