URGENT: Amber Is in Solitary Confinement

Editor’s Note 7/20: As of now, Amber has been issued an infraction for being “out of bounds,” and is being threatened with losing access to JPay and phone calls for three months, having her property taken away or destroyed, getting transferred, and/or having her custody level changed. She finds out sometime in the middle of next week, and if she does lose access to JPay and phone calls, the only way I’ll be able to talk to her is through letters, and it’ll be around a week before I’ll hear from her.

Editor’s Note: Content warning for mentions of cutting, rape, and relationship violence

My name is Amber Kim, #315649 according to the Washington DOC. Myself and my best friend John Hovey are being persecuted and discriminated against for reasons that essentially boil down to because I am trans and he dared to support and be an ally to me. This is a call for help which I hope will echo far and wide and be heard by many people from many sources. I hope for this because the excuses which are being used to cause harm to us are being used to cause harm to LGBTQ people incarcerated in Washington state as a whole, and cause further harm to everyone in Washington prisons.

Currently, the Washington Administrative Code (WAC), which are part of the laws for Washington state defined by the state legislature, make it a crime for prisoners to show physical affection for one another (hugs, holding hands, leaning on each other’s shoulders, etc) or to be physically intimate with each other. Their argument for why love and affection are criminalized goes like this: if c/o’s see two people engaging in horseplay, they cannot tell the difference between that and a fight. Similarly, if two people are in a loving relationship, or having a “one night stand,” c/o’s can’t tell the difference between that and rape. Therefore, both horseplay and affection must be criminalized in prison.

This argument is wrong on so many levels. First is the patriarchal assumption of a connection between relationships, sex, and violence. Not all relationships have a sexual component, and sex does not come with an assumption of violence, and not all relationships are automatically violent and abusive. In fact, a majority of relationships and sex do not contain violence. While violence in relationships is a major and serious problem which our society needs to address, outlawing all relationships because some of them may contain violence is like outlawing all food because some people might get sick.

The second problem is that, as the LGBTQ movement has shown, legislation which runs contrary to the dictates of the human heart will always fail. Having laws which amount to an injunction against love in prison is more than discriminatory against LGBTQ people. Such laws trample on the basic human need for connection which everyone has. Friends who want to hug or sit close for the comfort which comes from the touch of another warm body are impacted just as the LGBTQ couple who want to hold hands for the simple pleasure of being together are impacted. The way in which LGBTQ people are impacted more is due to the way these WAC rules are enforced, which I will go into greater detail when I talk about what happened to me and my best friend.

The third and most obvious problem with this argument is that if someone cannot tell the difference between a hug and rape, then they need serious psychological help and should not be in a position of authority of anyone. If the Washington DOC and state legislature are so worried about prisoners in abusive relationships or being raped then they need to invest in classes to teach people what is and is not a healthy relationship, including how boundaries and consent work. If they really want a simple answer to how to spot abuse, it’s very straightforward: 1) believe victims, 2) mark and question isolation. It really and truly is not that complex because if someone is in an abusive relationship and they are forcibly separated as the Washington DOC currently does. All that is going to happen that they will see out a new person to act out their traumas and abusive scripts with. To end abuse, people need to be able to to be help by community and supported through a process of personal transformation which will allow them to deal with the trauma and toxic scripts at the root of the behavior.

The answer is not in criminalizing love, but in building people’s capacity to love.

As I stated above, my best friend John and I are being harmed right now by love being criminalized in prison. On July 1st at roughly 9 AM I was talking a shower in a shower stall by myself. John was in the next shower stall over showering by himself. It may seem weird to have to name it that way, but that’s an important detail.

I hear a voice call out which I recognize as Sgt. Dobson. He yells “out of the showers,” causing me to jump with fright and bounce of the shower wall with a “thunk.”

