Friday, November 30, 2018

How Do You Know Someone Has Changed? by Jeff (Ruthie) Utnage

I have a personal stake in this question. I do not want to live under the stigma of prisoner forever. To be a convicted criminal means I am ostracized and outcast from normal society. It means that while I belong in the category "Incarcerated" I am less than. When I get out I belong in the category "Felon" which carries the same weight.

But what if I changed? As in, I no longer have the characteristics, personality traits, or morals (or lack of) of the person who committed the crime nearly a decade ago. I have spent almost 8 years in nonstop, continuous cognitive behavioral therapy and educational programming. I have learned a lot.

-An Associates degree in Business Management, 90 credits
-Computer Programming Certificate, 44 credits
-Facilitator of Redemption Self-Awareness, Mentor ship and Acquired Communication Skills, Facilitator's classes
-Co-wrote and co-facilitated Coping With Incarceration workshop, weekly
-Anger Management, Compassion-Focused Therapy
-Thinking 4 a Change
-Meditative Yoga
-Founded an LGBT support group
-Made U.S. history on 6/30/2016 when we had the nations first DOC sanctioned formal Pride event in the prisons visit room
-Learned to draw, bead, quilt
-Lost over 100 pounds
...just to name a few things

I got more certificates than I can reasonably list and they are not just a stack of papers to me, each one means something specific. I remember every class I have taken because I took each one seriously. I dedicated my mental faculties to the underpinning goal of all of them.

I am not even recognizable from the person who came in here. I do not think the same, but how do I prove that? Prove it so that you will interact with me, talk to me, become part of a support system that you may need just as much as I do. But I am not ashamed to say, I need you. I need a community to interact with for advice, friendship, support and, quite frankly, I need to be able to give those things in return. I am asking you allow me to act human, with you.

How do I convince you that I am equal and worthy of your friendship?

Read the piece titled "Who I am, I'm Pleased To Introduce..." if you want to know more about me and who I am.

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With Love
Jeff Jeffebelle Utnage
Soon to be Ruthie Anne Utnage, legally.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Get Up and Grind by Jeff (aka Ruthie) Utnage

Will Smith once said "99% of all people are unwilling to do what it takes to accomplish their dreams."

Now get up and grind. Do the hard task of showing up, even when you just want to lay in bed or do anything else, grind.

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With Love
Jeff (aka Ruthie) Utnage

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Plugging The Hole by Jeff (Ruthie) Utnage

Alright, maybe I could have chosen a different title, but if I can't mess with you guys who can I mess with? Actually we are talking about brain stuff.

Did you ever have a moment where you felt like singing? How about praying? It gets triggered by some event or word or ? It is kind of like feeling the urge to sing a song that won't stop playing in your head, so you sing it. Well, I had one of those moments recently, only I felt the urge to lift myself up. Strange right?

I was feeling a little anxious and this feeling overwhelmed me to say positive things to myself (I know, super cheesy) and I'll be damned if I didn't recall these positive affirmations I have to say for a program I take. In that moment I am glad I had something plugging the "holes" I could use.

In 36 years I have not had a moment where positive affirmations ever held a place in my life, until that moment. I was glad I had said them so many times I could recall a few of them easily.

Here is a few I have to say with this program I am taking by Defy Ventures called CEO of Your New Life (CEO-YNL), now don't laugh at me:

I am worthy of the love I am receiving
I will succeed
Succeeding feels good!
I am forgiven
I forgive me

There is a list of like 10 or 11 more but those are the ones I find myself removing from that hole and inspecting frequently.

What about you? Do you ever do this?

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With Love
Jeff (Ruthie) Utnage

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Make People Tired Just By Looking At You: Be A Mountain To Be Climbed Rather Than A Speed Bump To Drive Over by Jeff (aka Ruthie) Utnage

What I love about my LGBT sisters and brothers is that we are full of giants. I have drawn so much strength from those folks who have spent their lives discovering exactly who they are (and sometimes who they are not!).

I heard a speech today that included the words in the title, but stated in a different order as soon as I heard them I thought "I am a mountain to be climbed". It is no easy task to come face to face with your very worst self, understand you gave up everything good to be that worst self, and still find the wherewithal to stand up and have the courage to change.

Having the courage to face your flaws is an accomplishment all on its own, but doing so when almost everyone tells you that you can't is something that takes serious lady balls. We do not have to lay down and let people walk all over us, as if we are less than. As if our sexuality or gender is something to be ashamed of. You know what, I have things to be ashamed of, to be regretful and sorry for, but they sure as hell ain't my gender or my sexuality. And to be honest, I'm not living in my past anymore either. Other people can stay back there and hate me, but they're gonna have to shout from the highest peaks to get my attention because I have grown well beyond that former person and I have a future to get with. Let them have my past, they can live there for all I care, I will gladly take my future.

