So what do we do when we, as transgendered inmates, are exploited by media that is aimed at damaging us and potentially puts us in danger? Here are a few things I have done to help myself cope with just such an event:
1) Understand what the goal of the media coverage is.
This is important because it helps humanize the agency or reporter doing the harm. I need to have empathy because empathy is what they are lacking, I am not them. Let them be calloused and instead I choose to be an example of what change and rehabilitation looks like by not putting more hatred or negative energy into the atmosphere. I look at it as adding positive karma to my karma bank. I already know what it feels like to hurt and exploit someone else, I’ll never do it again willingly. I only want to love. A little understanding goes a long way, besides, if I know what their end goal is, I may be able to engage with them in a win-win scenario.
2) Don’t react impulsively.
Spend some time thinking about how to respond or if a response is warranted. It can feel like a great idea to immediately counter a report, and sometimes it is, but sometimes it isn’t. Remember, they are experts at their jobs, we are experts at us. I’m going to do me on my terms, not theirs. Reach out and get help. Talk to people about options, get advice and feedback, then decide if action is necessary. Mistakes are made on impulse. Avoid it.
3) Calm your emotions.
Reality, some things are out of my control. I don’t know about you but I like to live in reality. The reality is, I cannot control what others do, feel, or think. Nor do I want to. I prefer independence for others and myself. Autonomy is highly valuable to me. Instead of trying to control others actions, I focus on coping with my emotions. I want to become healthier, not unhealthier. This means dealing with emotions and feelings in positive ways that are in my long-term best interest. Go see a therapist. Talk to a friend, or thirty, write a poem, draw a picture, exercise, meditate…do whatever helps you understand yourself better and remain healthy.
These aren’t the only things possible. I am no expert but I do know that those of us transgendered and gender non conforming folx that are incarcerated have to deal with negative media coverage and it can feel scary. At the end of the day some would like us to feel that the world is a threatening place and they hope that if they become intimidating enough we will bend to their will and narrow ideals of how the world works.
The world is not a threatening place and so many people DO accept you and me right now. Maintaining my mental health and a positive self-image is a number one priority for me because I like me better this way, as I am now. Remember when you came out, the weight that was lifted? Don’t add someone else’s weight to your load again.
I’ve done harm to someone. I hate that feeling and I will never allow myself to get to that point again. Part of that is feeling and coping with my emotions and I bet it’s the same for anyone who reads this.
Feel free to leave your own tips on this issue. Together we can create a plan that someone can use to navigate situations like these.
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