Next, Sgt. Dobson yelled “who’s in the shower?” to which I replied “Kim.” Sgt. Dobson then said “why did you just crawl under there?” which thoroughly confused me. According to John, this was the moment he had picked up the bar of soap he had dropped when Sgt. Dobson first yelled. Sgt. Dobson yelled again “come out of the showers.” My hands were shaking so much I barely managed to towel off and get dressed. When I stepped out of the shower I saw John being put into handcuffs by a pair of c/o’s. I was also put in handcuffs and escorted away from the showers by two c/o’s.

It was at this point I realized this was a frame-up and that John and I were probably going to be separated by the DOC. Permanently.

John was taken to CUS Geer’s office. I was taken to Sgt. Dobson’s office.

John was interrogated first while I waited for my turn. I cried and cried and cried and cried.

CUS Geer and Sgt. Dobson came in. Sgt. Dobson sat at the computer, presumably to take notes/minutes. CUS Geer sat on the opposite side of me from him, meaning to address CUS Geer, I had to put Sgt. Dobson behind me to my left. Sgt. Dobson remained silent during the interrogation unless I addressed him directly.

I denied that anything happened. I denied that john and I had had sexual contact.

I denied that John was in my shower. I asked both CUS Geer and Sgt. Dobson to call the Trans in Prison Project at Disability Rights Washington because I needed representation and protection from their investigation. They informed me that I had no rights in this situation and that it would go better if I cooperated. Let me translate that last statement: they have the absolute authority to say whatever they want and it is automatically treated as true and that if I don’t agree to their lies and betray my best friend they will make sure I am harmed.

Again, I denied that anything happened. I denied that John and I had had sexual contact. I denied that John was in my shower.

By this time I was losing my emotional control and was sobbing so intensely that I couldn’t get a full breath of air. I had to put my head between my knees to keep from fainting. CUS Geer told me to sit up. I told him “no.” It’s my body, not yours. I know how to take care of it, not you. Don’t tell me what to do with it.

After that, CUS Geer stopped trying to interrogate me. At this time, John was being interrogated by the lieutenant and sent to the IMU.

I was then taken to the lieutenant and interrogated again. I denied that anything happened. I denied that John and I had had sexual contact. I denied that John was in my shower. I asked the lieutenant to get in touch with the Trans in Prison Project at Disability Rights Washington and told him that by not doing so he was causing me harm. He didn’t care. He told me he was going to do what he had already decided to do before he talked to either me or John and sent me to the IMU

I spent the next four days crying until I was so dehydrated that while I was still wracked with sobs, no tears fell from my eyes. Every time I tried to eat I would puke it all back up. On the third day I used my fingernails to do a little cutting and was finally able to sleep. On the fourth day my crying shifted from a soul deep pain to a simple expression of sorrow.

This is how much it hurts to be separated from my best friend. I’m still having trouble eating, because we ate together every day, so when I sit down to eat I can’t help but remember every time we ate together. I know exactly what he would have taken from my tray and what I would have taken from his tray without having to talk about it anymore because we know what each other liked and what we are not going to eat. I still have random crying jags. I’ll be reading or writing or doing yoga and all of a sudden find myself missing him so much.

I’ve never had a friend like him before and I don’t know how to handle having him suddenly ripped away from me by Sgt. Dobson and CUS Geer. And let me make it perfectly clear, this is exactly what is happening. Because CUS Geer and Sgt. Dobson are transphobic and homophobic and because they know John and I are close friends they are claiming that we must have been having sex and thus have to be punished. They are able to make this claim with no evidence beyond Sgt. Dobson claiming he saw something because 1) John and I are incarcerated 2) he is a cop 3) WAC treats incarcerated people being in a loving relationship as a threat to the orderlyness of the facility on the same level as a bomb threat.

Therefore, his claim has caused us to be placed under investigation. In my twelve years in prison and his thirty-five years in prison, we have both come to understand that to be accused is to be found guilty and all we can hope to do is minimize the damage.

This is wrong. This hurts people. This needs to change.

Decriminalize love.