That's what the LGBT community has taught me, even when the world is against you, you stand tall and forge forward. When you stumble and fall and it feels like your drowning, fight. Then keep going, make them tired and pissed off that you just won't quit. Be a mountain they are too weak to climb.

I could not be prouder of my community, your existence, perseverance, stamina, and grit has taught me a love and compassion that never existed in my family. Having a new family that is global, incredibly strong, and has thrust upwards into highest points of the worlds landscape has allowed me to set standards for myself I never thought possible.

"Be a mountain to be climbed rather than a speed bump to be driven over. Make them tired just looking at you." (Name withheld for privacy)

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With Love
Jeff (aka Ruthie) Utnage

Monday, November 26, 2018

Our Gay'ly Bread: Enemies Serve No Purpose by Jeff (aka Ruthie) Utnage

Sometimes in life people do not like us, even hate us. It happens. We are not going to be everyone's favorite person. Believe me, I know. But as believers of God and receivers of God's grace and forgiveness we are not to be brought down in the turmoil of hatred or enemies.

Remember David and Saul? Saul hated David, wanted him dead so badly he spent years and sent whole armies after David. But David refused to acknowledge him as an enemy, instead CHOOSING to love Saul with everything he could. He wasn't saving face with God by half-heartedly praying for relief from Saul, no, David used actions to speak for his heart by having the opportunity to end Saul and choosing instead to try and repair the relationship.

This is our model that the Father wants us to follow. Enemies serve you no purpose. Once someone is your enemy they can no longer be useful in your life and it requires more energy to hate then to forgive. God doesn't want this for us because our energy is precious and needed for our goals, our families, our lives... why waste such a precious resource on someone who serves no purpose in your life?

It is okay to struggle with this, be honest with God and lay it on His shoulders because God is the only one who can deal with it properly.

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With Love
Jeff (aka Ruthie) Utnage

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Oh Anxiety, How I Loathe You by Ruth Utnage

When I was a small child I was always stealing (and wearing) woman's clothes. I say that and right this second I am embarrassed. My cheeks are red and my heart is racing and there is not anyone in this cell but me. The pull to remain closeted about my transgender identity is extremely strong.

I came out as trans to the world around me a few weeks ago and my life has not gone back to normal. Suddenly everything seems uncertain and shaky. It has given me anxiety that, quite frankly, proves just how strong I have become over these past 7 years.

Expressing myself as feminine or gender non-conforming has been my settlement with the prison, my peers and my loved ones. It allowed me to begin expressing myself in a more feminine manner externally without surprising anyone. It became normal because "he is gender non-conforming, whatever in the hell that is."

The problem is when I look in the mirror or look down. When I look at magazines or media to compare myself to beauty, like most people, it is not men I compare against, its women. It always has been and always will be. Something else about this second "coming out" is that I have guarded this piece of me for a very long time and it is raw, it resides in my most insecure and sacred portion of my soul. I do not let people into that part easily and this has opened that piece of me up for anyone to see and in have to is scary.

I hope to take hormones soon, develop more feminine body characteristics, get rid my masculine features as much as possible. It won't make me a complete woman, but it sure would help ease some of this stress. Make me feel less self conscious when I look in the mirror, to say the least.

I sure could use some community advice.

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With Love
Ruth Utnage

To my dear friends, family, and the amazing people who've shown me support this year by Rory Andes

This was a challenging year, but one full of many successes and a few new experiences. From working with students at the University of Washington, to meeting mathematicians from Italy and Boston, to being given an opportunity to write, to being a founding part of a statewide reentry program and even getting a promotion at work, there are so many things to be thankful for this year. This was also the year that marked the road behind as being longer than the road ahead for my stay here. So, I thank you, the wonderful people who have influenced my life, for the many blessings and encouraging words and I hope you and your families have a safe and blessed Thanksgiving holiday.

Best Wishes,

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Need Some Help: Can You Answer These Five Questions by Ruth Utnage

I am taking a class where we have a business plan competition and I need market data. Actual money is at stake as the winner gets a $500 grant for start-up money (after release and completing some required steps). 20 or so CEO's, Entrepreneurs, and Venture Capitalists are coming in to oversee and judge our business plans and I need to gather some info, can you answer these five questions:

(this is for a program through Defy Ventures (a 501(c)3) called CEO of Your New Life,

1. What types of publications do you read? Online or print

2. What is your experience with incarcerated individuals?

3. How could tax dollars be better spent to improve prison rehabilitation?

4. What do you think communities should be doing to reduce crime rates and recidivism (recidivism is relapsing into criminal activity, Websters)?

5. What is proof of change to you?(how do you know someone has changed)

I need feedback based on these. There is no wrong answers!

