Wednesday, October 31, 2018

If I Seen Jesus Right About Now by Jeff Utnage

One day, in my heart of hearts, I know I am going to see my Creator, I just happen to call Them Jesus. When I see Them...I'm gonna punch that ole' coot right square in the jaw.

For thinking I'm strong enough to handle what I am going through. For knowing I was gonna be attracted to men and created me anyways. For knowing that my gender identity was going to be a constant source of turmoil, then placing me in a family where there is only one person who even tries to understand. I can't tell if that's a Nebraska thing or a testament to just how ridiculous the notion of blood family and loyalty is.

I cannot deny the existence of a Creator, I would be betraying what I have perceived to be true. But that don't mean I have to always like Them. I have an eternity to be all "let's frolic in the stardust together" but that initial's on. Like Jacob, who wrestled with God by the river and when he wouldn't stop fighting, God had to bring pain to his hip. LOL! Yup, that's gonna be me.

Guess we all have our good days and our bad days. I wonder if God made me on Their bad day?

Side Note: I used the pronouns They/Them/Their to describe God, I do this because if we are made in the image of God, then They made all genders and their variations. I hate to present that in a bi conditional statement, but at least one may understand how I think about it.

With Love
Jeff Jeffebelle Utnage

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

After 7 1/2 Years In Prison... by Jeff Utnage

Prison has effects on people. If you have ever had a family member incarcerated you might understand firsthand. I want to make something crystal clear, I am avidly against the current penal system. Having said that, the effects of prison have not been entirely negative.

Coming to prison shook me awake. It was like I was in a fog or a state of dementia and when I spent my first real night in prison it was like getting a bucket of ice cold water thrown on me to shake me awake. Suddenly I felt I existed somewhere in the world. I know that sounds strange, but previously when I thought about myself and my future all I seen was darkness. Not evil, not negativity, but nothingness. It was like I was invisible and already dead. When I came to prison I became very self-aware.

I learned to control my anger. A class I went through taught by a Professor of Psychology called Compassion-Focused Therapy. Russell K. is who taught it. He changed my life. Then I understood I was able to interact with my feelings and emotions, not be controlled by them. Pretty incredible feeling to suddenly comprehend how it feels to be "normal."

I embraced my sexuality. I wasn't turned out (a term used to describe the effects of being raped in prison and being forced to act gay even though one is not) I just felt okay with finally being me. Suddenly I felt that I had nothing else to lose, who was gonna hate me anymore than they already did? I was reading the lyrics to a song (I think by Five Finger Death Punch) and they said "I'd rather you hate me for everything I am then ever love me for something I am not." I have lived in that truth ever since and I will never go back.

I learned that everyone struggles, everyone can be humbled. I learned to love.

I have had a few negative impacts, like crowds. Crowds freak me out. Whenever I see three similar people standing together I become afraid. Like three shaved-head, tattooed, goatee'd men standing together by some space I need to get to, like the shower or something I get afraid. Or if its three or more people of any race, for me that signals danger and the space is off limits.

If someone is dressed in all black, off limits. I will never tolerate food being given to me on a tray once I leave this place. Nor will I ever voluntarily eat at a restaurant, too similar to a prison environment.

There are more. Many more.

I will leave you with this, the biggest thing I have learned since incarcerated has been hands down my sense of humanity. Never have I seen the better side of people then during oppression. The hope, kindness, love, and humanity that comes from many of the people here is breathtaking. Unbelievably breathtaking.

With Love
Jeff Jeffebelle Utnage

Monday, October 29, 2018

Are Trans People Taken Less Seriously? by Jeff Utnage

Have you ever had someone attribute your words to someone else or felt that your opinion is not valued? It feels awful to be in a group of people and have someone not take you seriously, as if you have no opinion worth listening to.

Women have experienced this for a very long time at home, in the work place and everywhere else. Now it happens to trans people by men, women, and the LGB community alike.

Whether we like to admit it or not humans can be a very judgmental species, especially when we don't understand or identify with someone. I am not going to spend any time trying to shame or guilt anyone, instead I want to invite you, as a human, to do a heart check. Is this something you do?

If it is, no need to be defensive, I am not judging you, nor should you because I have done this as well. Maybe it wasn't to a trans person, but we have certainly done it with others - at least once in our lives. It has also been done to us. When it does happen to us it chips a little of our shoulders, maybe we hide it well, but we certainly don't like it when it happens (surely we can agree on that).

Here is something you can do from either end

If its being done to you:
Tell the person, privately, that you feel they didn't take you seriously and then ask if they meant to make you feel that way? You'd be surprised what a little directness can accomplish.