Trans Survival in Prison

Three years ago I kicked myself out of the closet. Two years ago I both had my name legally changed and I started hormones. One year ago I was invited to be an inside committee member of the Coalition for Trans Prisoners. From where I sit now, it all seems absolutely unbelievable. Somehow, while all this was happening, I managed to avoid dozens of traps I didn’t even know where waiting for me and gain recognition as a woman from some of my fellow incarcerated people.

Recently, this has been repeatedly brought to my attention in that special way that the universe reserves for making sure a body is really paying attention. Karma placed someone similar enough to me to make it hard for me not to identify with her, yet massively different in all the life choices she’s making for herself.
It’s hard to watch, and made even harder because, to me, she looks uncannily like my older sibling. But she’s not my sibling by blood. She’s a part of my queer family, and happens to live near me. She’s also specifically asked to be left alone to (and I quote) “make my own bad decisions.” To say I’m worried about her is an understatement.

This leaves me wondering, since when am I all grown up and responsible and shit? I’ve spent so much time and energy of the past couple years fighting whatever battle in front of me, and planning for the next one, that I somehow missed out on the fact that I haven’t had someone call me some sort of slur since Valentine’s. I still get hit on, but not nearly as aggressively as I used to be. People giving me notes asking for random sex has cut back to one or two notes every three to four weeks. The only reason I could think of for this is that enough people see me and see what I’m about to understand that that maybe I’m not easy prey and perhaps I should be afforded some basic human dignity.

So I talked to some people to find out what’s up. Turns out my perception was completely wrong. Most people thought that I was a mess and that I deserved what I got. They formed this opinion from seeing c/o’s harass me and not being able to see other trans folks dealing with the same situation because there weren’t any other trans people here. Now that there are 4 visibly out and proud trans people at WSR, allowing the masses to compare and contrast between myself and other trans folks, they have decided (for the most part) that I should be left alone. My initial reaction to this was ‘Great!’, then I heard why they decided to leave me alone…

1) One of the trans people here puts out so that makes her more of a target.
2) They’ve seen how poorly other trans people handle the stress of being trans in prison.

I am not okay with either of these as reasons for me to not be harassed. The first one is straight up sexism, the second is built on the assumption that some some trans people are better/more deserving than others.

By saying a trans person who is sexually active is not deserving of love and respect, they are placing trans people in the same impossible position which all women face, the whore/Madonna double bind. I have chosen a very difficult path for myself by refusing to trade sexual favors for protection in prison. Seeing to my own safety is a full time job which I am only able to accomplish thanks to the small group of trustworthy people both inside and outside prison I have surrounded myself with. Other trans people may not have the ability or opportunity to do the same. Likewise, I made the choice I did because I do not have it in me to engage in survival sex. If things had gotten to the point where that choice was forced on me, I don’t know how I would have gotten by because doing that would have destroyed me mentally, and not doing that could have resulted in something far worse. I can’t fault someone for doing what they feel they need to do to survive especially when they are doing something I am unable to do. Thus, I am not okay with them being devalued for their choices and myself benefiting from their being devalued.

As for me being seen as being able to handle stress better than others, that’s complete BS. I’m just better at hiding it. I may look calm cool and collected with a smile on my face, but most of the time I’m actually in some sort of panic. I was taught from a young age that looking panicked was like blood in the water and would only egg others on to heap more pressure, stress, or bullying on me. So I learned to not look scared. I should not be valued over other trans folks for having a trauma based stress response that appears/manifests in a socially acceptable way.

I’ve tried really hard to help people around me understand that me being trans is not a big deal as long as they can give me a basic minimum amount of human dignity. But now, seeing how people are treating the other trans folks around me I feel like a fake, a fraud, and a failure. I haven’t won any acceptance or compassion for trans people. I managed get people to treat me as an acceptable exception to being trans. Even while I’ve riled against the stratification of respectability politics, I’ve become a measure of what a respectable trans person in prison should look like, as opposed to trans people who are sexually active in prison, or who get panic-y when stressed. I’ve acted within my values, so I don’t know what I could have done differently, but my choices have still had a result that I am not ok with.

