Resting in Unsafe Spaces

Art by Ky Peterson

Art by Ky Peterson

This article originally appeared on June 19, 2017 in Rest for Resistance*
Rest for Resistance Editor's Note: Ky Peterson is a Black trans man currently incarcerated for self-defense against a violent attacker. Here's what he shared with us about resting as an act of resistance.

Things are going pretty good considering the situation. I am able to eat, leave my dorm for classes, go outside, and connect with other people. I am lucky that I do not have to serve my time in Solitary, but that doesn't mean I don't struggle everyday. Resistance on the inside doesn't look the same as it does in the "Free World."  We cannot speak out, protest, or openly stand against inhumane treatment. The administration considers any resistance to be "Insubordination," even when we are only trying to survive.  

I have had to learn to resist quietly, and in a way that won't create a backlash for myself or other inmates.

Every day it is a new challenge or problem I have to solve or try to avoid. In here, the best resistance is simply avoidance. The "Bosses" try to push people into feeling scared and angry. They want people to act out so that they can punish folks even more. Every mark on your record is time added to your imprisonment. Folks who won't be going home have nothing to lose... they are the easiest to push over the edge.  

When I first arrived in prison, I felt sick, weak, and angry.  Most of the population here is walking around in a fog of mental health medications that many do not need. The easiest way to pass your time is to sleep through it, and the Bosses are fine with having a sedated prison. Foggy people don't cause problems. Foggy people don't question the abuse. Foggy people don't fight back. My first step to resistance was to clear my head of the fog: I stopped taking the meds.

Not taking meds forced me to look inside and deal with what happened to me.

For the first two years, no one knew what happened to me, or why I was there. I finally broke the silence to my girlfriend, Pinky. When we first met, I never needed to worry about that conversation... You know, the "How do I tell her that I'm trans?" conversation. She says she knew the first time she ever laid eyes on me. She was the first person to refer to me as  "he" and in all the time we've been together, she never gets it wrong.

As a trans person, having just one person validate your life can mean the difference between life and death. Her belief in my manhood made me stronger. Courage comes with strength, and I felt that if one person could treat me with dignity and respect who I am, so can everyone else.  

Because of Pinky, I was able to begin looking for trust in a place where everyone who controls your life is trying to hurt you. I found it with my counselor, who is one of the decent people here. I opened up to her. When I told her that I’m trans, she respectfully began using the right pronouns and my real name. That's two people on my team. Trusting her with my trauma was really hard, but I felt all the pain and anger boiling up inside me. It was getting so unbearable I needed to face the devil.  

Over the years, I have quietly and patiently begun building a small family of loving supporters, including Pinky and my counselor. Every day that passes, I have come to know who I am a little bit more, and I like who I am. I have a life and a future out there in the free world, and resting for resistance keeps me sane so that I can avoid any issues that might keep me here any longer.

Art by Ky Peterson

Art by Ky Peterson

With help, I’ve found ways to express my feelings without physically reacting; I began reading books, meditating, and exercising to release negative energy.

For me, Resting for Resistance is all about self-control. I now walk away from the things that used to send me into a rage, understanding that nothing is personal. The way that people see me and treat me is a reflection of who they are, not who I am. I make note of the injustices and save them for a time and place when I am not living under the control of hate-filled oppressors.

My time here is for Rest, focusing on my healing and building my personal strength, strength that I will need when the time comes for me to go home. That is where my real Resistance begins.

I hope that everyone is at a place in their life where they can see how much they have grown and changed. For me, it feels good to be able to wake up everyday without anger being the first thought in my mind. At one point, I was very angry and hurt that I am here, but now I see this place for what it really is... a place for me to work on myself and help others who need someone to talk to, or just encourage them to not give up.

I believe that this will be over one day, and whenever that day comes, I will be very grateful and appreciate the time I have spent here. I have been discovering who I am and becoming the man I was always meant to be. Be safe and take care.

Appreciate life and don't take anything or anyone for granted.


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