As inmates we have let our families down. Our mistakes, which we are paying for (whether you believe in the “justice” system or not, this is the option ordained by our Republic), our families pay a high price for as well. Our children must be supported by others while we are gone and then while we get back on our feet. In my case my children, all 3 of them, have been separated from one another, ones been adopted another is on his way to adoption with another family. If you’ve never had one of your children adopted against your will, let me say the pain involved is immense. That wound will never heal, I’ll carry it with me into eternity and so will my family. This, caused by my actions, a reality that is very hard to live with.

The last thing that’s helpful in my situation is sympathy from others and feeling sorry for myself got old nearly a decade ago. But until you understand where I’ve come from it is hard to see why where I’m at currently is pretty special. Dichotomization.

My Mother has stuck by me through this process of change and from my end she’s heard all about my “changes”. What I’m gonna do. What my plans are. Future stuff, “When I get out…”. Lip service on her end. My end, these changes are tangible. Give me enough time to tell you and I can walk anyone through my process of change to convince you that I’m the exception to societies imagery of someone who commits a sex offense, I promise, not because I’m a great public speaker or fantastic at manipulation but because I’ve unpacked my entire psyche and reconciled the problems. Yeah, that’s possible, I’m proof. I’ve worked very, very hard at reshaping my thought patterns and it’s taken me nearly a decade to accomplish.

But families are hard to convince. They still remember the old person, the mistakes and immaturity and/or selfishness. Since I’ve been in prison my Mother has listened to me tell her I’ve changed at the same time listening to others who don’t know me at all, like family who broke ties with me when I came to prison, say nothing but negative things about me. She’s had to endure nearly a decade of people telling her what a disgusting person I am because of my crime and then because of my transition as a trans woman (which has been a serious part of my cognitive changes…self-acceptance).

Then Defy Ventures Washington happened.

I went through an 8 month long course, followed by an alumni Mastermind course unique to Washington where I learned additional business skills from a 1200 page curriculum. Interwoven into the business was self-development material that was all geared toward identifying who you are, what you believe, how to recognize your flaws and wounds, and then what to do about them. All the while being supported by a group of unlikely peers and program sponsors. Over that time we spoke to CEO’s and representatives from America’s leading companies, got to pitch them our ideas in a business plan pitch competition. Part of the process is reconnecting with family and healing old wounds.

Someone from Defy contacted my Mother and told her their perspective of me, what they see, the things I’ve done and their belief in me. For the first time in ten years someone besides her said something good about me. That meant something to her and it meant something to me.

If you’ve never heard of Defy Ventures Washington, please look it up. This program changes lives and it needs your support. Not everyone has the time and heart to do what these people have done, but you can support them so they can.

With Love
Ruth Utnage

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Jeff aka Ruth Utnage 823469 D-610-2
P.O. Box 888
Monroe, WA 98272

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Name: Utnage, Jeff (though I am legally Ruth) 

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