Monday, July 31, 2017

Education Returns To Washington State Prisons On A Limited Basis: I Am One Giddy Gender Bending Queer!

If you have read anything of mine than you probably know that college education is extremely important to me. It has been proven that college education reduces recidivism rates by 30%. When the current Washington State recidivism rate is 67%, 30% is a lot of offenses prevented. Let me do the math for you:

There is an est. 17500 inmates in WA DOC, a 67% recidivism rate means that 11,725 people, on average, commit new offenses upon release. By educating us, it has the opportunity to reduce that number to 6,475...big difference!

We all know that not everyone is going to take education while incarcerated and you waste your time on the unwilling, usually. However, this is a tool that will be used diligently by so many that it WILL have a giant impact on our communities in an amazing way. In fact, it has the potential to prevent nearly 5000 victims...and possibly more depending on how the newly educated people become leaders.

As a queer person I am happy to use this opportunity to become better educated, even if its in a different field than I originally intended. I believe that LGBT especially need to become highly educated because we need representation in the communities and government offices, we need leaders and mentors. This is us, you and I. We are much more effective when we not only know more and effectively use that information to help our people, but the fact we show enough tenacity to complete a formal education is saying so much. Particularly in an age where fast and easy money dominates. 

All those responsible for getting this back deserves a big round of applause. This is the single best use of money for fighting crime, in my opinion. (but numbers don't lie...30% reduction in recidivism...hard to argue that an nit has also been proven that educated people across the board commit less crime)

With Love

Friday, July 28, 2017

LGBT Love, Is That A Real Thing?

From where I sit in this place I get the vantage point of what it used to be like for homosexuals in the earlier years. Like pre-60's when in order to express sexuality you had to take risks and hide. Doing things, like love, under the watchful eyes of those who seek to end your created being.

Prison is still in that stage where they believe it's ok to prevent relationships among homosexuals. Only they use the guise of safety and security to mask their bigotry. After all, of gays can have relationships in prison than why not make all prisons co-ed and let everyone have relationships? I don't have an answer for that and I truthfully don't care. In my humble opinion, LGBT people should be housed separately from both men and women and transgendered people should be housed where they feel the most secure. Though, that is a sticky one, I know.

What is happening is that LGBT people in prison have learned to hide their relationships, at least those that are brave enough to engage in them. Which bravery it is. It was 50 years ago and it is today. Look at history.

LGBT people in prison may find the perfect mate in here, but as soon as anyone finds out about it, you are separated and punished. Imagine that...equality at it's finest.

I am among those who refuse to have relationships in prison, not because I agree with DOC (which clearly I do not, and if it's unclear to you still...) but because it is unhealthy to hide such things. I have been in long term relationships where I was able to express affection openly and freely. I refuse to hide my feelings for another, so instead I choose to not allow inmate relationships for myself.

But that isn't fair. It's not fair to me because I am at a point in my life where I am healthy and stable enough to have a loving and practical relationship with someone. So I keep telling myself that I will wait for someone from the outside to develop a relationship with. The problem with that is, the few people that have written me that were single end up finding the "one" soon after, I swear I am like "Good Luck Chuck" for queers! Sooo frustrating!

So while I hate policy, I follow it, begrudgingly. I pray and hope that someone will soon come and see me beautiful in their eyes and be willing to jump into the ocean of life with me. Until then...

With Love

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The LGBT Soldiers Who Flee

As a child I had two career goals. One was to be a Chippendale dancer (thank you Patrick Swayze & SNL!), the other was to be a soldier. 

My idea of a soldier was no fears, strong, confident. Upstanding, kind, tolerant. Patient, tactical...

Obviously that didn't work out. The Chippendale dream was shot to hell when I realized I was fat and my uncles started to really question my sexuality, I was about 7. The military was a no go because of a juvenile record. 

I still became a soldier though. In prison I love the LGBT community. You have no idea how much. These misfits and misunderstood cons are the people who let down their guard and drop the bulls**t with me. I know their mistakes and they know mine. All of them. Its a very special relationship we all have because we face hatred, discrimination, and insecurities together. 

Individually we are incomplete and singular. But together we are a united front, we hold one another up when things go wrong, and sometimes they do. When we make mistakes, because we all do, we don't tell each other how awful we are...we get plenty of that from out there, no, we simply extend a hand, give a quick hug and start shoring each other up bracing for impact together.

We rejoice in our victories together. When one jumps for joy, a piece of the rest of us does to. When one cries, a piece of the rest of us does too. 

I know how hard it must be to look in at a person like me and think "this guy is worth my time." However, I challenge you to look at me, really look at me. I am a soldier not just for my cause, but for your cause. For the next generations cause. I am not fleeing while you watch from the shadows, fearing...whatever it is you fear. My hand has been extended to you for a very long time and it is still extended, despite the daily rejection. We are fighting the same damned war, yet you are fine to watch me struggle. 

