Tonight I went to our local LGBT prison support group and our host had us play a game where we randomly draw a number and the number corresponded with a “get to know you” question. It was a fun game and at the end there was a young transgender woman who spoke up about a friendship she had with a forty-something gay man in her cell block who had been in Hispanic street gangs his whole life. He struck me as quite shy about his coming out, things in general, and seemed to have deeply hidden battle scars from the gang life and his sense of self. It was the sense of survival.

This woman really impressed me with her intuition about the fragility of how the two of them exist in a men’s prison in such opposition from surrounding inmates. She spoke to his good qualities, ones that he probably doesn’t readily see himself, his loyalty to their friendship and she spoke to her own struggle with the ignorance of their environment. She talked about being called horrible things, a freak, a faggot, a weirdo. Its them against the world, as small as that world is. Of course the entire room had encouragement for them and it was wonderful to see.

But, as a straight ally, it made me really soak in how brutal their worlds must be and how strong they truly are. How do you dream of a better life, one beyond this prison setting, one where friendships or identities don’t need defending? How do you dream when the survival both inside yourself, and everyday living in your environment, are tough to come by?

Don’t get me wrong, I get that bully’s exist in all walks and for a variety of excuses, but if the world outside has it rough, imagine the world for these two people. Yet, even they dare to dream as they survive.

So with all of this I ask you, how hard is it for you to dream? How hard is it for you to survive? Find the strength like these two and be amazing enough to do both, regardless of the situation. I feel stronger just meeting them…

Rory Andes