The value of a thing sometimes lies not in what one attains with it but in what one pays for it – what it costs us. (Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900)

This quote came to me via a book by Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War. As soon as a read it I understood how that applies to a trans prisoner fighting for basic human rights, actually, how it applies to all incarcerated individuals who are rehabilitating themselves.

Prison is not a place to employ angry, petty, militaristic dictators to oversee a prisoners every move. Well, it shouldn’t be. But it often is and for those employees who are rehabilitating agents in our lives life is rough for them because we (especially the LGBT community) are hanging on to them like life rafts in a big ocean of very angry predators.

The cost of obtaining basic things is seriously high. Like make-up for trans women housed in male facilities. The day the memo went out a female officer, whom I have never spoken to before this day, pulls me up and asks me if I have a black eye. Before I could answer she leans in close to my face and says “oh, never mind, guess its just your make-up.” and begins to laugh as she shakes her head. The problem here is I didn’t have a black eye and I didn’t have make-up on, she just wanted to shame someone and I was her target, make us self-conscious, even more so than we already are.

To get to the point of make-up took 40 years of being purchased and sold like slaves, fighting for our lives, sexual and physical assaults, forced prostitution, severe abuse by both authorities and other inmates, all, while everyone told us that we wanted that abuse “otherwise, why else would you act like a girl in prison, why wouldn’t you hide it? Obviously you wanted this because you knew what prison was like and you still did your crime.”

I’m so sick of that sentence. If punishment alone was effective for crime elimination it would have bred it out of the American population, or the European population before America. Instead, we continue to practice a methodology that we have stern evidence, hundreds of years of stern evidence, that it doesn’t work.

Getting make-up or hormone therapy is not about make-up or hormone therapy at all, its the fact that we have to fight for it at all.

You want to make something more valuable than gold? Take a necessity away from a population and make them fight for it. I am forever changed as a human being by this place.

I’ll let you decide how to interpret that.

With Love
Ruth Utnage

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