I sat across from Julie, Sophia and Dave. It was the first run at telling my Master Plan, a story of my history and goals. I was nervous as hell. Sophia and Dave were previously incarcerated. Some fear set in over that. I was doing alright, but the one I really couldn’t read was Sophia. She became my greatest fear. Here’s how it worked in my brain…

Sophia was in prison before she became an executive with a local pizza business. She came off crazy confident, she had a “no bullshit” persona, and she exuded street savvy. Here’s where my fear comes in: I had to disclose, to some degree, the reason why I’m in prison. I had to tell a woman, THIS woman, a woman who had been previously incarcerated in a women’s prison, that I was currently incarcerated for a sex offense. Terror. Absolute terror. Jesus, she must have seen and knew a hundred women in the system who had hit bottom because some a-hole sexually abused them. Hundreds. Its a taboo crime in men’s prisons, so I can only imagine the rage of what she experienced picking up friends off the ground who had been sexually abused that found their way into a women’s prison. That was my greatest fear in the moment. Not telling just anyone. Telling HER. And so I did. Join me as we “Step to the Line.”

With truth comes broken barriers and corrected misconceptions. In a later exercise called “Step to the Line,” we have to line up across from someone and share a series of questions to expose our collective humanities. Our stepping to the line signifies a yes or no. We must lock eyes and engage in this truth to break the barriers. Emotionally, its intense. Out of the more than fifty people that could have stood across from me, guess who stood with me as we exposed our truths and humanities? If you guessed Sophia, you’re right. Well, now I’m nervous and in my head, so this couldn’t get worse. It didn’t. It got so much better. In some of the power of the moment, she wasn’t the business exec with savvy street smarts and a prison background. She was simply Sophia. And she was so incredibly human in the moment.

As it turns out, Sophia is just a hard read for me. She’s a tough lady. Nothing more. No judgments came from her, just her truths. The barriers in the situation were only mine. I wrote a story in my mind that didn’t exist and I made misconceptions. She broke them down. Through the exercise, I felt empowered by knowing that one of the hardest people I would have to dump some of my life’s garbage on is just a person. One who cared enough to come into this prison to experience my truths with me and those like me. One who treated me like just a guy with human potential in a prison. Nothing less. All of the people I met at the Kickoff Event just simply care about making a difference. To me, that was the best take away of the day and I can’t thank Defy Ventures Washington enough for putting my fears up against reality and seeing reality filled with incredible people. People just like Julie, Dave, my new hero Sophia and so many others that I met…

by Rory Andes

See the Human Me as I “Defy the Odds”.

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