Sunday, May 28, 2017

Thank God For Vh1!! My Prison Portal To Gay Oz...

You would think that prison is the gay Oz. But if you read anything I write you know that reality is much, much different.

Vh1 has picked up a few shows that sort of feed my need for basking in queer glory! Namely Fire Island and RuPauls Drag Race. 

Each and every Friday night after I get locked in my cell I get to bask in the light of my two favorite things, men and make up and every variation thereof!!

On a serious note, my interactions with the LGBT and specifically the gay community have been limited to brief interactions and prison. Now that I am "out" I want nothing more than healthy interaction. Prison is not exactly that picture perfect scene of healthy people. 

Seeing and interacting with LGBT culture as often as possible gives me the ability to define myself within those walls. I watch and listen to figure out what I like and dislike about our culture. For instance, I like the "love me or hate me attitude because I am going to do me no matter what you think anyway!" I dislike the confines of a stereotypical box that seem to keep so many gay men scrambling to please some reject in Hollywood. Insert one of hundreds of names here. In other words, insecurity and vanity. Which, I am just as guilty as the next queen...if we are being honest. 

Thank God for Vh1 because we do not have LOGO or real mentors to talk to. So we have to be our own, it certainly helps.

With Love
Jeff Utnage

Take Me At My Worst And You Will Deserve My Best

There is a part in the Bible where it is said to entertain strangers because it may not be a stranger, but an angel. Which, an angel I am not. However, it also says "Remember the prisoners as if chained with them, those who are mistreated, since you yourselves are in the body also."(Hebrews 13:2-3 NKJV)

Even if you are not Christian this applies to you under moral ground. We as LGBT people are bound together whether we like, agree with, or not. We have a common thread that binds us together. 

We all experience the same trials. Albeit in different contexts and values, but the trauma inflicted makes us all feel the same way, hurt. 

I know it is hard to support a person who has done something terrible. An angry and contentious society wants to isolate and forget those who transgress moral boundaries. I get it. However, I do NOT agree with it. 

Once a person sees the light, so to speak, where are they to go when they are capable of flourishing? Rehabilitation and correction, what about that? Those words exist because they are possible. Once a person does something it is possible to rehabilitate and/or correct them should they want it. 

The title of this blog says to take me at my worst and you will deserve my best. I believe that. I was listening to a song and that is a lyric within it that resonated with me deeply. (Machine Gun Kelly ft. Hailee Steinfeld)

I am asking for people to give me an opportunity. A chance at life. I cannot prove rehabilitation unless I am given the opportunity. I was at my worst six years ago. Suicidal, angry, lost, bitter, without hope, and selfish.

The man I am today is drastically different. Now I see life more abundantly. I have a future, hope. I love life and appreciate it. I am excited to live and be me, finally. 

My plea is this, I know how hard it is to look at a guy like me and want to listen, I am not without understanding. However, I promise to give you my best if you do. I have so much to offer.

This goal of ending victimization and my other goal of full LGBT equality are reasonable, lofty, but reasonable. I do not have every answer. But I have at least one. I aim to try it and it is going to work, do you know why? Because I am great at taking the impossible and making it work. 

I want help planning it, finding flaws, and figuring out what can be done right now. I want an education so I am fighting for that, prisons no longer offer them because society felt we didn't deserve them, even though its proven to lower our recidivism rates by over 30%. So I study on my own. I order college text books through any means available and study it thoroughly. I happen to be studying College Algebra at the moment, and I am doing well, btw. 

There is so much room for improvement in my life and I will not waste my second chance.

Just watch...

With Love
Jeff Utnage

New Religion Needed To Include LGBT & Christianity

The marriage of God, Jesus & LGBT people is a fiery subject for me. Not because of some biblical conviction, but because of the hate-based beliefs that are NOT biblical.

I yearn for a church and congregation that believes in God, a God that loves equally. Specifically Jesus, that He died for me too. 

I do not have a choice of believing in Jesus. In my case He has proved Himself real and genuine. I could not deny His existence because it would be a lie on my behalf. I am unwilling to do that anymore. Look where it got me...

So it is not a "new" religion I propose, but a revamping of the original. I say that a new Christian church be raised up, only it would be rooted in love. Maybe it could be called "The Church Of Love." Our motto could be "Real followers of Christ, discrimination not tolerated here!"

Wouldn't that be something? The gospel of your youth spread the way it was intended, with love. Not to hide behind, not to bash people with, not to picket in the streets to make people feel lower than us. Nope, we would just love. Love everyone. Not with drugs and orgies, no cultish behaviors. No weird rituals...Just true followers of Christ gathering to worship and be of one accord. 

