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