Sure, I’ve only been out for three years. Hell, I’ve only been sane/mentally stable for five or six. But I still feel that I need to figure out ways to not perpetuate hierarchy and exclusionist narratives. When talking about this with others I was told that it’s society that’s broken and I need to accept that there is only so much I can do. I think this is wrong. I think that society is broke because we, as a society, keep telling ourselves that no one can fix it. Well of course no one individual person can fix it. The only way we can fix it is as a collective.

A Word, a Feeling

Words words words words words. A cavalcade of consonants crash into our ear drums on the daily, hourly, and minutely. All these words are so important to us. I mean, they really have so much meaning, right? We blare words out into the great outdoors with massive technologies literally built to the purpose and plug all these words directly into holes in our heads through tiny noisemaking devises.
There is always more to say, more to hear, more to fill the spaces between words.

So the other night I found myself thinking that if I had to leave someone with a single word out of all the words I know in the various languages I’ve managed to pick up a smattering of (I swear, one of these years I’ll be fluent in something. Maybe English?) what word would I pick? I realized that the most single important word I know is not spoken.

With softly closed hands, cross your arms at the wrists over your chest.

This is the word for love in sign language. It is everything we as humans truly need, but are simultaneously frightened of. We’re scared of silence: why do you think we find so many excuses to make so much noise? We’re scared of letting people get too close: why do you think we constantly push people away so much? We’re scared of our feelings: why do you think we make everything so complex? We’re scared of telling the people we care about that we care. Why do you think we find so many other things to make meaningless noise over?

For all that, we need a little quiet to find our center. We need to be able to be vulnerable. We need to feel our feelings, share our feelings, and have those feelings accepted and returned to us in kind. We especially need to bond with others and communicate our mutual care and regard to each other.

Humans can’t help but love. We have to love, need to love, without love we slowly die by inches. And not just any love, but the love that arises from mutual care and interdependence. The kind of love where taking care of you is taking care of me, and taking time to take care of me is to take care of everyone I know and love.

Now, I don’t know if the word “love” in sign language technically has all that as a part of its definition, but I do know that’s the feeling that wells up in my chest every time I sign that word. This is why I feel that the word “love” in sign language is the single most important word I know in any language and is the word I would want to pass on to others if I had to pick just the one.

With this in mind I want to pose the following question: what is the most important single word you know in any language and why is it specifically important to you to understand that word in that particular language?

I avidly look forward to your answers.

Observing Addiction in My Parents

Editor’s Note: content warning for drug and alcohol addiction and child abuse

Addiction has not been an issue for me personally, though it has shaped my life. I don’t know if I won a genetic lottery or if it’s just another way that I’m a contrarian, but I don’t get hooked on drugs. Tried everything — weed, opiates, amphetamines, alcohol, nicotine. None of them held any sort of relief from daily life for me. Not even hallucinogens like peyote or LSD got a hold on me back when I was experimenting and I enjoyed those. The rest left me feeling stupid because I could feel my thought processes being short circuited.

On the other hand, when I was in high school my mother drank wine like it was going out of style and my father liked his pills. To this day I can’t figure out if he got hooked on pills because he became a respiratory therapist and thus having access got him hooked, or if he became a respiratory therapist for access because he was on his way to being hooked.

This had an impact on me because as I grew older my parents became more and more unstable. It was a slow and complicated process. Neither of them saw themselves as having a problem and it is only with the experience of hindsight that I have been able to come to understand what was going on. They both had jobs and were not only good at what they did, but good at identifying opportunities for advancement. My mother only drank in the evenings and went through an average of 4 bottles of wine a week when I was in high school. I don’t know how much she drank when I was in middle school because she went to the bar that was in the parking lot near our house with friends from work. When I was in elementary school she drank around 2 bottles a week.