I miss that. It is an experience I want to have at least once.

With Love
Jeff Utnage

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Reality Of Peer Support Groups

I spent a great deal of four years developing a plan and system that used the peer support system. The type of peer support I am talking about is somewhat formal. Using guidelines that group therapy uses, that same format. Followed by interactions outside of that group, you know, friendship.

This has been so powerful in helping men and women in such a short amount of time. When you are apart of a larger organism and you can see the effects of your actions on other parts of the body (people) you tend to be a little more careful. Especially when you are as bonded as the LGBT community.

That is the beauty of this though. We are not bound by choice. This isn't some club that was formed, we are a culture, we are a people. That changes how we interact. Kind of like family. You cannot choose them. You may fight and quarrel, but usually, family is much mor lenient on one another because family knows the other members struggles and lack thereof in some cases.

You cannot B.S. family. You also cannot hide from them either. We know what the other is feeling so we know exactly when the other is hurting and when they need tough love. Accountability.

This type of system works far beyond LGBT groups. It works far beyond genetically linked peoples. It works for groups of people that have experienced the same type of situations. Whether that be bad childhoods, horrible marriages or drug addictions. 

It is vital that people know about this type of success because it is working. The people in our community that are incarcerated are improving. 

We are doing the impossible. With no help, with no funding, with no programs, we are changing our lives. With no education, with no therapists, with no one really giving a crap, we are rehabilitating. We realize that nobody wants to help us change, but everyone wants us to change and then take credit for it when we do.

Well, here is the deal folks. I have sent probably close to a thousand letters to politicians, LGBT groups, colleges, therapists, companies, civil rights groups, individual people and guess who helped? Not a single person.

All that means is that the progress that these men and women in here have done is completely and 100% their own. It means that the hep they received they went and found and then implemented themselves because we are capable. We are strong. We are unloved by you...

But we have each other. We are a family, even with those of you out there. Who idly sit and watch hoping to catch another rerun of Lockup and secretly hope to see one of us on TV getting our heads bashed in. We are not a fan of hurts.

This is why our progress is so special. Because we did it on our own. 

With Love
Jeff Utnage

Monday, May 22, 2017

"A Woman Can Never Take The Place Of A Father." I Would Like To Challenge This...

This is a phrase I have heard all my life. I grew up without a Father figure in my life. Granted, there were some things to work around, however, I learned to become a man from my Mother.

I dislike the idea that only men can teach other men. It is just plain hogwash. Even in "traditional" homes where the woman stays at home pining over her husbands happiness and comfort, the children learn from their Mother. This is because the man is gone and asleep for literally 66% of the children's life (24 hrs in a day, work is 9 hrs, sleep is around 7 hrs., this leaves 8 hours for all other activities).

Besides that fact, this also means that masculinity is only men's and femininity is only women's. This I also believe to be hogwash. Masculinity is not a genetic predisposition. It is a learned and mimicked behavior. Masculinity is what is EXPECTED of a young boy. It is NOT necessarily what he/she actually is.

I know for a fact that women are just as capable of raising a boy as a girl. Also a man is just as capable of raising a young woman.

Gender roles need to be redefined by us. That is what I find so special about the LGBT movement, we are unafraid to challenge the status quo. Societal "norms" are constantly evolving. As is proof with the feminist movement that has been battled for the past 60+ years and still rages on. Or the civil rights movement which still rages on.

The roles of men and women are also evolving. Men are not limited to lives of dominance and anger. Women are not limited by the ridiculousness of subservience.

Either there is all equality or their is no equality.

With Love
Jeff Utnage

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Devil & His Tricks: A Short Story

The devil came to me one day and told me all that I have done. Every life I hurt and every song I've sung. He explained why I am worthless, I admit, he sounded right. It got me thinking if I should even fight.

He whispered sweet failures in my ear every day and every night. Told I was unneeded, unnecessary and all kinds of "Un's!" I listened intently, hanging on every lullaby. He sang to me of death and its beauty in relief. One moment of courage is all I would need, he'd kiss my lips with belief.

I crumbled and I fell. I stayed on my knees. I cried out for help. The devil only laughed. "Nobodies listening, you fool, can't you tell?!" He circled me every night until dawn, stealing my sleep, that creep!

I cursed at God above, I yelled and I yelled. The devil laughed all the more, telling me God has no dealings with a whore. I raged, giving God the old wherefore. "You cowardly being! Come down here!" but then the devil only laughed some more. 

He took me by the hand and promised me freedom. That old devil from lore. He sat me down and what entered through the door? But my beloved, whom I'd lost several years before. "I miss you! please help!" I reached my hand out and they vanished and this repeated infinity more.

