Saturday, February 24, 2018

Community Building Strategies: Why Everyone Needs To Listen To Inmates Now More Than Ever

Prevention is key. We are supposed to learn from our mistakes in life. Why do we limit them to our own? Why is it not acceptable to learn from mine?

With the recent shooting in Florida and a few community members taking notice a month before, I cannot help but think, what if someone approached him directly? Why are we, as a nation, relying on the government to solve our problems when they have proven ineffective in every area.

Building our own community is vital to our survival as a people. Not individual segregated units like LGBT people in one neighborhood and blacks in another etc, I mean as one, united.

When you see someone who is angry and seems like a prime candidate for something terrible, reach out to them! Don't call the FBI, clearly our government is incapable of helping us, otherwise prisons would have been eradicated long ago. Get as many people to show concern as possible. You know, act as if they are human beings, it is OK to show compassion and concern for people you don't know.

Building community doesn't need to involve intrusive behavior. What it means is you interact with people. That's it. Simple, real, interactions. Ask someone how they are doing, then actually listen. I know, shocker. 

It isn't hard, it means that you aren't responsible for them, it means they walk away feeling that at least one person in their lives cares. 

We live in a country with 324 million people, yet, so many feel more isolated than prisoners do. Little islands in the middle of the world that nobody wants to step on.

I urge you all to make an attempt at communication with people who need it. Which is everyone. People are in pain, they are hurting, parents don't know how to teach their children emotional management. That means its up to you, as a community. Otherwise folks go shooting up schools because nobody cared enough to say "hey man, how can I help you? I'm here to help." 

Our government isn't the answer. All they care about is career advancement. If it wasn't true they wouldn't go to college for it. 

With Love
Jeff "Jeffebelle"

Friday, February 23, 2018

Teach Me To Fish

Most have heard the expression "Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he'll never go hungry again." 

I like this saying more and more the older I get. I get it more now. Lets take sexual harassment for instance. If someone makes a pass at you and you don't know how to decline them for fear of conflict, social scrutiny, fear of whatever. Whatever the reasoning is, you don't know what to do, as is the case for MANY LGBT people in prison, just like it is the case for many women in the workplace (or anywhere!)

You can rely on someone else to handle it for you, like a boss or the government. I'd much rather know how to simply reject them though. Teach me to fish! Will your boss always be there? What about in the grocery store, will you run to some employee for advice if some dude asks you out and you don't want to go? No! We need to know how to communicate, teach me to fish! 

We are so dependent on the social services of the government that we have put lawmakers in the positions of parents. We are expecting lawmakers and politicians and the FBI and police to mitigate and regulate issues that are better handled individually.

Like the homosexual who comes out later in life and doesn't know how to reject people asking him for sex constantly so he lives in fear, silently, but it is there. 

This applies to so many inmates its ridiculous. 

It applies to nearly everyone. If a parent cannot teach their children how to cope with social situations and emotional management, its absolutely the communities job. Not the government, not the FBI, not prisons, not cops. Its our responsibility as human beings to care about one another. Not through an emoji, but through actual interactions.

Teach one another how to fish.

With Love
Jeff  "Jeffebelle"

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Heroes of the Prison Industrial Complex

As an inmate who is gender nonconforming and queer I have a unique viewpoint of prison. 

Prison in and of itself doesn't make communities safer, it doesn't bring "justice" to victims or their families, and rehabilitation of inmates is despite DOC and not because of them. There are authority figures in place who are abusive, angry, bitter, resentful, racist, phobic, and sociopathic. Usually all of those things. Many are plagued by alcohol abuse and have dehumanized us to the point that when we raise concerns we are immediately squelched or worse. 

Many people in and out of prison hold a "one size fits all" belief about prison based employment. That belief is generally pretty negative in that community. I have experienced both brutal and vicious staff as well as kind and highly effective rehabilitators. The problem is that the ones who are effective rehabilitators are ostracized within their own peer structures and they have to operate outside of the current organizational governance structure. These people are my own personal heroes because they are rehabilitating us with their own example. Not doing what everyone else is pressuring them to do. 

Although I cannot, I wish I could present them with humanitarian awards in recognition of their strength. They are rare enough it's warranted. I would bet that each and every one of them would be terminated as a result though. 

Rehabilitating inmates is a bad business model for an industry that relies and profits off of victimization.

Just another view is all.

With Love
Jeff "Jeffebelle"

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Excitement of Home, Where is That Exactly?