My father had a lot of health problems. Bad luck, asthma, sinus polyps — he had been put on pain pills after his back surgery when I was 4, and just never quite got off them.

My parents were very codependent. My mother had undiagnosed mental health issues that was probably bipolar and my father facilitated and indulged my mother’s whims.

A lot of my family trauma centers around this dysfunctional dynamic. I never knew when my mother would tell my father to beat me for something she imagined I did. I worried most when my mother was clingy, complimenting, and seemingly content. This signaled that however good she felt, when the crash came that’s how depressed and angry she would be. But if she was already unhappy then it wasn’t going to get any worse. I still have trouble taking compliments. They always feel like delusional lies soon to be followed by getting yelled at. Not picking judgement I can handle, but tell me how good I am and I freak out.

Heavy footfalls, slammed doors, raised voices, all of these were precursors to getting beaten. Polite requests were actually orders to be followed or else. It was all so civilized. When my father would beat me, he would tell me how many times he was going to hit me before he would do it. There were a few occasions where I passed out or was knocked out and when I came to he would calmly inform me how many hit were left. If I fought back he would wrestle me into a submission hold as to not throw off the count.

To this day I subconsciously count everything as it happens and can usually say how far till 25, 50, or 100, without having to do math. I carry my scars, both literally and figuratively. I track patterns of interaction because I need to know when to flee before conflict happens.

I carried all of this into closed custody where I picked up more trauma around crowds and fights erupting in a matter of seconds with little or no warning. I’ve gone from being jumpy to being skiddish. On a good day my PTSD is usually triggered 3 – 4 times. On an average day, 5 – 7 times. I have grown skilled at functioning while experiencing irrational fear. This is something I can do because I’m really good at doublethink. It’s not just two different realities at once, it’s two complex emotional states.

The trauma I deal with every day can be traced back to my experiences as a child and has layers of later experiences blanketed on top of them. While this may sound quite negative, I have found resilience in my pain. There is a special self assurance which comes with knowing I will never experience anything worse than my childhood.

“The wounds have changed me. I am so soft with scars. My skin breathes and beats stars” — Nayyirah Waheed

Internalized Oppression

I have trouble seeing internalized oppression in myself and others. Like an object just beyond my vision, I know it’s there, I can see the effects of its presence, but I can’t actually see it directly.

The most common sign I see that lets me know internalized oppression is nearby is learned helplessness. Most of my learned helplessness is related to my social anxiety. As soon as I find myself in a room full of people that are just talking I suddenly have no idea of what to do. So I end up standing off in the corner like a creep or latching onto one of the few friendly faces in the crowd like a life preserver. The only thing keeping me from diving into the various conversations around me are my own feelings of insufficiency and fear of rejection. Now those feelings and fears reflect the reality I faced in middle school, but now they don’t have any relevance beyond the memories in my own head.

This is something I can see and point at and say “Ah-ha! There be learned helplessness!”, but when I try and consider this as a result of internalized oppression things get murky. Is my internalized oppression the things kids would say to me in the lunchroom? Or is it from the only trans people on TV back then were sex workers on Jerry Springer? Or all the ways that the Christian church frowns on any discussion of sex? Or maybe it’s all the jokes that are not necessarily directed at me but go like this:

women and trans people = garbage
you = woman or trans person
you = garbage

That gets repeated in infinite, uncreative variety.

I have no way to know, but I suspect it’s all of these because thinking about them hurts. At the end of the day I am forced to simply accept that I don’t know what internalized oppression actually is as a thing. This is a hard thing for me to admit because I’ve been taught to always have an answer or know where to look it up, or where to start researching it, bit to say flat out “I don’t know and I don’t have any way yo set about answering that question.” That’s a form of sacrilege for a know-it-all like myself and is a bitter pill for me to swallow.
Therefore, I cannot conceive what life would look like if myself and the people around me didn’t suffer from internalized oppression. I can, however, speculate on ways the world might be different if we didn’t suffer from learned helplessness.