I was right where he wanted, useless and in pain. Watching my failure manifest forevermore. Then something happened, an epiphany from my core. I don't have to watch anymore. 

I'm sure I'll be back but next time I'll be stronger. You don't get to claim me any longer. Whisper, whisper in my ear your song. Next time I'll walk away and it won't take me so long. 

I'm sorry my beloved, I'm doing all I can. I will see you all again, we are, after all mere man. What lies ahead, no one can know. But when the devil comes knocking, its nothing but a show.

By Jeff Utnage

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Life As A Soundtrack

I feel like my current state could be accurately described in two songs; "At My Best" by Machine Gun Kelly ft. Hailee Steinfeld and "Stay With Me" by Sam Smith

Isn't it funny how our lives can be so drastically different from one decade to the next? Ten years ago I was listening and relating to much different music. Funny how life works out.

If your life could be summed up in a song or two, what would they be?

With Love
Jeff Utnage

How To Help In The War Against Victimization: A Prisoners View (Pt. 1)

The prison population in the US is enormous. It grows by a little every year, with it, the cost of incarceration. Besides your friends & family being locked up and it costing anywhere from $20,000-$65,000 (depending on the state) to house EACH inmate annually, this also means that the yearly victim rate rises. Which is the real tragedy.

People are being hurt emotionally, sexually, physically, and financially. The task of ending this cycle seems monumental or impossible even. However, I would disagree. 

First of all, all things are possible. When you couple desperation with passion, maybe throw in a little shame, impossible suddenly becomes possible. Believe me. 

So here is some things that can be done to help with this cycle, by You. Because this will not end without you. It is not the responsibility of cops, or Senators or the President or the meth head down the street...they are but singular people. Besides, every criminal is someones son, someones daughter. I am NOT saying that "society" is responsible for rapes or murders or serial killers. I AM saying, however, that society can (and should) be apart of the solution. In fact if all of society cared as much about ending victimization as they do about legalizing pot or HOV lanes we wouldn't have the problems we have today with prison crowding or record highs on victimization. Just sayin'

(Continued in part 2!)

Disagree? Agree? Weigh in on this conversation, you have a voice, let's hear it.

With Love
Jeff Utnage

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Pride Speech Part 2 of 2

We are a people born into adversity, however, we are the very definition of diversity. We hail from every civilization through time, we have fought in every war, we are from every country, from every state.

Our people are every color. Every nationality, we speak every language. We are unrestrained by gender. We come from every mountain top up high and every valley down low. We have traveled every road.

We are fighters and farmers. We are politicians and professors, judges and priests. We are Mothers and Fathers. We are children of this Earth. 

We are not mistakes. We are not abominations. We are not the result of some tragedy or anybodies family curse!
We are unashamed. We will not conform to a bigoted view of "normality". The oppression and tyranny of the bigot is dying and we are unapologetic and unsympathetic to its crumbling foundation of fear and insecurity.

We will no longer apologize or repent for what we cannot change. We will no longer closet ourselves or "pray it away." No longer setting ourselves on fire to keep anyone warm. No longer will we tolerate being synonymous with the lesser!
Because today we are embraced and celebrated. Today we are acknowledged and today a bridge was built over the ocean that is our tears. Today marks this places freedom from the fear that has its vicious grips on our hearts. 

Today we are no longer sorry.

Today we have justifiable and proper self-respect.

My name is Jeff and I am Unapologeticly Proud, welcome to our event!

To be delivered on 6-22-2017, proudly.

Pride Speech Part 1 of 2

Titled: Unapologeticly Proud

This years national Pride theme is "Unapologeticly Proud." It certainly fits in my life. I remember when I first said the words "I'm gay" out loud, so I could hear them outside of my head, there was this overwhelming sense of relief. It was like I had been viewing the whole world in black and white and suddenly, with those little words, everything was now in bright vivid colors. Life was instantaneously beautiful. 

The experience was short lived though, the very next words out of my mouth were "...and God, I am so, so sorry." I apologized. Over and over again. I apologized to my Mom, to God, to my peers...It didn't take long for those words to begin cutting like razor blades. It cut me and it cut those I cared for. 

Not to long after I came to the conclusion that I was, in fact, not sorry at all. No longer would I feel shame over my sexuality. I had plenty of things to be remorseful over, but the one thing that finally brought me freedom? That, I would not be apologetic for.

The LGBT community is a group of people with common customs, ideas, and social behaviors. Which, in case you didn't know, is the very definition of culture. We are a culture.