We are all soldiers, family, whether you like that or not. I AM gay, I AM Gender Fluid, and we ARE family. Help me through this, please. I promise I won't let you down. I won't be a soldier who flees, I am forever involved.

You can help me so much, maybe you don't realize it. Letters, cards, help me a few dollars while I go through college, send books, you can contribute on this site ( because, yeah, your opinions on this subject are valued and WANTED), send me updates on legal issues in our community regarding LGBT issues, send me your thoughts on how to prevent future crimes (...yeah, I care about that! ), send me tips on how to improve my writing or even a book on it...or any book because I am a reading machine! 

The point is this, I need you. I need help. I am asking for it...

With Love

My Personal Vision As A Leader

I am going to end victimization. 

This is my vision. Lofty, yup. Unrealistic? To some maybe, that's why they haven't done it...they believe its impossible. Well I do not. Its entirely possible.

I am going to assemble a team of dedicated people to end victimization. We will start with the LGBT communities and branch out into everyone's communities. 

The team I assemble will be responsible for identifying areas that need attention to end victimization. Then, we will come up with a plan and seek the appropriate help and resources to implement our vision. Which is to end victimization.

I am seeking bold people who are audacious enough and dream big enough to know this is possible and worthy of our time. As a team of people with different strengths we can build an organization that impacts the world. This is reality. Get ahold of me. There is no better time than now.

Leaders do big things that attract big people. Let's attract some really big people!

With Love

Our Gay'ly Bread: God VS Aliens

I have seen the TV shows that attribute every anomaly from the past to proof of aliens. There are many, many people who claim to have seen aliens, spaceships at least. Religious temples of old have been attributed to the work of aliens, even the power of the Ark Of The Covenant. 

The thought of a God just crawls on people. One Impossible thing couldn't have created us. So many would rather believe we came from bacteria. (if we came from bacteria, or fish or monkeys than those things would not exist. Because at some point the function of that species wasn't good enough for survival, thus evolution. If we evolved from monkeys than why do monkeys still exist? I guess the monkeys didn't get the memo!)

However, God is in the same boat to many people. Many people have claimed to have heard from God or had interactions of some sort with Him. In belief in God one must also believe in His creation of everything. Which aligns better with the "Big Bang Theory" because if there was dust or rocks or some matter or atom or nucleus that collided together to form the great expanse, than who created (or what) the material that collided? It didn't just suddenly appear out of nothing. Nothing cannot create something.

In my own personal belief I do not believe that God created this big ole universe and left us all alone in it. It seems silly to create infinity and only put a few beings in it, relatively speaking. We may all not see aliens or God, but it doesn't stop most of us from believing they exist.

Believing in God is just as crazy as believing in something being created from nothing. Only, one theory explains what happens after we die while the other is still shrugging their shoulders in question. 

I have to go with what I know on this one. I have felt the presence of something majestic in times of great pleasure and great turmoil. I have dream't of things I have never seen, been guided to do the right thing when my mind was set on wrong. I believe I have seen a ghost, or an unexplaneable materialization of mass that resembles a human figure, at least. 

Maybe it's not God vs Aliens, maybe it's God created aliens? Not everything and everyone is at enmity with God.

With Love

Monday, July 24, 2017

Corey's Post: "Back To Nature"

Here in our lovely, exclusive gated neighborhood on the hill, some of us are lucky enough to have picturesque lakefront property. Actually, it's really only a man-made wetland from a leaky pipe that is leaking and has created a pool of water that won't dry up. The reason I write about this watering hole is because of the special visitors that use it daily.

Every morning, I am awoken by the calls of three to four crows, hanging out, and having breakfast. Two of them seem to be just a bit bigger than the other two, so I assume that they are the youngster to Mom and Dad. What also gives me this clue is that the two little ones yell at the others to feed them when they already have their mouth full with food of their own. I can totally see me in these selfish, and yet intelligent birds. 

Next to visit will be the swarms of little ones, including brown birds with yellow beaks, don't know their name, and also chickadees. These ones and their friends love to use the pools as baths. I love to watch them wade into the water, and do their little shake, shake, wiggle, wiggle dance to wash themselves. It may sound boring but its just really interesting to watch these group of birds hand in flocks, take turn washing themselves and taking off to dry themselves on the nearby fences. I always wondered why people bought birdbaths, but now I can see the attraction.

The coolest visitors have been the three mallard ducks, that were here when I first arrived in the spring. They would hang out and sun themselves in the heat of the day, and take off promptly when it got dark and was count time.

