Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Quilting Guilds For People Like Me by Ruth Utnage

Being a trans woman in a men's prison can make keeping my identity healthy a challenge. Last night I realized that is not unique to prison. I belong to a group here in prison called the Community Aide Coalition and we quilt, make pillow cases and make Days For Girls packs.

One of our sponsors (a sponsor is a community member who volunteers to support and oversee a particular group, like the Community Aide Coalition) came in last night and was talking about a Quilting Guild and she says that most neighborhoods have them.

Immediately I wanted to know more because all I heard was there are people still doing things as a community, and I want that. But...

Would a community based organization tolerate a trans woman? What a trans woman who learned to quilt in prison? I can just see it now:

"So where did you learn to quilt dear?" some nice lady would say.
"Prison" I'd reply
"Oh my.." she'd gasp
"Shit," I'd say, realizing that my presence has frightened her.

Okay, maybe that's melodramatic, but facing rejection in the community is scary for someone like me. I'm used to being rejected and can handle it like any other adult woman, but I want to belong and I love quilting. So I came up with a solution. A Quilting Guild of my own.

There are some bada$$ quilters in prison. Quilting represents freedom, giving back, art, joy, moments of happiness, and belonging. When we are at the machines and steadily guiding our creations through the foot, we aren't thinking about how terrible we feel, we aren't thinking about our inadequacies or our loneliness or our fear. We are happy, at peace.

That's what I'm going to do, a reentry quilters guild that provides an immediate place of belonging where anyone can come and be apart of such a place. Not that it doesn't exist, but at least you'd know already, you wouldn't have to wonder, you'd know. Maybe I could call it Moments of Peace Quilters Guild...what do you think?

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With Love
Ruth Utnage

Mail To:
Jeff aka Ruth Utnage 823469 D-610-2
MCC-TRU
P.O. Box 888
Monroe, WA 98272

or email through jpay.com
DOC: 823469
Name: Utnage, Jeff (though I am legally Ruth)

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