If you have done it to someone:
As soon as you recognize its happened, say something, because it may have been accidental on your end. Own the moment, by doing this you will earn the respect of everyone who witnessed it. Because when we do this to other people in front of other people, everyone thinks this may happen to them.

I wanted to let people know that though we may have an unintended impact on our surroundings, we do have an impact.

Why not lessen any negative effects?

With Love
Jeff Jeffebelle Utnage

Friday, October 26, 2018

So You Don't Know Me... by Jeff Utnage

I am Jeff, some call me Jeffebelle, some call me Jefferika...both of which I think are funny. I am gay and identify as Gender Non-Conforming. I am an activist, college graduate, mentor (and mentee!), and public speaker. I stand against all forms of hate, violence, victimization, bullying, discrimination, and racism.

I thoroughly enjoy Audrey Hepburn (I know, not helping the stereotypes), I damn near pee on myself when I see mini-pigs, and colors make my day. I read text books and tons of nonfiction, socializing and meeting new people invigorates me.

I love listening to people. I like hearing their stories, what they've overcome, what their working on, what they feel, and what they think. More than anything I love hearing about what they've overcome, I find it special.

I don't mind being vulnerable, even if I'm the only one in the room doing so.

I like watching others succeed.

I am currently working on a research project that will lead to writing a paper on how rehabilitation and victimization prevention can be more effective.

I will continue my education, I will obtain my MBA.

I am an advisor to the Coalition for Trans Prisoners (CTP), an agency of community professionals seeking to end trans and gender nonconforming discrimination and mistreatment in prisons.

I am an advocate for education, education is a powerful rehabilitation tool and is the one thing that I believe creates true equality.

I hate politics. I believe that political party lines are the nastiest divisions Americans know and that Republicans and Democrats are the two largest gangs on the planet who don't actually care about the people but themselves. Having said that, I still believe that good can come from anyone.

I also believe that I can love anyone.

I have a mantra, "An enemy serves me no purpose" Therefore I don't believe in enemies because everyone has purpose.

With Love
Jeff Jeffebelle Utnage

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Impossible: Why I Hate That Word by Jeff Utnage

I want to eradicate the word impossible from everyone's vocabulary. I truly hate it. When I hear the word impossible what I actually hear is the limitations one has agreed to. Borders that imprison that person and believe me, I hate prisons. Take it from someone who is sitting inside one, they are debilitating.

Think back on all the things that you have heard were impossible for you. Think about who said them first. Maybe at some point you wanted to be a doctor and then some foolhardy disbeliever said that it was impossible, never gonna happen. What they really meant to say is it is impossible for them and they don't believe in you.

I have heard that so many things were impossible. LGBT rights were impossible, ending slavery at one point was impossible. Yet, look at where we are. Yeah, we have a long ways to go before true equality exists, but at least people see its possible.

The biggest projector of things impossible is perhaps ourselves. All too often when we don't see an immediate pathway that goal becomes impossible to us.

We are a better society when we believe that success for us is possible and that success for one another is possible. We must believe in one another. So if nobody today has told you that they believe in you, I do. I believe in you and if you need me to tell you directly, write me.

With Love
Jeff Jeffebelle Utnage

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Somebody Else's Paintbrush by Jeff Utnage

What if none of us were in control? Like nothing you do was actually you at all. For some that might seem scary, not for me. For me it seems natural like one 45 angle buttressing another 45 angle to form this beautiful corner, but neither angle is responsible you see, someone else married them together. I want to be one of those angles.

Or maybe like a grain of sand that rests on the shore of some vast ocean where I can be carried away and explore the world as someone else wants me to see it. Not in control at all but helplessly carried away to whim after whim but instead of impatiently waiting for my life to be mine I enjoy the wonderful places I land.

Or maybe like getting some award on national television but instead of accepting credit simply say I was somebody else's paintbrush. I want to be that brush. Just once.

Maybe I will be a single cotton fiber in a pair of used jeans or maybe a molecule of color that resides in a masterpiece. Maybe a wavelength of sound that makes its way into someones heart and together we'll enjoy a peach. Maybe I can be a sapling in the torn up landscape of some recently deforested area in South America. Maybe I can be the 1 or 0 in the binary code that approves someone's citizenship application.

Maybe that's heaven, eternally understanding how you precisely fit in.

Yeah, I wouldn't mind being someone else's paintbrush for eternity.

With Love
Jeff Jeffebelle Utnage

Monday, October 22, 2018

Life Lessons From Inside Prison by Jeff Utnage

This morning I had to attend a meeting where community members came to support a program and interact with us. These are exciting moments for me for multitudes of reasons, this one meeting was of particular interest because it was for Defy Ventures.