Biophelia is our connection to nature and other living things, keeping us focused and in the moment, which is healthier than dwelling on the past or dreading the future. Seeing these birds helps remind me that life is precious and blessed, and like those birds, one day I'll fly over these fences and be free.

Until then, thanks for reading!

That Guy!

Tackling Life

As a child I do not remember having many "heroes." At least none that were real or worth following. My first real "hero" was Patrick Swayze...I can hear you judging me...

Surprisingly, it wasn't Roadhouse or Dirty Dancing that really solidified him as a hero for me, it was "To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar." By far one of the most influential movies in my life. 

The character he played was strong, mentally and physically. Yet, gay. He had the tenacity to face life on its level and I appreciated that. Too bad I wasn't strong enough to emulate it sooner.

I was conflicted at that age because in real life those ideas weren't accepted. There was a way of thinking in place and you didn't challenge it. You accepted it and moved on, submitting to whoever. But in my mind I wanted to be more like the character I idolized; fiercely independent, self assured, able to change the atmosphere of a room.

Now I get it. When we accept ourselves, people notice. Mainly because there are so many who don't accept themselves. When we are sure of what we believe it, why we believe in it then others begin to believe in you too. 

I am taking that to the bank. I have a life sentence, in order to get out I must face a parole board, it is up to a panel of people who do not know me to decide if I should get out or not. Very scary. However, I must depend on myself to present myself to them. To win at life you must first believe you can win. Secondly, you must act like a winner. 

I have many goals. Some will work out, some won't. Some are unrealistic, some are vastly understated. All are worthy of my heart. Worth me tackling.

Do you know why I will get paroled? Because I do not accept the man that I once was, because I will positively effect the world and I cannot effectively do it from in here. I can start the process now, but to be the person I know I can be, I will need to be out. 

I haven't given up on me, on life. You shouldn't either.

With Love

Saturday, July 22, 2017

How Competitive Are You When It Comes To You?

Kind of an obscure topic, I know. There is a valid subject here though. 

When we want something in our lives we will either allow something to stop us or we won't. Let's say you want a promotion at work, but in order to get it you have to be brutal, maybe a little "cutthroat." Perhaps you want a particular man, only he's married or otherwise involved. Of course, we can use less dramatic examples, like you want another cookie and there is only one left...

What I want to point out is that other people get to advance in life while some don't. So far as I can see, the difference is how badly you want it. Ever dollar is already spoken for, right? Its not like there is a fortune just lying around waiting to be claimed. No, that money belongs to someone and in order to get it, you must take it from them. (not like stealing, but like selling them something get the idea.)

It is like that in anything. Everything belongs to somebody. In order for you to gain, somebody must lose. To advance in business someone must lose a position, their money, their desk in order for another to gain it. When you buy a gallon of milk the store loses a gallon of milk but gains your money. In turn, you lose your money and gain a gallon of milk.

Now that you understand how I am relating things, let's move on. When we give up something we are suppose to gain something equally as important in our minds. Like the price of a gallon of milk. You could not drink milk, but you choose to spend your money because you have decided the trade off is good. 
What about your happiness? What about your success? What about your children's success, or your Mothers? I have learned that nobody walks up and hands you anything. You do not go through college and get handed a winning life. Everything has a gain everything has a loss. 

I have found that life, in general, is competitive. I have some boundaries I have drawn for myself (exceptions), I won't hurt anyone. I won't steal. I won't lie. I won't tear anyone down. I will not hesitate to viciously compete. I will not apologize when I gain what others have lost. I won't turn my back on people who need help. I won't quit when I feel things are too hard. 

All the easy fruit has been picked. Everything else from here on out is hard to reach, there is a reason everyone close to it is a formidable opponent.

So for everyone out there who is competing for successful, happy lives...I'm coming. You will be seeing me standing next to you in life's grand arena. I won't be mad if you win, I'll be happy for you. I hope you show me the same respect.

With Love

Friday, July 21, 2017

I Need Help While I Go Through College!

Our prison just started offering Associates Degrees from Edmonds Community College. It will be a degree in Business Management. It is full time, 30 hrs a week plus independent studies outside of the classroom. 

I am so excited to do this, problem is, I cannot get a job while I go through school because of how things are set up here. I still need to be able to buy a few things. Hygiene, because your boy has long hair the indigent soap (the soap the state will debt to us) does not work y'all, besides that, they don't offer conditioner unless you purchase it. My need is this, while I go through school is there anyone who can help with a few things here and there, maybe $20/month? My family is very supportive but is unable to financially support me while I get a college education. I would like to buy email stamps so I can continue to write my support network and contribute to, which is very therapeutic for me.

