Monday, January 15, 2018

A Message From Sisk: Always Be True To Yourself

Our world is host to many toxic, dangerous environments for transgender individuals, and among them, prison is one of the worst. Chances are, if you are transgender and sentenced to prison, you will not be sent to a prison that matches your gender. The best you can hope for is that the prison staff and your fellow inmates will be supportive, but that is rarely the case.


Just like the world on the outside, prison denies trans people their identities, or otherwise forces them to hide their identities to avoid severe risk. Guards will intentionally dead-name trans inmates and use incorrect pronouns. Trans people tend to be a running joke among other inmates, and are often isolated from socialization. What's worse is that, more times than not, trans inmates must face the majority of their sentence in administrative isolation for their own safety.


All of this is still true today, and fortunately, a fight for acceptance is happening both in prisons across the United States as well as the outside world. Farrah is a part of that fight, both inside and out.

"There are a lot of people in this world that you can betray, but if there is one person in this world you should never betray, it's yourself." --Farrah (Sisk)


For those who are unaware, Farrah is a transwoman (post HRT) who has been confined to a male prison yard in Arizona. She frequently writes to us about the deplorable conditions she faces daily. However, she continues to thrive in such an oppressive environment by holding on to her identity despite the hardship, and in a recent letter, she encourages you to do the same. Today, we share that letter with you:


Remember to always fight for yourself. You know who you are, and you deserve to be that person on the outside just as much as you are on the inside. You may not be all the way to where you need to be, and that's okay. These things do take time, especially with all the hardship the world can throw at you.


I wish I could describe the glee I experience when I hear about the people I know out there who are exploring their true identity. There can be a lot of risk stacked against such exploration and sometimes it can take a fuck-ton of courage to stand up to that risk and say, "You know what? This is who I am, and this is who I'm going to be." And so when I get news that someone is affirming their identity, changing their name, starting hormones, or even just changing their look, it's a huge deal!


I'm on a journey of my own here, and I'm growing to be a stronger, more assertive person. That's the person I am on the inside, and that's the person who is going to get me through this. Through both my journey and yours, it's the little things that make all the difference.


That's a wonderful thing, you know? You have no idea the true scale of how much the little stuff matters. Like pronouns! Being acknowledged as female is a little thing that reinforces my identity, and solidifies it to the point that I have a trustworthy foundation to build my self-esteem upon. Someone referring to me as "him" has zero bearing on what I can do as a person, but all those little paper cuts can, and do, add up to a lot of misery, not being acknowledged as who you see yourself as, and transgender men and women have turned away from or even lost their lives due to no one wanting to see them for who they are. They never had a chance to build a foundation of identity because those around them made them second-guess even building a foundation in the first place. Others wanted them to build their foundation upon a place that their soul and mind could not support, as if they were building on sand. And that's a big fucking tragedy.


Thankfully, I'm a stubborn bitch who doesn't know any better, and though I'm in a hyper-masculine environment, I not only refuse to let a place as dangerous as prison impinge upon my identity, but I also refuse to "take advantage" of the fact that I'm female, because, although in some weird strategic sense that might be a good move, it's not who I am either.


I dug in, and people took notice. Not everyone uses female pronouns with me, but for the ones that do, it's an outside step for them. A few weeks ago, I had a guy comment to me that out of all the "transgenders" on the yard, I was the only one that he actually thinks of as female; this is a guy who is squicked out by the idea of trans people. And he's not the only one. There are others who use female pronouns with me, and not for the other trans women here.


Why? Who the fuck really knows. Everyone says because I act like a woman (whatever that means), but I didn't run around the yard demanding to be recognized. I just was, and it's a decent hypothesis that I earned that by not compromising who I am. Some stuff is subject to politics, some stuff is necessary to compromise on, but an identity is not among them.


