I wasn’t there for Stonewall, I haven’t been beaten by a group of gay bashers in some cold dark alley. The likes of whom I had probably slept with hours before. I haven’t marched to the Quilt, or raised a sign in protest. Have You?

Our “struggle” today is much different then the struggle of 40 years ago, or even 20 years ago. It was much more physical then. The queens of yesterday complain about the validation of the gay “struggle” today. Today there are some places who won’t serve us, we want that equality and the older generation is saying “go somewhere else, its their right”
A part of me feels stupid when I hear them say that. They invalidate all my work until this point and the struggle I’ve experienced thus far. Its not their fault though, they went through an era where they couldn’t even find a gay bar. Or had to pay police to keep it open. They went through times where there were thousands of them and no meeting hall would rent to them. They survived an era of beatings and murders. They have a right to question us.

Today our struggle is a different kind. Like our understanding of life itself we have evolved and our adversaries have to. So has our struggle. Its still physical. But its much more psychological. Today we are recognized as a complete person, that we do exist and didn’t ask for this. But we are running into places we can’t go, businesses that are for “straights only”. If only they would be brave enough to put up signage that says just that. Then people would see the image that business is mirroring. 

In today’s society gay is okay. In most places that is. In prison its still illegal to be gay. We can say were gay, against the advisement of administration, but we aren’t allowed to display gay. No relationships, no make up, no dancing (just throwing that in there, LOL!), no sex, no holding hands with your girlfriend, no doing each others hair or nails. None of that. In fact, they won’t even allow us in the same cell together for “obvious reasons”. 

I recognize that prison is out of your realm. We put ourselves here and this is not your concern. I understand. Allow me this moment of truth though. In prison LGBT people are being beat and raped and controlled and damaged. We are desperate for contact and so many of my peers succomb to drug use or selling their bodies to a john for their needs. The battle our older generation started is still going on in here. They left it wholly unfinished. Often times our only acceptance comes from being someone’s “punk”. Which means sex slave, btw. It means your owned, as a possession else you get beat. Saying no tonight isn’t an option because he’ll split you open. Either end, it doesn’t matter. 

We come in here broken and damaged, in desperate need of care and healing. Instead we face danger and its next to impossible to focus on our problems because we are in constant survival mode. Then we go right back out into the community more broken then when we came in. More confused about ourselves then before. 

I am fortunate to be where I am, unusually safe. I am taking advantage of this safety by creating a safe place to heal. Because one day we are going to be out there as your neighbor and colleague, boss or employee. We will be riding the bus with you, or shopping next to you. 

How this place treats us matters. We have deep issues that need attention so we can become cohesive members of your society. Help from you doesn’t look like picket signs and open bars. It looks like letters of support, your participation. Coming in here for two hours to tell us about your struggle, your organization, your passion. It inspires us to change because you care, because you did it. Often success for us is elusive and just coming in contact with stability can be life changing for scores of us. 

I know my life is sub par for many. Hardly worth reading. I try to be open so it creates the opportunity for trust. But there are men and women who are seriously broken in here, who have miles to go. Who look up to me, as if I’ve done something spectacular with my life. All I’ve done is express remorse and change what brought me here, accept myself and know that I have a lot wrong with me and a willing spirit to change whatever is next in myself. They look up to that? I could sure use help in showing them someone truly worthy of attention. What about you? 

With Love
Jeff Utnage