I need help. If there is anyone who is in a position to assist me while I get educated, I'd appreciate it! I am holding a 4.0 GPA, my current classes are Accounting 101, BSTEC 110, & MGMT100. I have to say that accounting is by far my favorite subject! I could genuinely use some assistance. It is easy to do, not much to it. 

Contact me! Address below:

Jeff Utnage 823469 D-610-1
Monroe Correction Center - Twin Rivers Unit
PO Box 888
Monroe, WA 98272

If you read this often than you know this is unusual, as I try to be self-sufficient, however, its not possible at the moment. Worst case scenario I have to quit school to take a job, which I am happy to do. But if I get an education now, my job options go way up upon release, which I need. I am trying to improve myself here and a little help is needed.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Being LGBT In Prison: What Does It Look Like?

I am going to speak directly from my own experiences as an openly gay, gender nonconformist. When I became open with my sexuality in prison I was given a few pieces of advice (this was in early 2012). One from an inmate, another from staff, both with the same undertone of meaning. 

The inmates told me to keep it quiet and find a prison "daddy" (someone to protect you in exchange for sex). Staff told me to keep it quiet, do not tell anyone and sent me to mental health. Both groups were trying to keep me safe as best as they knew how. This highlights the vast differences between what staff knew about us and what reality was.

The problem was communication. There was not a clear line of communication that either side trusted. For good reason. Inmates could get into seriously dangerous territory for openly communicating with staff. The ones who put us in danger were the ones who stood to lose their sexual gratification and authority over us. Not to mention that not all people in authority can be trusted. After all, I have heard the word faggot come out of their mouths as frequently as an inmates, hard to trust someone to help you when they talk as if they hate you.

Inmates aren't squeaky clean either. Lying and manipulation doesn't stop because we got arrested. I have seen big fiasco's over break ups that resulted in all kinds of melodrama. Which fuels the fire of mistrust. 

Over the past 5+ years several of us inmates and willing staff have established open, honest communication so that we can face this problem head on. It wasn't because we felt the need to fix the world, it was because we were facing troubles that were complex and unnatural. We needed help. While some inmates dealt very well with them, others struggled emotionally and psychologically. The ones that struggled were often labelled as problem children by everyone involved, left to perpetuate more isolation.

As I found ways to get help for myself I realized that it shouldn't have been so challenging. Help with difficult situations, unsafe situations, unnatural situations shouldn't only be available to those who know how to deal with them. Solutions should be given to those that need them, after all, this is the point of incarceration. 

Prison for LGBT people is heading in a good direction. Where our sexuality and gender identities can be the least of our worries and what brought us here can be the priority. After all, we cannot fix what we are busy defending, ourselves.

When people begin to take notice that our incarceration is drastically complicated because of our sexual and gender identity then help arrives. However, the problem cannot be addressed if it is not acknowledged. For the first time in DOC history, we have been finally acknowledged. That's a good start. Now if we can just establish the communication part, which I (at least) am working on. 

How can you help in all this? Communicate with us. We need stable, patient people in our lives that are willing to show up. Most often we can help ourselves if we feel secure, you can help with that. 

With Love

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Creating LGBT Leaders In Your Circle And Why It's Helpful

Leadership is important in life. Leadership in your own life, at work, over your car. You have to lead your own way. 

However, we do not need Kings or rulers in our lives. What we need is each other to be on the same playing field. I picture it like this:

We are all carrying a shield and its job is to protect part of us, part of the person next to us. So we all protect each other. When someone falls behind, if breaks our defenses, right? So then we have a choice, advance without them and close the gap or stay behind and not make progress. 

Who is in your life that's stopping progress? Is it you that's stopping progress? 

As LGBT people we are practically walking self-esteem messes. I think it is crucial to assist those in your life to take on a leadership mentality. Because we alone do not have all the answers and we will ALL break the line at times. We need strong, capable people around us to keep us in the fight for our own lives. Because when we stop fighting for ourselves, we endanger the people around us even more because they were depending on us to be there. 

Encouraging our brothers and sisters, our chosen families, and edifying them, building them up...that's our job as people! To let them know what type of friend you want them to be you must first be that friend. 

Who have you encouraged today, if you don't have a list already,'ve got work to do! A simple unexpected compliment may be precisely what someone needed at that moment. It could literally, change someone's life.

With Love

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Corey's Post - "Night At The Theater"

Last week, on TNT, a new show started called "Will" which will chronicle the life and drama of the famous playwright, William Shakespeare.

Lucky for us, we were treated to a live interpretation of his famous play, "Hamlet", brought in to us by the Freehold Theater Company.