In short: just be you. It's okay to nervous about stuff, but never ever think for one moment that you can't be who you are on the inside. Others may be against you, the world may push back at times, but you are your own person; you are you, and that's the most important thing, the part of yourself that you should never betray. If you dig in for your identity, I will always support you, and there are thousands upon thousands of others out there that will accept and support you too.


Please keep exploring who you are. Go out there and buy some dresses, get a manly haircut, or whatever suits you. If you need to change your name to a better fit, do it. If you need to start a dialogue with a gender counselor to find yourself, do it.


Don't make excuses. It's never to late to start this journey. You CAN be the person you feel like, whether that person is the manliest of men, the sweetest of women, or somewhere in between. It doesn't matter what you started as. All it takes is that first step forward and dedication to yourself.


You can do it!


--Farrah "Siskmarek" Barney





Monday, December 11, 2017

Season's Giving: Gift Ideas for Sisk

Our team recently announced on Twitter (@SaveOurSisk) that Farrah had a CD player and could receive CD's via direct-from-publisher mail. The response to this news as astonishing, with many wanting to know how to set up orders and what music Farrah was interest in. Luckily, Farrah has provided us with a list so we don't have to guess:

(These items are not listed in any particular order; Highlighted items have already been claimed.)

  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force OST
  • Basshunter
  • ABBA
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou OST
  • Johnny Cash
  • The Land Before Time OST
  • Signs OST
  • Empire of the Sun
  • M83
  • "Anything that lets me Rickroll someone"
  • Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon
  • Men Without Hats
  • Credence Clearwater Revival
  • Undertale OST
  • Grand Budapest Hotel OST
  • Axis of Awesome
  • Monty Python: Life of Brian OST
  • Team America OST
  • Flash Gordon OST
  • Millennium Actress
  • The Martian OST
  • Sweeney Todd Demon Barber OST
  • Katamari Damacy OST
  • Journey
  • Oblivion OST
  • Mad Max Fury Road OST
  • Interstellar OST
  • MLP: Friendship is Magic OST
  • Guardians of the Galaxy OST
  • Swiss Army Man OST
  • Book of Eli OST
  • Bubba Ho-Tep OST
  • Children of Dune OST
  • Tron: Legacy OST
  • Joe Satriani
  • Armin van Buuren
  • Contact OST
  • Indiana Jones OST
  • FTL (The Video Game) OST
  • Les Miserables (The new one) OST
  • Solaris OST
  • Tenacious D
  • An American Tail: Fievel Goes West OST
  • The Prince of Egypt OST
  • Lady in the Water OST
  • Dropkick Murphys
  • Tigerlillies
  • Andrew WK
  • Sunshine OST
  • "Classical Music BS"
  • Weird Al
  • Lordi
  • Flogging Molly
  • Transistor OST
  • Portal OST
  • Nine Inch Nails
  • Random J-pop or K-pop "for the lulz"
  • "Any awesome video game music"
EDIT** Vulpine Media pitched in and created this COMPREHENSIVE LIST of what CDs are available at Walmart.com and where your can find them.


Reminder that these must be purchased and ship from Walmart.com with purchase receipt enclosed, and all parts of Farrah's shipping address must be included in the order. Otherwise the order will be rejected by the prison. Orders from Barnes and Noble, Ebay, and Amazon are also currently being rejected. You cannot send personally owned media to the prison; all media must be mailed directly from the publisher.

Further reminder that you can also send books to Farrah using the same rules as above. However, we do not have a list of books to send at this time.

Finally, and most importantly, Farrah likes to hear from all of you, and you can send holiday cards in the mail. This is great if you still want to send something while sticking to a budget. A note reminding Farrah that she's in your thoughts is still the best gift she can receive.

As always, thank you all for your unending support. We are continually impressed with the kindness you provide, and Farrah is grateful to have you by her side.

--SSG Ops.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Stories from Sisk: A Life in Prison


There is a guy in here named Frank. I won't say what he did, but he's in here for life.
 