Do you know that feeling of temporary-ness? Like when you know that you won't be there long, wherever there us, but you don't know where to go when your not there? 

When I was younger I hitchhiked from Montana to Nebraska. I felt that way when I was standing on the on ramp to the countries artery waiting for some vehicle to stop. I had a vague plan for Nebraska, but beyond getting there everything was a blank. 

Everything in my life has always felt temporary. Now I'm in prison and this one and a half inch thick mattress feels temporary. I hate that I cannot envision life beyond this place anymore. 

I have forgotten certain things and hugging feels criminal. When I hug my mother I have to count the seconds in my head before I know I must separate, something I never want to do. 

I know I crave more visitors. More interaction with people who haven't decided hugs are criminal offenses and that resting my head on a dear friends shoulder is okay still. I want to go home. Where is that? More importantly, what is that? 

I do know one thing, I cannot wait to figure it out again. I'm terrified and excited all at once. Waiting to rediscover myself as a free person...I know what I will do with my freedom. 

With Love
Jeff "Jeffebelle"

Friday, February 16, 2018

Learning to Quilt in Prison: An Unlikely Source of Freedom

I recently began learning how to quilt through a program called the Community Aide Coalition (CAC). We make quilts for charitable organizations and causes. Although the recipients benefit, it is us who gain the most.

If someone would have told me years ago that I would learn to quilt in prison, I would not have believed them. Yet, here I am. Even more curious to me, I love it. I'm not the only one either, all of us who are apart of the CAC get so much happiness. It is funny to see us talk in a crowd of people, like we are sharing some important secret, when in fact we are simply gloating about our newest creation. 

Quilting is much more than a way for us to give back to the community, its a way for us to feel human. We sit at a sewing machine, or interact with fabric in some way, or pin our layers and it is extremely therapeutic. Our emotion, worries, fears, anxieties, stresses, past, guilt, shame, regret, isolation all just disappears for those hours. What emerges is these beautiful works of art as diverse and riddled with character as its creators. We get to pour love into something.

As inmates we rarely get afforded the opportunity to love openly. Folks are afraid to visit us, generally, which leaves us constantly trying to love from a distance. Often, our only source to show affection in any capacity is a creative project. We do not get the luxuries of romanticism or courtship. Yet we have so much love to give back, one could practically bottle it.

Quilting has afforded me, and others, a freedom that is not only rare- it is beautiful.

Our very best selves can come from our very worst decision.

With Love
Jeff Jeffebelle

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Israel LGBT Community: Your Palestinian LGBT Neighbors Need Your Voice

Every nation has LGBT people. Whether it is Russia, Ethiopia, Sudan, and yes, Palestine.

Those that are oppressed need help, your duty to your country expires when your brothers and your sisters are oppressed. 

Injustice is injustice is injustice. However, speaking up is hard when the consequences can be severe. So, here is some tips for what you can do to help your Palestinian LGBT brothers and sisters:

1. Understand that you as LGBT Israelites have more in common with LGBT Palestinians
2. When people talk bad about them, don't participate, tell them it makes you uncomfortable...because it should
3. Ostracize those who are brutal, remember the German SS and their pitiful excuses at the Nuremberg trials
4. Better to accused of a kind heart than to ask for forgiveness

Life is complex. Remember, we did not choose to be gay, or Israeli, or Palestinian, or Brown, or white. What we can choose is to look the other way, surely you know how that feels. We can also choose to love.

This is the beauty of the LGBT community, we are united through hardship, marginalization, and blood. We have all experienced hatred and known insecurities and fear. We MUST do all we can to end that for others. 

For those that already do, I send you my love. For those that turn a blind eye, be united, for though I am in prison I am united with you as your brother and as your brother I beg you to speak out.

With Love
Jeff "Jeffebelle"

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ending Victimization Globally - Not Worth Trying For?

People think I'm naive or crazy. I have been working on a non profit business plan for about 8 months now. Its an intense process that has led me down some mind bending paths, led me to some movers in activism.

I have a plan developed using a model I've been working on in every waking hour and even in my sleep. I have a lot further to go as far as writing a complete business plan, financial forecasting, etc. But the model for ending victimization is in a working stage. 

What's funny is when I ask my toughest critics to look at it, they cannot get past the word impossible. Which has led me to see that some people depend on the world remaining consistent and predictable, even if it means victimization remains unfazed and abundant.