There would always be a 100% voter turnout. No one would accept excuses which amount to “because I said so!” Anytime there is a systemic miscarriage of some sort (justice, access, equality, etc) there would be no need for “organizing” around the issue, everyone would write their independent letter of complaint and if that didn’t solve it they would each independently come to complain in person and thus create and accidental protest.

The reason these things don’t happen is because people have been culturally conditioned to believe their voice does not matter.
I’m not sure of how we go from a world where people don’t speak up for fear of repercussions or because they don’t believe that doing so will make any difference to a world where speaking up is so normal that people are in the habit of “stopping by” somewhere to join a complaint session/protest in progress between dropping of the dry cleaning and picking up milk and eggs. What I do know is that if people don’t get into the habit of saying “hey that’s not ok” when they see something messed up happen then we’ll never get there. Learned helplessness is countered with spoken truths followed by virtuous actions.

My Issue with Othering

This is an essay I wrote for my Humanities class three or four months ago. I’ve struggled with putting it out in the world because it does not paint me in a very complimentary light. That is both the reason I believe it is important to put out there, and the reason I don’t want to put it out there. After much internal debate I realized that the reason I am having so much trouble with it is because it discusses something I am still struggling with, rather that something I’ve come to grips with or have successfully left in my past. As I have stated previously, I am in progress, please let me remain unresolved.

I have been made the other due to a few of my different identities, some of which I have spoken about previously. Trans, Wiccan, etc. However, the identity which it is the most clear how being othered has impacted me is as a nerd.

While bullying hurt and getting beat up really hurt, those didn’t actually impact me as much as simply being excluded. Not being made welcome hurt far more than the teasing or beatings. To this day I have social anxiety around crowds that are just standing around talking. Lunch rooms are hell and every time a class goes on break or people are “just hanging out” it’s hard for me to figure out what I should do. I will often bring a book or some homework to work on during the break to distract myself from the “alone in a crowd” feeling.

This isolated feeling has made it difficult for me to ask for help, have casual acquaintances, or even be comfortable in a group that does not have a structured agenda.

This isolated feeling intersects with my mental health history and my transness. I developed a paranoia about trusting people with my secrets, thus when opportunities came up where I could have gotten help, I let them pass because I couldn’t bridge the trauma of my isolation in a a crowd of just one other person.

Just as many people of an othered identity have turned around and othered another group in turn, I took my damage of being othered as a nerd, then used an aspect of that identity to other, well, others. I internalized an elitist script regarding people who could not read and especially disliked people who chose not to read and thus never developed any proficiency at reading. At first I did this subconsciously. It was in middle school that I became aware that I had an intense dislike of illiterate people and because I wasn’t yet in a place of practicing compassion, I definitely acted in discriminatory ways and was bigoted towards illiterate people.

Nowadays, I intellectually understand there are many various and legitimate reasons for a person to have become someone who does not read, but because my own rabid love of reading I am unable to emotionally understand someone choosing not to read.
I have nothing but compassion and understanding for people that struggle with basic math, don’t understand science, or have learning disabilities. For people that cannot read I have come to a place where blaming them for not having the skill of reading feels like blaming the victim and I get angry about who/what kept them from, what I consider to be, literary heaven.

I have mild dyslexia, so one would think I would have more sympathy, but anytime someone tells me they don’t see any point in ever going to the library, or I’m in a class and people are called on to read and someone that has no problem speaking otherwise turns out to have a lot of difficulty reading I get angry and disgusted.

Before I identified this as a problem I would let this feeling run wild and that emotional reaction would affect my future interactions with that person. Now that I have identified this as an issue, I make a point to of grounding and centering to set that irrational emotional reaction aside and make space for the person who is struggling to work through what they are reading. If we are in conversation later, I’ll let them pick what we talk about because a vast majority of the topics I would pick center around something I have read. If they have questions for me (I am generally considered a repository of useless information), then I’ll answer them without going off into rabbit holes. Well, I try not to go off in to rabbit holes, but I really like going down rabbit holes, so that can be a problem too.

