Some of you may or may not know that I have recently taken on a new position with one of the prisons located here in the central valley. This being part of the reason I (Gay Porterville) have been so quiet lately and for that I apologize but am looking to get back on track and more active here pretty quickly.
Anyway, back to my initial posting…
I’ve have friends and family members who work within the prison systems and I’ve heard many different perspectives from them all. Unfortunately, none of the perspectives I had an opportunity to hear and brace myself for were none from a gay person’s perspective. I still went in with enthusiasm that this would still be a place of progressive office politics…It wasn’t until after I had been there a few weeks that I would realize how wrong I was!
For those of you who have met me you already know that I don’t exactly scream “LESBIAN IN THE HOUSE” in my appearance. I don’t attempt to hide it or dim down my gay. I am very proud of my sexuality just most people assume I am hetero and being that is my place of employment I don’t necessarily feel that my personal life has anything to do with work.
The department I work in is the center for control of infectious diseases so inmates will come to our office periodically to receive various vaccines for treatment and preventative measures. Some of the inmates that come in through our office are transgender and some are of a more effeminate nature. These two types of inmates/patients are usually what prompt the comments and remarks from those I share a small office with.
In a casual conversation with the head RN in my office she mentioned her mom lived in Palm Springs and how she doesn’t like going out there because of all the gay’s and their AIDS. A CNA in my office made remarks about a transgender inmate referring to her as a he-she, a grown man with tits, and while the CNA was making these remarks other person’s in the office jumped in with “that’s just wrong” and “girrrl, he’s just made he wasn’t born that way”.
Weeks went by and the comments never seemed to die down. It was a special focal point of ridicule when we would have a transgender person come through our doors for treatment. I understand these people are inmates and are probably in prison for a valid reason but they are still “family” and who doesn’t have that one family member who is always getting in trouble?? They are still people! I still felt offended! I began feeling stressed out. I felt uncomfortable in my work place. I saw each remark made in the office as another opportunity missed that I could’ve stood on my desk and screamed I was a lesbian. I felt angry with myself for allowing such stupidity get to me and frustrated that I didn’t have the courage to stand up for myself and the LGBTQ community.
It wasn’t until one morning they had me come into work at 3am that I decided I did not care what they thought of me. If I had to hear one more ignorant remark or saw one more correctional officer mocking a gay person as if it’s funny I was going to scream. I had already proven myself to be a valuable asset to their department and they have come to respect me as an individual. I came out! One person after the other I began explaining to them how their remarks are insensitive and are offensive to me because I am gay! I first approached the CNA who comes from Compton. I told her that transgender people are not “weird” and they are not he-she’s… the correct pronoun is her. At first she was confused as to why I would be so offended because she told me she has many gay friends and she doesn’t have a problem with them. I politely responded that from a person living in the central valley it is difficult to decipher whether her remarks were coming from a hostile place or not. I then explained to her that the central valley is not L.A. and we are constantly on guard here. Her response was that she didn’t realize that the area was like that for gay people and apologized.
My next feat was the head RN in my office. I was a little stressed out about this one because I had already casually mentioned things to her previously about my partner so I knew she had some idea but she still proceeded to make comments about the LGBTQ community…not to mention she is my make shift supervisor. I began by telling her more about me as a person. I told her how my relationship with a woman has very similar characteristics of my past relationships with men. I explained to her that we are just regular every day people and her comments are sometimes insensitive to me. Due to it being the craziest day ever at work she didn’t get a chance to respond. It wasn’t until the following Monday she told me that when she sees a gay couple she can’t help but think who’s catching and who’s pitching…she then said that it wasn’t until I told her that we encounter the same problems and fight about the same things as our heterosexual counterparts that she then realized how we are just like everyone else!
Yes! Small victories! It is very empowering to be seen and respected for the person I am in the work place. It is very liberating to know how I am setting an example for them as a strong and intelligent person of the LGBTQ community. The correctional officers are my next feat. Wish me luck!!