All of Us Prisoners

There is a tool which is used to help people figure out if their relationship is abusive called “The Power and Control Wheel.” It works like this: physical and sexual violence are considered to be the rim, then the spokes of the wheel divide it into eight regions:

  • Using Economic Abuse
  • Using Privilege
  • Using Intimidation
  • Using Emotional Abuse
  • Minimizing, Denying and Blaming
  • Using Isolation
  • Using Children
  • Using Coercion and Threats

The ways that the Washington DOC uses each of these as a tool to dominate incarcerated people could easily be an essay (or book) unto itself. The trouble being that those who need to know about and understand these abusive practices most are invested in the continued abuse of people in prison themselves. The reason prisons, as a institution in society, are perpetuated is because people in positions of power benefit from their continued existence. Politicians get reelected for being “tough on crime,” corporations have exclusive contracts that allow them to have monopolies selling goods and services to prisons and the people in them, survivors of crime get sold a bill of goods when it comes to punishment and rehabilitation while police, prison guards, judges, and prosecutors enjoy job security and the benefits of government jobs. The public get to believe children are being protected, when in reality they are getting taken from a possibly unstable home life and placed in uncaring draconian “group homes” and “community resource centers” that are in fact little more than jails for children who have committed no greater crime than not having a stable relationship with their parents whatever the cause (death, criminalization, absenteeism, etc.).

People are subject to these systems of state sanctioned control because they do not meet some arbitrary measure of “respectability.” They are not seen as normal enough, they are not rich enough, they are not citizen enough, hetero enough, able enough, Christian enough, smart enough, pleasant enough, pretty enough, adjusted enough, white enough. Then, they are blamed for not being all these things that they have no control over.
Somehow this makes it okay in society’s eyes for them to be brutalized by police, sent to prison, or even outright murdered in the streets. It’s not okay.

Yet, that is the perception created by the observed facts, and perception shapes reality.
This afternoon I was laying on my belly in the grass out at yard. It’s been a couple weeks since the grass was cut so it’s starting to get a healthy length to it. (As opposed to the anemically short length most lawns are “tamed” to.) Lying there, with my head pillowed on my hands, I could shut my left eye and open my right, and see nothing but a tangled wall of grass. Knots and snarls with little beetles and bugs crawling about in search of love, laughter, and lunch. Conversely, I could open my left eye and close my right. The bustle of activity so close to the earth suddenly disappeared, replaced with the slow swaying of the tallest grass stems just starting to go to seed, daisies peppered the yard with color and fluffy clouds passing overhead completed the Elysian sight. If not for the 40 foot brick wall topped with razor wire in between.

See, this is what the DOC, and society as a whole is forgetting. No matter how nice a day it is, never mind if we were allowed to pursue our own studies or be left alone to seek the simple pleasures, there’s still that 40 foot high wall and men with guns who will shoot anyone that tries to go outside it. There is still a heavily armed police force in every city across the country and even more heavily armed army reserves who can be called on by the governor. We are ALL still in prison. The government’s perspective is that they have to control every little thing and if they can’t absolutely dominate a thing, it scares them. They are so lost in seeing the bustle of activity an inch from the ground that they’ve forgotten the overriding facts of the larger picture. This leads them to enforce domination, abuse, and oppression in literally all the ways.

The existence of the prison industrial complex in America makes prisoners of everyone; it just so happens that some of us are incarcerated.

Conflicting DOC Values

Sometimes I wonder if the Wa DOC realizes if lessons that they are teaching us incarcerated folks on a daily basis in no way resembles the lessons they want us to learn.

At least, the lessons they claim they want us to learn.

For example, the DOC claims they want us to to have a learn good work ethic. When anyone has a job we’re stuck there for the duration of the call out regardless of what we do, and we’re going to be paid for the duration of that call out. No more, no less. So a common philosophy that develops is if I get my work done, and if they guy next to me has their work done, do some cleanup then we can kick back and relax until more work shows up. The c/o’s don’t like this. They want to see us busy for the entire duration of the call out. This results in conversations like the following:

c/o: Get back to work.
me: I’m done with my job.
c/o: then help someone else with their job.
me: everyone in my area is done. Do you want me to go out of bounds?
c/o: then sweep or wipe down the walls or something.
me: already swept and since when do walls need wiped off?
c/o: well, just look busy.
me: wait, if I know I’m BSing and you know I’m BSing, then what’s the point of looking busy?

It might just be me, but what we have here is a failure to communicate. When an incarcerated person says “good worker” we mean show up on time, accomplish the task at hand with a minimum of fuss, do quality work, and lend a hand to fellow workers. When a c/o says “good worker” they mean look busy and don’t cause extra paperwork. Thus, the lesson is getting lost in the shuffle.