We arrived to the auditorium, which was actually just our gym, and were escorted to our seats, which again was just sitting on the floor. It totally reminded me of the old school elementary assemblies we had, with the teachers lurking around the outsides of the seating area to tell noisy little children to be quiet. Again, this is not a theater, but a gym without airconditioning, so since it is summer, it started to get warm quickly.

What kept us calm, cool and collected was the set up of the stage in the gym. It had been transformed into the throne room of a king. Then the music started and the actors took stage. At first I was a bit scared that the Shakespearean prose would be too difficult to understand, and that I might have been lost following the action, but the professionalism in the actors, and their dedication to their craft transcended my ignorance. The director had updated the setting to more current times, which helped with the translation, but it was definitely the performances that enraptured myself and the audience.

I must thank Freehold for bringing this talent and culture to us in the prisons. For them to put aside their fears and bias, and bring this production to us helps us to keep our humanity and strive to experience new activities when we are released.

One gentleman thanked the group for coming in because this was his first experience seeing a play much less well done Shakespeare.

We are truly blessed to have people on the outs, seeing us as human beings who can appreciate the finer things in life.

Thanks again, Freehold

That Guy

The Elephant In Our Lives

I had a dream the other night. There were two elephants, one big healthy one and one smaller sickly one. The large one was telling me something, it killed the smaller one. In fact, it trampled it to death. I was not afraid, but watchful. In my dream I knew it meant something. Something inside me.

I had my mother look up what it could mean. After all, I don't usually get vivid dreams and when I do, especially in high stress times like I am in right now, I pay attention to what my subconscious is telling me. Maybe not on a spiritual level all the time, but on a "hey, your suppressing this feeling and you need to deal with it better."

After a few minutes I gathered that elephant dreaming is a subject all its own. So I have to interpret what I feel about elephants, what they represent in my life personally. Which is big, majestic, all powerful, inspiring...goals. For me they represent goals. One of my goals killed another one of my goals. Question is, which one is more powerful? 

The healthy elephant made sure I knew that I was the center of his world. I was his intended audience. His message was squarely for me. He was letting me know that something inside me was finally dead. 

So why write about it? Because we all have goals, ideas, aspirations. Sometimes our goals cross each other out because they are counter to one another and we don't realize it. Like wanting to live a simple life and win the lottery, one will eat the other.

As LGBT people we have a long road ahead of us. Our lives are interconnected in a spiritual way that the best religious leader cannot comprehend totally. Our lives matter to one another, as well they should.

What would happen if we all did a heart check, make sure were on the right path, doing the right things. That's what my elephant was telling me "Hey, are you listening to me? Because I am all that matters, I am your true future, your calling, your purpose, let go of everything else and focus."

What is yours telling you?

With Love
Jeff Utnage

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Taking Back Our God, Because LGBT People Can Go To Heaven Too!

Even if you are not a believer in a higher power such as God or Allah or something else, you most likely can at least respect that many do. 

There are churches popping up all over the country that are LGBT affirming. However, it is churches that are keeping bigotry alive. Let me explain.

Go to a Baptist church and at least the general stance is gays are not acceptable. Many Baptist pastors are preaching to not associate or tolerate LGBT people at all. It gets more extreme from there. Vigilante zealots running around picketing and laying hands on us to "cast out our demons." I have even had people tell me it would be better to mutilate myself than have sexual contact with the same sex.

While there are always two sides to the coin this is what I know, what I have come to terms with: God loves me. God created me. God wants me home when it is my time. I know I am going to heaven because the promise extends to even me. 

While people around me gather together in the name of God and go out of their way to exclude me because of my sexuality, I still believe in God. Believing in a God that loves you is your right as a human being. If you don't know one that does, holler at me. I know this for sure, my God loves you and doesn't like it when people tell you otherwise. 

Take back your right to religious freedom. Yup, that's still a thing.

With Love
Jeff Utnage

Saturday, July 15, 2017

What's The Purpose Here? What's The Agenda?

My goals are ever evolving. When this began (this site) it was because I was getting resistance from certain individuals in regards to creating an LGBT support group inside prison. For religious reasons for some, safety concerns for others, others was all about pure bigotry (though very few).

So I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I just put my feelings out there, what I was going through, how it made me feel. My wins and many, many losses. How my criminal past hindered me and what I did to overcome that. In essence, what it turned into was a detailed, nearly day by day account of a social.movement that resulted in accomplishing precisely what I set out to do. An LGBT support group was established, the very same year (2016) DOC made national history (my declaration because I don't know of a single other state prison that has done this) when they allowed and put on an LGBT Pride event to celebrate us. 

When I started this process I realized that in order to succeed I was going to have to motivate people to help. Because we cannot make giant changes alone. I expected that the public would see my writing and be inspired to help. Instead what happened was well beyond my expectations. 

