How does someone survive in a “male” prison when their mannerisms and identity differ from the hyper-masculine norm? One incarcerated member of SRLP gives us the scoop on a supportive “gang” that keeps watch over the safety of its members, who each identify outside of their prison’s macho majority.
Warning: The following letter discusses topics such as emotional, verbal and sexual abuse, and has not been edited in any way. Proceed with caution if you may be triggered by these topics.
“True Gay Gangstas,”
by Robert “Rabi” Cepeda.
It is not easy being Gay in prison. Several years ago, I was talking to a queen named Nova in Elmira Correctional Facility. She relayed to me how a guy told her she was weak to be a “faggot” in prison. She told him that the fact she could be around so many homophobic men who constantly shun her and give her dirty looks and still maintain her feminine attitude shows she instead is the strong one.
That conversation has always stuck with me because it is the truth. I have been gay my entire adult life. I have attended balls, gay parades and have always been proud of who I am. I was not going to change that when coming to prison even though I knew there would be hardships on the way.
In several facilities I have always done my best to organize the girls into a sense of community. Prisons are flooded with gangs like the Bloods and Crips. So we had our clique too. I called it T.G.G. which stood for The Gay Group (or Those Gay Girls, Them Girlie Guys, or my favorite, True Gay Gangstas). In addition to Pig Latin, which some guys knew, we even had our own codes to converse and keep each other on point. For instance, if someone was around us who was homophobic and a known “gay basher,” the code was “rainbow eyes,” which meant: be alert, watch this guy. Even Wendy Correctional Facility had a group called The Pink Mafia.
While I do not advocate gangs, I do believe we have to stick together and protect one another, because the correctional officers will not, and even encourage or allow prisoners to harass, intimidate, rob and assault transgender and gay prisoners. As a group, the troublemakers think twice before trying it because they know if they mess with one they have to deal with all of us. My friend Nova was raped in Attica when she first came to prison, and nothing was done by the guards or the administration. So I will always stand up for the LGBTQ community because there is no justice, there’s just us.