I have a plan that will require more than my generations participation. I can, and will, lay the foundation for the next generation to take hold and end this cycle of pain. I am not dumb enough to believe I can end victimization alone or quickly. It will take time and the heart beat of the community.

We can be so selfish, to only think about here and now. The truth is, we are all going to perish and leave things worse or better off. It is our choice to make, and it is a choice. Just because I won't see the end of victimization in my lifetime, does that mean I shouldn't try?


What's impossible for them is entirely possible for me. Let's be frank here, I'm shooting for the stars and if I only make it halfway there...I still did pretty good.

I dare to dream and I won't stop. Allowing others to dictate what's possible led me to prison and its not a mistake I'll make twice.

If your interested in helping, get a hold of me. Together we can do big things. But to be honest, I gave up on the belief of others a long time ago and I'm too busy trying to change the world to go chasing after someones blessing of approval. 

With Love
Jeff "Jeffebelle"

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

When Christians Stop Trying

I live at the intersection of Christianity and Homosexuality. For me, they coincide just fine, so that intersection feels alot like home. For them, its shaky ground at best. 

I make Christians nervous, most homosexuals who are strong in their faith do. This, I assume, is because I represent equality in a realm in which they were once elite. When the equality of Christ is practiced by us in the LGBT community it offends them.

I used to try and find brothers in the faith that I could talk to, but the conversation always turned to my sexuality. They always wanted to get me to change to meet their ideology so they felt justified and when I don't bend it sends them into a tirade. As a result, I got well versed in combating their quotations, because truthfully, they are all the same.

Some newborn, freshly saved, thinks that he has God figured out man child reads a few scriptures over a few months and prays diligently and then they try to step to the plate with me, someone who has spent years, literally, studying the word. Good luck.

Now they don't even try, they don't invite me to pray, or read, or try to convert me anymore. Strange, Jesus certainly hasn't given up. We talk daily, me and Jesus. We get along fine, best friends in fact. 

Just some thoughts.

With Love
Jeff "Jeffebelle"

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Men I See by Jeff Utnage

The men you see, 
just files of papers with
assigned numbers and history.
Dangerous and malicious,
self serving and manipulative.
Murderers, drug addicts, rapists.
Thieves who must be demoralized
for your safety. 
The men you see...
But the men I see...
They show me letters of encouragement
written to children who miss
their fathers
wives and girlfriends who mourn 
the absence of their partners.
They are intelligent and caring,
becoming strong
to prove how soft they can be.
Calloused hands with exposed hearts
secretly praying to God, 
whom they begrudgingly and cautiously believe in,
for a way to express love meaningfully,
These men bellow in rage
beat their chests in bravado
howling at the injustices of modern slavery
but yet, when they are given the chance
their eyes narrow
their breathing slows
and an unsteady hand cautiously,
no, bravely, reaches out.
It wants to test life,
is it still cruel?
Must they clamour forever?
Or will one gentle and kind
soul reach half way?
Will they be left to
express feelings the only way allowed,
silently and alone?
Islands once more, or still
The men I see

With Love
Jeff Jeffebelle

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Abraham Maslow and Me: We May Just Change the World

Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs has been widely used in business to help employers understand employee motivation. Maslow's theory states that humans are motivated to fulfill needs hierarchically. Typically represented in a triangle with five sections, the lowest-and widest-section of the triangle is the most pressing. Once fulfilled one is motivated to seek fulfillment of the next section and so on. The needs are as follows from bottom to top (as represented in the triangle):

1-Physiological Needs - Food/Water
2-Security Needs - Shelter/Safety
3-Belongingness Needs - Socialization/Friendship
4-Esteem Needs - Status Within Community
5-Self Actualization Needs - Achievement

The basic premise here is that if you are starving, its hard to focus on achievement. If you don't feel safe, you don't have the full resources (mental faculties) to concentrate on much else until you feel safe again. 

In business Maslow's theory gets applied much in the same way. For my social activism goals it directly applies to what my nonprofit will be doing in communities to end human-caused victimization. 

I am going to show the community how to be a community again using Maslow's theory. When I give workshops and lectures here in prison regarding personal change I have a metaphor I use, following the same principal.

If each person is a house, the government has condemned ours (prisoners) and have instructed us to go fix them. So we come to prison and get a hammer and nails. But, we soon realize we must carry a sword and shield to defend our home (our bodies, minds, and spirits) from attackers. In essence, we don't feel safe (tier 2) and until we feel safe, not much else is gonna get done. Its hard, impossible, to use a hammer and nail when you are carrying a sword and shield.