Another example of this is in the “offender change programs” that the DOC comes up with. They’re big on cognitive behavioral theory and hammering a solid guilt complex into a body. Now, they claim that this is “evidence based” and “best practices” in “offender reform,” which makes zero sense because recidivism is still crazy high and you can’t force anybody to change.

Yet somehow they still claim that if you force people to sit in a room they don’t want to be in and repeatedly tell them they have a cognitive defect (that is a form of flawed thinking) that they will not get in trouble any more. Furthermore, claiming not to have a cognitive defect is a cognitive defect. Claiming to have dealt with one’s traumas and damage through some means other than cognitive behavioral therapy is also a cognitive defect.

So essentially the DOC wants us to be honest and accountable but not if it gets in the way of them telling us what terribly delusional violent perverted drug addicts we are.
These programs take many different forms and in all of them the only good I have ever seen is when the discussion goes off script and people are given a chance to talk through their damage. However, the curriculum itself resists making space for people to have real conversations.

They ask questions like “when did you first realize you might have a drug or alcohol problem?” How is someone like myself who had plenty of opportunity to be a druggie but made the choice not to be simply because I don’t enjoy getting high supposed to answer that?

Or “write about your anger issues.” Had some when I was younger, but nine years of Wicca and Buddhism has taught me to have a healthy relationship with my emotions. Thus, I don’t have anger issues.

I also don’t struggle with delayed gratification, understanding cause and effect of my choices, empathy, money management, or any of the other things these programs are worried about. So I’m being reminded a lesson I was taught as a wee child in Christiandom: “Give the mean people the answer they want and they’ll leave you alone.”

I’m willing to bet good money this isn’t the lesson they set out to teach. They want to teach something along the lines of having care and compassion for one’s fellow beings and thinking before acting. Ya know, those lessons that are usually learned as a part of self understanding and working towards enlightenment. But they’re not teaching us that, they’re teaching us to do as we’re told to get the shiny certificate and move on. Last I checked a shiny certificate has never kept anyone out of prison. However, I have it on good authority that enlightenment is a path to true freedom regardless of one’s incarceral state.

The real clincher on all this is the ways in which people in positions of power within the DOC use their position to extort and manipulate incarcerated folks. Like with those “offender change programs” I’ve already mentioned, DOC employees don’t set those up, run them or are responsible for their success or failure. That job gets fobbed off on an incarcerated person who has no choice in the matter and doesn’t even get paid for their work. It’s considered “voluntary” with an option of getting tossed in the IMU for refusing to follow orders. This just happened to a friend of mine. Assistant Superintendent Wood asked for a couple “volunteers” to help set up her program at TRU. A pair of guys I know said they would if they could work on it together. She said sure. Then strung them along for over a year making it so that neither of them could make any other obligations for that entire time because they could leave on any given chain. Then when it finally came time to go, she only took one of them leaving both of them isolated from the support of the other for six months. The one who did get taken to TRU lost most of his property, was constantly harassed by the guards and generally treated like crap by Ms. Wood. Six months later she finally bright him back to WSR and is now telling him that he had better keep her program running here or else.

Keep in mind this is a mentorship program that claims to focus specifically on prosocial behavior and with respecting other people. Seems to me that Ms. Woods could use a dose of cognitive behavior therapy for her cognitive defect. Taking advantage of people is definitely not a prosocial behavior.

Loving while Incarcerated

“May I hold your hand my love?”
“No but no, for do you not see
the eyes which stare and stare?”
and so we sat, a hair’s breadth between
as good as an infinite reach apart

“Never forget that I love you”
he whispers
“And I love you”
I whisper

These words, if witnessed
could tear
us from each other’s empty arms

“May I rest my head my love,
upon your shoulder sweet?”
“No but no, for do you not feel
the malice of authority?”
and so we sat, a hair’s breadth between
as good as an infinite reach apart

“Never forget that I love you”
“and I love you”
We whisper

“May I hold you close my love?”
“No but not, for while we sit a hair’s breadth apart
there is brick and razor wire between
but never forget that I love you”
“and I love you”
we whisper

“May I hold you hand my love?”
I hold my breadth
until I feel his hand clasped in mine.

“I love you”
he speaks, voice unhushed
“And I love you”
my heart
my spirit

but my mind
my mind
my mind is heavy with the rule of law
names this crime

“I love you”
“and I love you”
we whisper
withdraw our touch
and weep
for while our love binds us as one
between our bodies
law demands
an infinite
hair’s breadth

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