If you'd like to know more about the business plan I am pitching (I'd be happy to share) please contact me at


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With Love,


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Becoming Human Again: What Does Inmate Rehabilitation Look Like Exactly? by Ruth Utnage

According to Bureau of Justice Statistics there were 2.2 million people incarcerated in Federal and State prisons and county jails nationwide. An additional 4.6 million additional people were on probation or parole at the end of 2015. That's a staggering 6.8 million people that are actively involved with the criminal justice system. This number grows significantly when we factor in those who are no longer active in the criminal justice system (those who have been "rehabilitated").

Another statistic from the Bureau of Justice Statistics is that 95% of incarcerated individuals will release back into the community at some point. According to Allen J. Beck's "The Importance of Successful Reentry to Jail Population Growth" paper there approximately 9 million people released from jail each year.

The question I find myself asking is how many people do we have in our country who have had a criminal conviction? Its not just 6.8 million, the number is much higher than that. Exactly how high, I do not know, but according to the 2018 World Almanac the United States adult population as of 2016 was 249,489,772. It is safe to say that a large portion of our population is a criminal.

In fact, the 2018 World Almanac says that in 2015 there were 3,770,000 gay or lesbians, 1,870,000 bisexuals, and 1,397,150 transgenders (2016) for a total LGBT population of 7,037,150.

Approximately 7 million LGBT folks and approximately 6.8 million active criminals an we haven't factored in the 9 million who release from county jails, or the millions who are no longer monitored.

There is no comparison from LGBT people to criminals I wish to draw other than the population reference, which gives us perspective into the staggering number of incarcerated individuals. I challenge everyone to think about what rehabilitation actually looks like. What in your mind would it take for a person who has committed a crime to be rehabilitated and what would they have to do to prove it?

It is a difficult question for people to answer. Was it difficult for you? I have to ask myself all the time what a rehabilitated me looks like, what do I have to do to prove I am changed? Work? Start a nonprofit? Seriously, what is it?

I am asking because I am one of the 95% of people who are going to leave this place and I know I am a changed person, but how do I reintegrate into a community that has no idea what they expect of me other than "stay away from us and do not commit another crime." Not committing another crime is something I can do, which is more than I can say for most Americans, apparently.

I love my community and I have lots of support, thankfully. But I do not want people to fear. How does one mitigate that? My hope is that the more I write and keep communication lines open the more folks will see me as human. I want to be held accountable, I am okay with scrutiny, but what about human acceptance?

Think about what rehabilitation looks like, what specific things would prove I am rehabilitated and then send them to me or comment, let's air it out.

With Love
Ruthie Utnage

Monday, November 19, 2018

Who I am, I'm Pleased To Introduce... by Jeff Utnage/Ruthie Utnage

I would like you to meet somebody who has been afraid to reveal herself for a relatively long time, her name is Ruthie Anne Utnage. Its not an alter ego or a nickname, its not a pseudo-name or pen name, its me.

I compromised with myself in 2011 and said "I'm gay", That allowed me to admit I liked men and get used to the idea of not being ashamed of it. After a few years I felt this weight still on me, there was still this person trapped inside me and I wouldn't let her out. So I admitted I was gender nonconforming, this allowed me to express myself as a woman when I wanted to, sort of dip my toes in the water. But that was not enough, it still meant I was a man, a man who expressed himself as a woman. Inside though all I heard was someone screaming "Liar!"

So I came out and revealed myself to the world. So here I am.

I am a woman, my name is Ruth, my friends will know me as Ruthie. I chose the name Ruth because the biblical character of Ruth is me on so many fronts.

I want to work in Human Resources, but my passions are ending victimization and getting the marginalized to not be marginalized.

I have made many mistakes, I own every one of them, without excuse. I have spent years in programs that helped reshape my entire thought process. Most important, though, was self acceptance and love.

I love writing, public speaking, and learning. College classes feel like a warm summer day in Utopia to me. If I could, I'd spend the rest of my life in them.

I am single, love to laugh, very active. Socializing is important to me. I believe in polyamorous relationships, but do not have to have them. I hate possessiveness and jealousy. I won't tolerate either in any capacity from anyone ever for any reason.

I refuse violence altogether, yes, I will stand there and get beat without defending myself. Yes, I have done that before, yes it sucked, but I hurt no one and my conscious is clear. I refuse to commit another act of violence, ever, and will not allow anyone in my life who believes its OK to hurt others in any way.

I believe in change. I believe in community and the power of them.

I despise political parties. I love the stock market. I believe in capitalism, open-borders and the complete disarmament of all peoples and nations, including and especially government agencies.

I love law enforcement but want to put them out of a job desperately. I want to render them unnecessary, completely. Prisons as well.

Most important, though, is my need to love and feel needed. To belong. To have a place in society where I serve a purpose. I don't mind being vulnerable...

Oh, I don't mind being wrong either. Totally okay. I learn new stuff every day! I have zero reservations about admitting fault.

I love getting uncomfortable. I believe that when I am uncomfortable, I am learning.

That's me. Maybe you will introduce yourself to me?

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With Love
Ruthie Utnage
Formerly known as Jeff Utnage