It hasn't been easy and it hasn't been free. By a showing of hands, staff and guests too, who here knew that they were attending an event that was making history? Its exciting right? You can put your hands down.

Here's another question, this is for anyone LGBT, by a showing of hands who here has been discriminated against, threatened, or assaulted and by that I mean physical, sexual and/or verbal? Keep your hands up. This next question is for everyone here that is LGBT support, our friends and allies. How many of you have experienced some form of negativity or discrimination or assault because of your support of LGBT people? 

Wow! Take a look around the room. Look at all the hands. Just take a second and let that sink in. Every hand is a victim of bigotry. You can put your hands down.

Most people do not realize that prison culture is still decades behind modern culture. Furthermore, LGBT equality is still further behind than modern equality. Discrimination, hatred, and fear are still very much alive and real. Think about how many of you have experienced it in the last 12 months alone. 

That is why this event is so special, so historic. This isn't some sudden, accidental event thrown together in a few months by one person, NO! Just ask our Superintendent how many times in the past 3 years alone he has received some form of request for LGBT related support systems. We are talking multiple institutions, multiple people (staff included), and multiple social campaigns that were very intentional. This has taken more tenacity and courage than most realize. A child that many of us have loved.

This is a civil rights movement, not just an event. So thank you Superintendent Jackson, because we realize that we are not the only ones who have taken risks for equality.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Homoerotic Prison: Fact Or Fiction?

It is funny how many times I talk to gay men outside of prison and they have this idea that prison is a homoerotic fantasy land. I hear that and just kind of chuckle.

I get it. Bunch of guys who work out all the time. Shirts off, covered in tattoos. I get where a guy could go with that in a sexual fantasy or two.

But let's come back to Earth. Prison is a place where people go who have crossed moral boundaries. Not to mention that acting gay in prison is illegal. 

The psychological stress of being gay in prison is very real. The "homoerotic" garbage that people think goes on here take from society being able to empathize with those of us locked up. We do not need empathy for a shoulder to cry on. We do not need pity. What is needed is involvement, the realization that change is possible and very likely if the right conditions are present. This is very difficult to accomplish if people think this place is a haven for queer fantasies to be enacted.

Prison for a gay man is awful. You are asked to stay in the closet. If you are blatantly gay (meaning it is general knowledge) and you get sexually assaulted or physically abused it is generally assumed you asked for it. Following the same line of thought that women who wear leggings are asking to be victimized. 

It is assumed, foolishly, that gay men are uncontrollable sex mongers who see a penis and immediately drop to their knees like some sperm-vampire. When the reality is most gay men are not horny in prison, they are absolutely terrified. For good reason.

Gay men are generally given female names in prison by dominant straight men. It is expected then that the gay man act feminine. Which, usually the gay man will oblige for safety reasons. This is abuse and it has been tolerated for far to long. Forcing a man to act as a woman when he has no desire to so that some fulfillment may come into ones life is wrong. This is exactly what scripture talks about in Romans 1:24-26 when it is mistakenly assumed that homosexuality is condemned. No, no, no.

This is what Paul was talking about. As soon as you have to LIVE that you know exactly what those words really meant because they apply to you. They apply to me and so many of us.

Prison is not a homoerotic fantasy. 

But it can be a true rehabilitation center. With enough support from ANY of you. There are so many of us in here who are fighting for the change in ourselves. There are so many of us in here who are worth your time.

With Love
Jeff Utnage

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Depression In The Heart Of Man

I find it interesting that just 6 months ago I was so busy that I prayed to God for relief. I had to much on my plate. Now here I am with only personal projects to attend to.

It is curious how if I do not have something to work towards (that I actually care about) my anxiety rises and so does depression. I do not think I am unique in that though. It is not a prisoner thing or a man thing. It is a people thing.

We all need to do something we are good at. We develop skills in our lives that we need to use for mental health reasons more than financial reasoning. We have to be useful. When we feel useless it becomes challenging to find reasons to be happy.

Depression is hard. However, in my case, I know that it is my own personal indicator that I need to get busy. I work best when I am overwhelmed. As certain deadlines approach I perform my best.

Finding use for yourself is as easy as engaging in something, anything. Seriously, what do you care about? I
Do, you see the news and get saddened when you see the hungry kid commercials? Then go and volunteer at a shelter or food bank, they literally need people like you all day!!! What about animals, there is animal shelters. What about LGBT people? Or Civil rights?

There are committees and boards all over the place that need someone who actually cares. You. You are needed. You with your big, caring, carefully concealed heart. Unbury it, show it off. It may be just what you need to be at your best.