This issue honestly feels more like a cultural communication barrier to me that dealing with someone from a different country, subculture, social class, or who does not speak English. I am good at code switching and using nonverbal communication to talk, whether pantomime or drawings. To me, there seems to be a fundamental difference in the way readers and non-readers perceive the world that I simply do not understand.

Thankfully, I recently got to be witness to someone I know quite well make a major leap forward when it comes to public reading and in doing so he helped me deal with some of my internalized elitism. He specifically has a phobia of reading publicly. Good public speaker. Can read something quietly to himself and offer brilliant insight I to what he just read. Just struggled with the one thing. Actually, he kinda got over it in a major way. In fact, it’s even on video. Witnessing this in person, as well witnessing him tackle his phobia in other spaces helped me to challenge my own biases.

It’s still a problem, and I’m still working on it.

I’m hoping that in sharing this essay it will help people to be honest and accountable about what forms of privilege they are still caring around and need to address. Race, class, gender, nationality, all seem to be what people are focused on. While these things are important, I think we shouldn’t lose sight of all the different ways we as human beings like to cut ourselves off from each other. Some are over things rarely discussed, like illiteracy, others may not even have a name. They still need to be a part of the work.

The Lack of Thoroughly Progressive Politicians

There is a distinct difficulty which arises for people who work from a place of intersectionality when it comes to talking about or voting for politicians.

I’m going to use former Washington Governor Christine Gregoire as an example of this.

She was great for LGBTQ rights. She supported and signed four bills that resulted in same sex marriage being legalized in Washington state. In doing so she sacrificed being allowed to take communion at St. Michael’s parish, a Catholic church where she was a door greeter. (1) This she can be considered an ally to LGB people and, if you squint and turn your head sideways, maybe trans people as well.

However, she was really bad for incarcerated people. While she was in office, education programs for people in prison were cut back to the absolute bare minimum. GED, ESL, and a small handful of other program that were able to fly under the radar were all that survived. Personal clothes were taken away. Incarcerated people were no longer able to simply order pre-approved items from mail order catalogs or have our people mail us care packages. Instead everything had to be purchased through Access Secure Pak. Release readiness programs were eliminated and the WA DOC was encouraged to use every opportunity to fear-monger and make life in prison ever more oppressive. Mail censorship increased dramatically. Mandatory minimums were repeatedly increased, more prisons were built, and tough on crime was the order of the day. These were not simply things that happened under her while she happened to be governor, these were a result of her leadership and the stated agenda of her office. (2)

Looking at her vastly different positions for different groups of oppressed people makes it complicated to think about the possibility of having a new governor (or other elected official) like her in the future. This gets complicated even further when I think about all the various topics I care deeply about, and how a politician like her seems to jump rope between being helpful or baleful to them depending on if we are talking about race, education, LGBTQIA2+, (dis)ability, healthcare, feminism, indigenous, mass incarceration, immigration, religious freedoms, freedom of speech, or poverty. Literally all the things (at least, all the things I can remember right now). Sometimes I feel like when someone is first starting out as a politician they are secreted away to some weird initiation where a set of coin flips determines what things they will be for, and what they will oppose. It just seems so arbitrary. How can someone be for racial equity, but be against restorative/transformative justice? Or be for LGBTQ people, but against giving sanctuary to immigrants who are fleeing their own deaths? For universal healthcare, but against birth control and abortion? For green reforms, but against helping homeless people and those living in extreme poverty? How are these things not interrelated? Some more directly than others.

This is something I don’t understand and I hope it is something that we, as a society, will refuse to stand for the next time elections come around.

1) Lillian Faderman (2016) “The Gay Revolution” pg. 596-601
2) Personal experience.