I spent the morning making hair product ( I combine Vaseline, conditioner, cocoa butter lotion, and vanilla oil) and decided today might be the day to use something special. Because I am in a men's prison, makeup is not available like at women's prison (because apparently DOC doesn't truly consider trans women real women...), however, I did discover that liquid foundation that is supposed to be clear...isn't actually clear. I also discovered that foundation makes freshly shaved faces very, very angry. But you know what really makes freshly shaved faces with not really clear foundation angry? Trying to wash it off.

Yeah, imagine my surprise when I'm looking in the mirror thinking "wow, that really does cover up my dusty shaved lip, no stubble! But, it makes me slightly discolored and with no makeup to finish the face, well, let's wash it off." So, with five minutes to go before I'm about to be face to face with actual business professionals I take a warm cloth and wipe my face, only to discovery, ladies know what I'm about to say, that foundation doesn't just wipe off with warm water and a cloth. Ugh!

So I used a bar of soap and a wash cloth to scrub the living crap out of my freshly shaved, angry, enflamed face and then repeated until my face was free of concealer. Yay. But it left my lip pissed off and bleeding.

I wrap up with this life lesson: Don't experiment with makeup when you have a really important, potentially life changing meeting. Wait until after...


With Love
Jeff Jeffebelle Utnage 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Account hacked

Hi, this is Valerie, the site moderator, my Facebook account was hacked and I have the blog linked to it, so I have been unable to post to Facebook until now. I will be working on setting up a Facebook page for the blog all of it's own. Hang in there with me, I am trying to get it all worked out.

Valerie Utnage

Prison Program Helping Inmates Reach Deep Inside Then Preparing Them For Business: Defying The Odds With Defy Ventures by Jeff Utnage

A new program has come to the institution I am at called Defy Ventures. Defy is a program that has many functions, on the surface, but at the heart of Defy is second chances.

I applied to the program, along with many, many others, and I was one of 50 chosen. The application process was challenging, to say the least, but not bad challenging, good challenging. In fact, it reminded me of applying for a job, not just any job but the job that sits in the office up 30 floors, the life changing kind. I was nervous about not making it, carefully combing my mind for details in what I could have done differently. Its not to often a program like this comes along.

We will learn the language of business, so to speak. Interview skills, business plan writing, and business plan pitching. Plus there's more. I remember growing up around low-middle class people, mainly lower class, poor people the language and etiquette of the business world was a mystery to me. In fact, I've never owned a suit.

Now I am a business degree holder (something I got from Edmonds Community College, proudly) and Defy Ventures is continuing my business education by providing an intensive curriculum that requires dedication and humility. We even have to write a business plan pitch it to a panel of real business owners and investors where we will get feedback. Something most of us have never seen outside of SharkTank.

My future looks brighter than ever and it is programs like Defy Ventures that instill self-worth, confidence, and actual post-release support in inmates. Oh, I should mention that released Defy graduates have a recidivism rate of just 5%. Compare that to the current 67% and you can see just how impactful those three little things can be.

A little love goes a long ways.

To learn more, please go to:

Ill keep you updated with my progress!

With Love
Jeff Jeffebelle Utnage

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Is Homosexuality About Opportunity? by Jeff Utnage

I am Gender Non-Conforming, which to me means that I am neither fully masculine nor feminine. In prison this offers me a unique vantage point with many straight and gay men.

Gay men and I get along quite well, most gay men see me as a gay man, which is fine by me. Straight men, especially those who have been incarcerated for awhile see me much differently. It kinda goes in stages, like this:

1. They make hate fueled remarks towards the LGBT community as a whole, then retract their statement by saying things like "I didn't mean you, I mean faggots, like actual faggots."

2. They ask things like "Does it make me gay if- insert awkward question here-" To which your reply doesn't matter, you can tell them yes or no, their reaction is the same, its their buddies reaction that differs. Either way, it prompts #3.

3. They begin quick private interactions that involve objectivity. Things like quick, under the breath comments about how sexy you look. This is not about you though, its about them, they are justifying their sexual attraction within their minds. They aren't really attracted to you, they are without option.

4. Obsession. Either they succeed and become angry with themselves or they get turned down and nothing lost. Either way, people like me don't gain anything other than the occasional coming out for real.

I have watched this happen for years, as homosexuality becomes socially acceptable in the media and normalizes in the view of the public, prisons are prime locations where men, who are not gay, will have sex with another man (or at the very least attempt) who acts "feminine."