Nobody from the outside helped, to my knowledge. I wrote hundreds of personal letters to LGBT organizations stretching from Florida to Ontario and Southern California to Vancouver BC. I wrote political parties, colleges, community agencies, senators, Governors and churches. Week after week I wrote for three years and never once did I receive a single solitary response. Except a prisoner aimed newsletter published a blurb about what I was attempting to do and mistakenly put my writing address with it, the result was hundreds of prisoners across the globe tried to write me...which is a big no no. Inmate to inmate contact is understandably and justifiably prohibited. The gap was suddenly being filled by other inmates, staff, admin. It was amazing to witness.

Suddenly my request was a movement that took on life of its own. Hardened criminals were approaching me daily to make sure I was OK, to offer support. Staff, who a few years prior sent me to mental health when I said I needed support, was now my biggest and most concerned ally. 

Over time my goals evolved because I changed the culture of prison. Let me rephrase that, I motivated a cultural change in prison. One that stretched across the state and beyond. The best part was/is, I wasn't the only one.

If I can motivate people to change in a good way ( and I believe that LGBT tolerance is a good thing) than I also believe that I can influence other positive things in a similar way. Things like ending victimization. Things like ending sexual assault. Things like helping people come out healthily. Things like making self-improvement priority again. 

Ultimately I want to be proud of who I am. Before 2011 I had nothing to be proud of. Today, I have a list and I am not satisfied with it, its not enough. I have the ability to fix it and change it. So I am. When I leave this place, get released from prison that is, those things are what you can count on from me. These writings are me, what I'm about, what I'm doing to change my circumstances, what I'm overcoming and how. My proof of worth.

With Love 
Jeff Utnage

Friday, July 14, 2017

How DOC Is Stepping Up To The Plate (And Just Might Knock It Out Of The Park!)

I was locked up in 2011 when all the federal funding had run out for major programs. Programs that really impacted recidivism rates, like education. 

Did you know that an inmate who receives an Associates Degree while incarcerated lowers his/her recidivism rate by nearly 33%? Its proven that educated people tend to commit less crime. I'm not writing this to convince you of that though. Just a side note.

What I do want to point out though is that when the federal government pulled major funding from state prisons, it left a big ole problem for DOC to figure out. When things get shut down around any community people get a little depressed. People get touchy, point the finger and crime rises, which fuels even more important things getting shut down. This is any urban community where resources are dwindling. Prison is no different. As the inhabitants become increasingly hopeless and defiant, the ones who have the biggest challenge are the ones who still care.

When I came into this system in 2011 staff was fed up with all the whining from inmates. A giant separation had emerged, even bigger than what was already there. Inmates were especially bitter that the therapeutic things they used to do were one by one shutting down for lack of funding. Of course, the immediate staff paid the biggest penalty because they became the ones to blame. Which isn't fair.

Here we are 6 years later and some real superheroes have emerged within the Department Of Corrections. I wish I could name them so they could get credit, but I cannot. But I will say this, so many people who shouldn't give a crap have risen to the challenge to create life altering programs out of nothing. By using the passion of the brave inmates who are willing to help I have seen programs emerge that have helped thousands, literally. None of them funded except the newest educational programs. 

Recognition is due. Some of these people (DOC staff) have spent sleepless nights trying to figure out a way to help us change our lives without any help from anyone but the average Joe, you. By God they've done it. By empowering us to help ourselves, take part in the creative process, mentor one another, speak from the heart with staff involved those bridges are being built again. Much needed bridges. 

So while most will say DOC as a whole has done nothing, there are those of us who know better.

To those who try...thank you. Hopefully this will inspire more people to join in the fight to end victimization.

With Love
Jeff Utnage

Thursday, July 13, 2017

"What's Pride Got to Do...Pt. 2"

So to try to finish up my last thought before I had to go, I was talking about how things in the past were a lot more complicated for a person like me, black and gay, before these more enlightened times. And the changes that have been experienced by our society didn't happen on their own, but people had to be strong, put targets on their backs and have the courage to say that institutional racism and misogyny were unfair and un-American. These ordinary people put aside their comfort and security, many risking their lives for a change that many of them would not benefit from in their own lifetime.

When I realized this, I saw that I would never be that courageous and selfless to put my life on the line for others, but I'm very much willing to live a life of comparable ease on the suffering, trials and blood of those heroes. So that's where I've decided to find my Pride, by honoring those who came before, and honoring their hard work and sacrifice, so that I can be free and equal.

But of course the work isn't done. Many years have been spent trying to get people to see past color, race, nationality, and gender, to judge individuals as such and not stereotyping groups. The civil rights movement and the women's liberation movement both moved mountains but there is still racism and misogyny. 