He's pretty old, and has already survived several heart attacks. He was almost given up on with the last one, but one of the nurses on this yard kept helping him when everyone else was ready to declare him dead. He actually did "die." His heart stopped, but they got it going again.
 
Frank has spent most of his life in prison, but that did not stop him from getting married. He has a prison penpal. They fell in love over letters. She would visit him. They finally tied the knot ... and had been together for 37 years, until her death.
 
Burglars broke into her home while she was still there. They beat her, broke her legs. She survived the encounter, but shortly there after she died from an infection related to the injuries suffered in that attack.
 
That was five years ago. Aside from the letter from her son telling him of her passing, he has not received another letter from another soul ever since. He hasn't sought another penpal.
 
Her kids hated Frank. They blamed him for their mother throwing her chance at love and a normal life away by marrying a man who would live the rest of his natural life in prison. She snapped back, though. She said it was her life, she loved him, she married him, and that was that.
 
-----
 
I run into that guy nearly every day while picking up my meds. Some days he's in a wheelchair, other days he's got enough fight in him to make his way around with a cane.
 
I think about his story, and the stories of so many others on the yard. There are some I know that I'm like, yeah, they were right to send you here. Others are down to bad, dumb decisions. It doesn't excuse them, of course, but I have a lot of respect for the guys who own their crime, and try to better themselves.
 
But some need extra help, and that is what I spend most of my waking moments doing: counseling, advising, support.
 
Many of these guys are all but forgotten, so someone has to. They're people too, and they all have stories.


--Farrah B.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

We Stand With Sisk

 
 
A video project put together by Farrah's fiancĂ©, and her many friends and followers, showing their support.
 
We stand with Farrah because she stands with us.

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Great American Eclipse - Be There Aug 21st!





Farrah is an avid fan of space exploration and astronomical phenomena. She would follow SpaceX launches, ISS experiments, and progress towards Mars missions with great interest. This month she would like to remind everyone that a total solar eclipse will be passing through the U.S. -- an event which has not happened since 1979.


 

 

She wants to encourage all of you, especially those who will be near the path of totality, to step outside and watch it! If you are in the path of totality, you won't get another chance in your area for 375 years, so don't miss it or you'll have to wait a long time! For all the info on where it will occur and how to safely view it, you can visit NASA's site.

 


Letter from Farrah - RE: Go see the eclipse!
(click to read) 
 

Don't forget that Farrah loves to hear from you, and would enjoy talking about space with you over snail mail, too!
 
--Chris M.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Sisk Status - An Update on Farrah in Prison

It's been more than two months since Farrah was sent to Central Arizona Correctional Facility, a private prison owned and operated by the GEO Group.

 
 
Sadly, but fortunately, Farrah has become used to incarceration and adapts quickly to the environment. As with her stay in jail prior to this, she has established herself as a friendly asset among inmates, drawing artwork for all who ask, giving them something more than just written letters to send out to their loved ones. Letters from Farrah tell stories about interesting characters she has met there, including a grizzled man with much street experience who acts as her personal trainer as she gets fit in the 120F Arizona heat, a furry whose awkward start in the fandom may have found him more trouble than good, but he hasn't lost his spirit, and the ever diverse members of the LGBTQ group who help support Farrah and her needs during her stay.
 
Farrah has been working with the other inmates to address certain issues regarding LGBTQ care. Especially when it comes to the T, the prison often seems to be ill-suited to deal with LGBTQ needs. As of now, there seems to be no mechanism for having access to more than one bra in a male facility, regardless of bodily needs. Repeated attempts to purchase an additional bra from commissary have failed and now the issue has reached the attention of the warden and supply officer for the prison. Time will tell if an amicable resolution can be achieved. The prison also seem uncertain on how to address strip search policy when it comes to Trans individuals. The Prison Rape Elimination Act states that inmates have a right to request searches be administered by an officer of similar gender. However, the prison policy on this is fluid at best and these requests are not always met. That said, the situation appears to be improving as the issues are reported and these shortcomings in treatment are being addressed, albeit slowly. 
 