It should be noted that not all men in prison do this, I cannot even offer a percentage. I can say that where I am at (protective custody), in my particular living unit, the percentage is around 60% of the men here are more than willing to engage sexually in a private setting. However, that's not an accurate representation of the more than 2.2 million incarcerated individuals nationally.

It does present me with some interesting moral questions. Like the battle of nature vs nurture, are gays born or created? I am living proof that homosexuality is from birth, I knew at a very young age, despite not coming out until I was 28. But then we have "straight" men who will have sex with other men under the right conditions...then once they're out they are back to being female lovers only.

What are your thoughts?

With Love
Jeff Jeffebelle Utnage

**NOTE** I understand it is difficult to see me in a positive light. Having any type of empathy for inmates- of any sort- is nearly unheard of and the individuals who do usually have some sort of familial connection to the incarcerated. I'm not asking for sympathy, I am asking for the chance to prove that 1) rehabilitation is possible and 2) I can still serve a positive purpose. Not by releasing early, but by serving my time, getting out and spending the rest of my life helping PREVENT crimes like mine...because its possible, and worth it and NEEDED. That's how this platform is intended to be used and from time to time we like to have a little community contact, because we're human. -Thanks for reading!

Offended by Jeff Utnage

A person was born male but inside knows without a doubt that something went wrong because this person knows for certain they are female. So this person assumes female societal norms. This person is now female in the eyes of many, many people. However, some are offended.

A woman doesn't feel an attraction to men but does feel an attraction to other women. She is sure of this fact. As the Earth rotates, so is she attracted to women and not men. However, some are offended.

A man is attracted to both men and women. He knows this to be true because he is able to see both sexes as viable partners whereas many cannot see this as an option. He cannot change this fact. However, some are offended.

A man and a woman, whom are paid actors, enact a scene in which they sleep in the same bed. However, some are offended.

A man and a woman, whom are paid actors, enact a scene in which they sleep in separate beds. However, some are offended.

A woman believes in Allah and practises her faith according to The Qur'an. She neither believes in subjugation nor war. However, some are offended.

A boy believes in God. He nearly drowned once and as he sat helplessly at the bottom of a pond someone spoke to him reassurance. He lived. However, some were offended.

A man went to prison, changed his life. Just as sure as night follows day he is a changed man. However, some are offended.

Offended? It's OK...

With Love
Jeff Jeffebelle Utnage

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Never Waste An Audience by Jeff Utnage

I recently drank the Toastmasters kool-aid by becoming a member, and an officer in the club. I was opposed to Toastmasters because I was under the misguided impression that they teach a set of parlor tricks, which is far from the truth.

In fact, before I go further, let me say that even if you are an experienced speaker, like myself, Toastmasters will challenge you in a way that exceeds your current ability, guaranteed, because we can glean experience and expertise from everything.

I did not join Toastmasters because I felt I could learn anything from the process, no, I joined because it gave me a trained audience to work with, consistently. My life's goals are to work in Human Resources and the Nonprofit sector, which will require lots of public speaking. Additionally, I will be speaking publicly to get folks involved in their communities. My entire future rests on my ability to motivate a crowd.

However, something happened I wasn't expecting, I learned. That surprised me. Not because I think I know it all, I don't, but I did feel that there was no need to learn other styles of speaking because I didn't know they existed. I delivered my first three speeches and turned a lot of heads, then a friend and personal mentor of mine (Mr. Andes, he writes here from time to time) said to me publicly "We all know you can deliver great emotionally motivating speeches, we already know that, but you're here to learn, I challenge you to make us laugh, deliver a comedy speech."

In my head I laughed, then out loud. Why, why would I waste an audience on not accomplishing anything at all. I don't WANT to do anything that doesn't work towards my goals, nothing. Making an audience laugh just so I can learn to do has got to be one of the most awkward and uncomfortable and ridiculous wastes of my time I can think of. Why, I would rather piss on an electric fence and see what that does before I'd ever think of speaking publicly for the sole purpose of comedy.

Not that there isn't room for comedy, comedians are needed in this world, they are vital, but I am not one. Having said this, I am going to deliver a speech this Sunday with the sole purpose of making people laugh, because I am so uncomfortable with it. Anything that produces that kind of reaction in me is a clear alarm that I am afraid of it, afraid of the change and I despise that in me more than anything, fear. Being afraid of change is what led me to prison and I simply won't tolerate it in myself, not now, not ever.

So I am going to make an audience laugh, and I am going to learn how to do it by doing it, with an audience that is giving, caring, and informative. My peers. That's perhaps my greatest revelation in all this, I have become really good at admitting I need to change and then putting in the work to do so, in that, I will not waste an audience.

With Love
Jeff Jeffebelle Utnage