Hopefully we can all be open enough to listen to each other and empathize around the human condition, finding our common ties rather than dissecting our differences."

Crazy that I've run out of time, while doing time but that's how life is. 

Until next time, thank you and enjoy the sun!

That Guy!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Corey's First Post: "What's Pride Got to Do, Got to do with it?"

Last month I had the tremendous honor of being able to give a speech at our first ever, Pride celebration. Even though I have given speeches before, I still get a bit nervous and can tend to babble. Babbling so much that I realize I've talked so long that I have to skip half of my speech, and what I considered the heart of the speech, so I decided to included it here.

My speech started with me telling my story of growing up as a product of assimilation, because I was a black kid in mostly white surroundings. When I came of age, I realized I was gay and had to navigate my own cultures bias and prejudices against a hidden minority, at least more hidden than now since these were the eighties. What follows is the rest of the speech that I had prepared where I have actually learned about where my Pride comes from.

"By writing this speech, I have realized how lucky I am to have been born in these current times, where outdated beliefs have been challenged and found to be wrong and unfair. Think about it, just 200 years ago, in the land of the free, I would have been a slave, owned as property, and only worth 1/3 of what a white man was worth. Women didn't have the right to vote, and Native Americans were seen as savages to be shot on site. Only 60 years ago, in this great nation of ours, blacks and whites couldn't go to the same schools, or couldn't even get married. Gays and lesbians could be arrested and outed in newspapers as "sexual deviants", just for going to a club where others like themselves could congregate and have fellowship. And just before I was born, the psychiatric community removed "homosexuality" from the books as a mental illness. 

Guess what? I'm running out of time again, so I guess that means I need to work on my typing skills. I promise to do that by continuing to write here. For now I'm done, and I hope you enjoyed my babble. I'll be back soon with more :)

Signing off for now,

Corey also know as "That Guy"


Good Morning Everyone,

We have a guest blogger beginning today. His name is Corey and we hope that he is an inspiration to you.

Let us know what you think. Do we keep him? I am hoping yes.

Have a wonderful day,

Do Your Dishes As You Make Them Or Let Them Stack Up?

When I was in my mid teens my family knew a lady named Vickie. She was in her early 50's then but peppy, thin, financially stable. I remember going to her apartment with my Mom one night and she brought out a few small plates and some glasses so we could eat a little something. As we finished our snack she washed the dishes right then and there. 

I remember thinking it odd that someone would stop everything to wash dishes. Strangely enough, I quickly decided I liked that better. In fact, that made me pay close attention to Vickie from that point toward. She was full of energy and did things much differently than my family did.

I didn't develop the habit of washing my dishes as I made them until I came to prison. Now the idea of letting them pile up until later seems so far removed from the scope of possibilities that I can't imagine doing it.

Though, it applies to everything in my life, that's what I missed in Vickie at my youthful age, she procrastinated on nothing. I didn't catch it then. I do now though. It's a habit I now possess as regularity. One I wish I would have been taught at a young age. The dishes are just dishes. But they represent how we deal with our lives. 

Do you let things pile up until it NEEDS you attention or do you stay on top of it so its not so much at once?

Just because you are on top of things at work where there is structure doesn't mean you get a free pass in your life. You deserve to not put yourself on the back burner until you NEED attention. If you do this you are being so unfair. So many people can benefit from you being on top of your own life. 

I'd like to hear your thoughts on this from anyone who reads this.

With Love
Jeff Utnage

Monday, July 10, 2017

Women Dating Bisexual Men? Does It Take A Special Type?

I wonder about how straight women, generally speaking, feel about dating a man who is bisexual. I haven't spoken to many straight women in regards to this, but I have heard a few conversations. 

The few women I have heard speak on this hold this view point that the man is somehow...tainted meat. As if there is something now wrong with him. As if he can no longer provide the security or benefits of masculinity, if there is any.

I would like to challenge this directly as bigotry carefully disguised as tradition. I get that some women and men want those traditional masculine and feminine roles intact within their union, more power to them. However, the notion that a man is no longer capable of masculinity because he has had physical relations, or would have them, with the same sex is ridiculous. That's like saying because a woman wears pants she is somehow less capable of motherly duties. Let's come out of the 20's ya'll. If that era and its traditions were really so savory for those who lived them, they would have passed on...don't ya think?

I am sensible enough to not limit myself. Love is love. No matter who it is from. It is highly unlikely, however plausible, that I would date or show interest in another woman. That is not to say I wouldn't be open to it. I am not looking for this though, because deep down I know that the parts a woman has are not the parts I think about sexually. 

