I have three mixed-race children. They are my pride and joy, but that did not stop my childhood brainwashing of racism from bubbling to the surface. The men I had access to most often were among the most racist in rural Nebraska.

I was born in Omaha, which is a melting pot of race. However, as we lived in filth and were often eating the same river caught catfish as our black next door neighbors, that did not stop the men from blaming the color of the communities for their own problems. In retrospect it is obvious that they were so inadequate that they had to hate something almost as much as they hated themselves. Apparently that ‘something’ was skin color.

I wish I could say I grew up and moved beyond and over came racism immediately. That would be a lie though. It took coming out and prison culture to realize just how awful racism is and more importantly, how desperate I was to get rid of it in my life.

Race in prison has traditionally been the defining factor in socialization. Stay within your own and your safer. However, when you are a minority unacceptable by all races, you tend to see racism from a much different angle. It helps you hate it.

As I have navigated the LGBT waters in prison and had interactions with all races and religions, hostile and friendly I have learned how beautiful they are. My own children a reminder of what beauty can come of multi-racialism. They are Alaskan native, black and white. Proudly. I only wish I had spent more time Introducing them to more cultural awareness. Another mistake to add to the list.

I have discovered beauty in so much. Some of the nicest, most protective people in prison have been the people I was taught to fear the most growing up, black Muslim men. Other races (non-white) have been among the LGBT’s most loyal allies and I believe that is because they understand what it means to be hated for something you cannot control. We tend to find beauty in one another…

To all LGBT people: Your race and heritage and skin tone is a part of what makes you beautiful and I cannot wait to explore that. Not as a fetished, sexual desire, but as a man who is thirsty for understanding and friendship. I no longer hear the voices of my past but the songs of freedom from them. I have discovered this little thing called Earth and I want to see, feel, hear and experience every inch of it!

With Love
Jeff Utnage