With Love
Jeff Utnage

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Forgiveness Is Truly Difficult: The Price Of Victimization

Coming to terms with not being forgiven when you actually want to is difficult. Let me use my lasso of truth here, it is painful and I do not like it.

I made a huge mistake. I let my mind get clouded to a point where moral ground dissipated into a murky well of disgust. I have no one, no drug, no alcohol to blame. It was me. It was my doing, my fault. No one else's. I ruined so much...

I have these dreams where I reconcile with my kids. They are grown and unsure of me. In the dream I am more unsure of them. Usually we are sitting down to a meal, around a big oak table. I am just starting to loosen up before the person I hurt walks in. In the dream she just stares at me, with a husband who is furious. She wants answers, everyone does...I want so badly to get up and run like hell, but I do not. 

In the dream I offer no excuses. I get forgiven verbally by her and that hurts the most. I get forgiven by her knowing that it is for closure in her life, not mine. Closure is not deserved.

The dream usually ends here. Sometimes I get beaten, sometimes I just run. Other times it is hugs all around. But never do I feel good about it. I wake up feeling awful every single time.

The fact of the matter is folks, I do not deserve forgiveness. I hope for it. I scream for it out loud in night terrors that happen all to often. I pray to God for it, I yell at myself in my head like a maniac even...nothing eases the pain of knowing I have no excuses for my actions. 

I cannot accept, will not accept, that this had to happen. It was totally avoidable, I was completely able to be helped long before anyone was abused. I know what it took to come out of that. I will spend the rest of my life doing three things: 1) stopping victimization 2) stopping people from going through what I am going through 3) helping the LGBT community be 100% equal and safe everywhere in this country and beyond.

That is the point of all this. All that I do is geared toward this goal. Educating myself (which I have no money for), every letter, every email, every handshake and conversation. I could use a lot of help.

With Love
Jeff Utnage

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Why This Site Is Important To YOU & Why You Should Share It

I have been asked frequently why anyone would read; how is it relevant to your life? Why does it matter? Let me explain...

In Washington State there are approximately 17,500 incarcerated people, according to information available to me. Now I am going to guesstimate that the average prison sentence is right around 24-36 months (this is an educated estimate based on being here for over 6 years and knowing the sentence length of those around me, it may be less or a little more).

The recidivism rate is approximately 67%, of the prison population. Recidivism is the term used for recommitting crimes after incarceration. That means that out of 17,500 prisoners, 11,667 are going to release and commit another offense, or crime, statistically speaking. That means that only 5833 people are either never getting out or are not going to commit another crime. 

So who cares, right? You should! Those 11,667 new crimes means that 11,667 NEW victims! This does NOT include the new criminals committing crimes every year adding to that number of yearly victims!! This means that this year alone in only Washington State that there will be 11,667 new rapes, murders, robberies, thefts, drug deals, or other crimes committed ONLY by those who have already been caught once already. 

What if it was your car that got stolen, or your house broken into? What if it was your daughter raped, or your husband beaten or worse? 

Now, let's say that something terrible happened and you become the victim or someone close to you becomes a victim (God forbid!) Now what if I were to tell you it could have been completely avoided? Maddening right? It didn't have to happen. It wasn't fate, or karma or whatever justification you can provide. It was because someone did NOT get the HELP they needed when the opportunity was available (prison). 

I have turned my life around in prison. That's all well and good, but it doesn't do any bit of good if I don't take this knowledge of how I did it and help others BEFORE a crime is committed! Not in my mind anyway. I hate the fact I hurt somebody and there ain't nothing I can do to take it back or fix it...absolutely nothing. That's a two way street, the person I hurt can't undo it either. They will, tragically, have that memory for life. 

I want to prevent this in ANY capacity. I want to prevent you from being part of this statistic in any way. It takes honest conversation, open minds and a willingness to help those who want it, they are out there, believe me. 

I have an idea, a dream. To reach out to those high-risk people like I once was and help them BEFORE they committee a crime, before yet another victim is created. It's possible, it's realistic and you don't have to be a millionaire or politician to do it. No sir, no ma'am.

I know I have made a difference in here. I know that my mentoring, speeches, teaching classes, and even this site has helped people for the better in some way.

But its not enough, together we can do more. Together we can end this cycle of pain.

Continue reading, I will be writing more about how you out there can help reduce recidivism, making your community and life safer. Protecting those you love without the use of violence, hatred, and anger. Helping heal instead of tearing apart. 

If you have ideas, things you do already or know someone who does something to help this in some way, I would like to hear about it! Even someone as disliked and tenacious as me needs inspiration, I would sure appreciate it!

Leave a comment,send me a letter, or share us with a friend!

With Love
Jeff Utnage