I just wonder how a woman could have "a ton of gay friends" and not be comfortable with having a bisexual partner. It opens up far more possibilities in the bedroom, just sayin'. But not always, I have found that many bisexual men really like the roles of the gender. They want their women feminine and they want their men to be masculine. Though this isn't the rule, just my recent experience, which I admit is narrow by a global standard. What's wrong with a little seasoning? If a bisexual man is willing to be monogamous (assuming that's what's wanted in the first place) and stay appreciative of your womanhood, what's the issue if in his past he's engaged in same sex, sex?

Open up, just a touch...

With Love
Jeff Utnage

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Think Prison Is Candy Land For Gays? Read This...

When I talk to straight men in prison or gay men on the streets I get the same feedback, "What's it like being around all that potential?!" Well, it's awful.

It's not like window shopping where you can look but not touch. It's not like some porn you've seen where there is a neatly scripted gang-bang in the shower. Its more like a house of horrors. 

Imagine this, imagine you meet someone who understands you. They get your past, are excited for you future and you about theirs. They are a great fit for your needs emotionally, physically, and sexually. They are a perfect partner. Imagine they live right next door maybe, or in the next building? Imagine you see them everyday, you both know that you are meant for one another. Perfect right?

Now imagine that if anyone even slightly suspected such a thing was happening, you'd be punished. Yeah, no notes, no kisses on the cheek or hugs, no giddy waves to indicate how excited you are...any display that indicates there may be a relationship even slightly will result in permanent separation. Still sound like fun?

As LGBT people in prison this is the case. Our perfect partner could be within 300 ft. of us at any given time, yet we must not act on our genetic impulse to show healthy, appropriate affection, because being gay (the act thereof, you can "say" your gay, but to commit an "act" of homosexuality is definitely illegal in DOC...welcome to equality) is not allowed here. If you don't control your desires, someone will by force. For anyone on the parole board, like me, if I have any sexual contact it will put me in prison for the rest of life potentially. Even though the other party would be a healthy, stable adult capable of making sound decisions. 

Prison isn't for LGBT. 

With Love
Jeff Utnage

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Unrecognized Woman Inside: What Is This?

It happened again today. I was brushing my hair and when I looked in the mirror I was expecting to see a pretty woman staring back. I felt like it, for a moment. Instead, what was looking back at me was a 35 year old man with a five o'clock shadow.

Usually the thought passes quickly, I am un-bothered by it. However, today was different. I was saddened by my appearance, rather, the lack there of. Today, I didn't want to see a man in the mirror. I didn't want to see bad teeth, rigid shoulders and pectoral muscles. Not tonight.

No tonight I wanted to see someone pretty, someone happy. Fun, with a pretty smile who was proud of who they were, despite a sordid past. Tonight, I just wasn't ready to be Jeff anymore. 

I feel like I'm losing myself in here. Men don't see me as Jeff, you know. They call me Jeffica, or Princess, or anything feminine. I don't ask them to, they just do. They scoff at any attempt I make to be masculine, perhaps the reward of acceptance is effective, damn it. I could blame them totally, but I know who I admire...and it has never been a man.

I like smooth, rounded curves as opposed to squared, chiseled features. I don't want a strong set of arms, I want delicate shoulders with a thin waist. 

Tonight is just one of those nights where it feels like another small piece of the man I used to be just died. Maybe when I leave this place I will be totally unrecognizable? Maybe I could live with myself in peace then, a

With Love
Jeff Utnage

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Average Life Expectancy, 70 Years, What Have You Done With It

I thumbed through an almanac the other day. I found all kinds of facts, like LGB people (no stats on trans people) make up 2% of the U.S. population as of 2013. Actually it was 5,234,000 people over the age of 18 who admitted to a government official that they were lesbian, gay, or bisexual. So our real number is probably right around 8%, that is just my opinion though.

Among the other facts I found was life expectancy. If you were born in the 80's or 70's you life expectancy is 70 years, statistically. (if you were born in 2013 your life expectancy is 81 years, btw) 
This got me thinking. I am 35 now. That means I have spent half of my expected life already. I am in prison, no money, fighting for an education, three children who are scattering like wheat husks in the wind, and I am just now dreaming.

I am not going to waste the next 35. Have you reached that point in your life where you actually realize your mortality. We ARE going to perish. How did you spend your life? 

Did you spend it hating? Intolerant? How about stressed out? Unhappy? Did you ever want to belly flop on a swimming pool of Jell-O? Never did though? 

We have so many sensory experiences that we want but don't do. I am not going to waste another year I don't have to.

My idea of happiness is knowing that I made a difference, left a footprint to be followed. I know I have hurt people, I know that I am somebody's idea of a bad person, but I don't have to live like it. I do not have to stay that way. So I won't. I decided a long time ago I was going to leave this place a changed man, so I will.

What will you do with your next 35?

With Love
Jeff Utnage