I will do this in the community, block by block if I have too. 

Me and Abraham Maslow are gonna change the world.

Wanna Help?

With Love
Jeff Jeffebelle 

Monday, February 5, 2018

Is the Life of a Police Officer Mean More Valuable Than Everyone Else?

First of all I think that being a civil servant is a good thing. Helping people in crisis is a noble position and police officers have a very difficult job. But, it is one they chose.

My question is I the value of life. Is the life of a cop more valuable than the life of say, a child? 
I have to wonder because in the media the slaying of a police officer warrants near 24 hour coverage and man hunts that result in life sentences or 30-40 years of imprisonment. However, when a child is murdered there is little notice taken. Unless of course it is a suburban, mid to upper class family that has been affected. Than it is a holy war that has been declared because its usually a white family with some level of financial backing. 

This hidden bias is unnerving. Nobody should be murdered. Nobody's life is less valuable than another. But that is not the case in courts. I have met men who have put their infant step children into a pillow case and proceeded to swing the defenseless baby into the ground repeatedly until the child was deceased. That man got less then 20 years. In the same prison, the same state, a man took a cop hostage by cuffing him in the backseat of his own patrol car then left and got 40 years.

Clearly the life value system is different.

Are we practicing justice? Is our system fair and equal? 

Think about it.

With Love

Saturday, February 3, 2018

A Gofundme Page-Check It Out

A friend of mine set this up to try and help me out. Here is the link:

The goal is set at $500 US/$630 Can because the typewriter is $428.80 and it needs ribbons, correction tape, etc. 

It is very expensive, however, its needed. I will use it to finish my non profit business plan, write articles to newspapers, short stories, poetry, op-ed articles, letters to businesses in search of mentoring and support.

Folks these days don't take handwritten anything too seriously. The typewriter will help me present myself professionally. Not to mention that it will help me write a release plan, allow me to contribute to a nonprofit by typing documents, grant proposals, ???

Anything you can do will help! Were nearly half way there!!

With Love
Jeff "Jeffebelle"

Friday, February 2, 2018

Marijuana Laws and Sanctuary Cities: My Political Moves and Counter moves Predictions

We know there are sanctuary cities for immigrants across America. Some, not all, have legalized recreational marijuana use. Two that come to mind are Washington and California, among others. 

Usually I don't do this type of writing because it has come back to bite me in the butt when I form a political opinion without knowing much about the actual political landscape. But this is just a prediction that involves Trump, Jeff Sessions, and sanctuary cities that reside in legalized marijuana States, like Seattle, WA. 

I predict that since Jeff Sessions is traditionally anti-marijuana and since he is the Attorney General that a deal is going to get made. Trump and Sessions will put pressure on States to comply with Trumps immigration desires and drop lawsuits in exchange for not shutting down their legalized marijuana companies, which no doubt produce much needed tax revenue.

Just my prediction...

Since immigration sanctuary is such a deeply rooted subject I suspect we will see local marijuana operations get some backlash.

We will see, since its a prediction I will date this at time of writing: 1/4/18

With Love

Thursday, February 1, 2018

My Broken Gender(s)?

My gender is broken. Maybe I'm broken, but for now we will blame it on my gender chooser, whatever that is. 

I despise my masculinity. The facial hair, the voice, the wide shoulders, red bumps on my thighs from testosterone, mannish hands, and goddamn hair. 

I despise the fact that I've always gravitated to women's clothes and I was made to feel dirty for it. As if I was some sort of perverted child. Do you know what that does to a kid? Making a five year old feel like a perv for something they have no control over? Its devastating. 

Now that I'm comfortable being gender nonconforming openly I'm in prison where my only avenue of gender confirmation outwardly is my attitude and the occasional painted toes. 

Most guys in here call me by some feminine version of Jeff: Jeffica, Jefferika, Bitch. All of which, even when said bitterly, affirm a little something inside me.

But what about these pesky parts? To be honest, I'm not the biggest fan of them either. When I see my perfect body it doesn't entail either parts. Just flat...and curvy and pretty. I'd like that...

Instead, I have to shave twice a day. Sound like a man, be forced to look like one, usually forced into acting like one too.

Stupid gender chooser is broken...

With Love
Jeff "Jefferika" 
I swear...I spend more stamps begging for human contact.

I cant tell if 'm pathetic for wanting to talk to people outside of this sphere or if everyone else is just being an ass...