Outside of prison, SaveOurSisk has been working hard to keep up with managing Farrah's artwork. She makes a lot of work for us, but we're more than happy to see the rate at which she mails out new material. Last month, the team established a Patreon to collect donations that would allow us to continue promoting, processing, and funding Farrah's work. We're happy to report that, in only 2 weeks, we received enough pledges to ensure that Farrah's art will continue to have a place on the internet where all can see. With more pledges incoming we're able to improve our processes, dedication, and resources that help Farrah. And for those kind enough to offer a pledge, exclusive behind-the-scenes content will be made available on the Patreon gallery. Finally, as a way of saying thank you to everyone for their ongoing support Farrah will be releasing a definitive art guide in the next few weeks.
 
We're also seeing an exciting amount of gift art being created for Farrah by those following and supporting her on Twitter. For those unaware, SoS coordinates a biweekly mailer that gets sent to Farrah twice per month. If you mention @SaveOurSisk on your work, we will gladly include it our next mailer and feature it on our platform. Farrah has also been receiving your letters as well. She asked us to extend her gratitude for the kind words and encouragement to keep sending things her way. It makes every day in the hole a bit brighter.

Thank you all for your unwavering support. We couldn't do this without you. Stay tuned for more news on Farrah and her work in the future.
 
--SSG Ops.  


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Grand Victory - Packingham v. North Carolina

Monday, June 19th, 2017 marks an enormous step forward for SoS and Civil Rights Advocacy Groups everywhere. Earlier this week in the case of Packingham v. North Carolina, the Supreme Court of the United States deemed that law enforcement could not restrict internet access for anyone regardless of the severity of crime committed, citing that such actions were in violation of First Amendment Rights protecting free speech.

https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3869337/15-1194-08l1.pdf


Many states across the nation revoke internet access to registered sex offenders, especially those on probation, making it a felony in some cases to so much as own a computer, smart device, or data-enabled cell phone. Aside from removing probationers from their right to speak, internet ban also eliminates any means of living successfully on probation, thus forcing probationers into a line of unavoidable probation violation and additional punishment. In Farrah's case, she was required to pay upwards of $1000 per month in combine monitoring and probation fees. Failure to pay said fees would result in imprisonment under conviction of violating probation. Yet, her livelihood in commissioned art was made unavailable to her by internet ban, and with most applications for employment residing strictly online, she was cut off from any means that would prevent her from violating the very system of rules that was enabling her to fail. Granting internet access to probationers is a major step in integrating them back into society and ensuring a proper path to rehabilitation can be obtained.


So what does this do for Farrah?

Unfortunately, while this is a landmark decision that will provide much good for many people, it came too late to help Farrah in the immediate future. Given that Farrah was imprisoned for her original crime and did not receive an additional sentence for probation violation, there is no case that can be made to reverse the prison sentence.

However, Farrah is slated to be placed back on probation pending her release from prison. But with this new federal standard in place, her access to the internet should remain intact and she will be allowed a means to support herself and with luck, return to her distant friends and family online.

Also, it should be stated that this decision by the SCOTUS is not a guaranteed change-all. As seen with such events in the past, this decision will set a precedent that will be interpreted differently and require varying amounts of time to implement between different states and justice departments. It could take up to a year to start seeing changes, and they may not be the changes we expect. It will be up to Civil Right organizations to continue to monitor and push these new regulations into an amicable application.

Despite the issues, this occasion is still very much a victory for Save Our Sisk and we're excited to see the changes to come. Our fight is not over, however! We're in close communication with Farrah and still working to ensure that she can one day make it home safely. There is much to do, but at the very least, this case tells us that we are not alone. Our fight has more hope than ever.


Be strong. Keep moving. Stay excellent.

--SSG Ops.