The LGBTQ community is the most persecuted group of people in Michigan prisons. Between prison guards, other convicts, and the overall MDOC administration, LGBTQ prisoners often can’t catch a break.

Just the other day, while working out during one of those unusually warm days in March, I heard a conversation that boiled my blood. One that led to the writing of this essay. A predator (a prisoner who preys sexually on other, weaker prisoners, but doesn’t consider himself gay) was lurking around the prison yard workout station where a trans woman was exercising. The predator was in his early fifties, very muscular, and a large man. The transgender prisoner, around 25 years of age, was in great shape as well, but was the opposite of large. The best word I can think of to describe her is petite.

The predator goes by Bull, and the transgender girl goes by Kiki, but only with the tiny number of people who actually know she’s transgender. To everyone else she’s Johnny. You see, in prison, it’s best to keep such things hidden. Life inside for any type of LGBTQ member is… well, difficult.

Bull kept strutting back and forth in front of the workout station with his chest puffed out like a peacock, leering at Kiki as if she were a piece of meat. And to him, like all sexual predators in prison, she was. He kept grunting and groaning or saying strange things like: “Ohhh yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ about,” whenever Kiki would bend forward or go down to do a set of pushups or situps. And the first and only time Kiki attempted a set of pullups, Bull decided she needed a spot and took it upon himself to grab her by the hips and force her to go two or three reps beyond what she could manage on her own. This clearly bothered Kiki, but in prison these types of things happen to someone like her on a regular basis. Even though Kiki tries to hide what she is by acting manly, a rose is still a rose by any other name. Everything about Kiki screams femininity.

My workout partner and I ran a lap around the prison’s track. We weren’t gone more than four minutes, yet by the time we returned something was wrong. Kiki’s eyes were welled up, and she stood under Bull’s angry gaze hugging herself. Bull loomed over her, scowling, and although he was whispering, spittle flew from his mouth pelting Kiki in the face. I couldn’t catch everything that was being said, because my workout partner and I were off a ways on the track doing situps, but I heard enough.

“Look, I just want my dick sucked,” Bull hissed. “Promise me that and I’ll leave your sissy ass be.”

“I don’t want to,” Kiki replied, folding in on herself, eyes downcast, shoulders slumped.

Bull let loose this odd, yipping noise like some rabies-infected hyena on the prowl and switched tactics. “Okay. Okay. Okay.” He rubbed his hands together in front of him and forced a fake smile. “How ’bout this. I’ll give you ten dollars and I won’t come in your mouth.”

“I’m not gay,” Kiki pleaded. “I don’t do that. Please, just leave me alone.”

“The fuck you ain’t,” Bull huffed, smacking a hand against the pullup bar’s metal post above Kiki’s head. “I know a fag when I see one. You got dick-sucker written all over your face. Plus, I know you been sucking that white boy Darren’s dick. You’re a racist, that’s it. You don’t want to suck no black dick.”

“I’m no racist,” Kiki replied, her blue eyes coming alert and going wide. She quickly scanned the area, making sure no one had overheard Bull’s racism remarks. Her eyes then settled on me, begging for help. Whites are far outnumbered in Michigan prisons, so being labeled a racist would guarantee Kiki’s prison life–which was already hell–would grow much worse.

“You’re a racist if I say you called me a nigger,” Bull said, grinning widely. “But…” He shrugged, spread his arms wide, and let his words trail off.

Tears began to slide down Kiki’s cheeks and she gulped. “But if I suck your dick I won’t be.”

Sensing victory, Bull bobbed his head up and down. “That’s right. You’ll have my protection.”

Having heard enough, I stood up. Anger ate at my insides. I try my best to be a passive person who loves his Goddess and all of humanity, but a Martin Luther King quote explains things best: “For evil to triumph, all that is necessary is for good men to do nothing.”

I am a good man.

“Bull, leave the fucking kid alone,” I said. “He doesn’t want to suck your dick.”

Bull leered at me. “What the fuck you gonna do about it?”

“You know what I’ll do,” I said simply.

And he did know. Over the years I’d earned a reputation for sticking up for young–often gay–prisoners. One time, long ago, a predator attacked me with a padlock attached to the end of a belt while I stood at a urinal pissing–or so he thought. When he entered the bathroom I noticed the winter gloves he’d donned in the middle of summer, which could only mean one thing: he was attempting to leave no evidence of his crime. I turned his surprise attack against him. Things didn’t go too well for him that day, but my reputation as someone willing to beat the shit out of the “all-feared” prison predator was born. From that day forward, people started calling me (jokingly) the Pimphammer. Because prison predators usually identify themselves as pimps.

“Man, fuck you, Jerry. This shit ain’t got nothing to do with your honky ass,” Bull sneered.

My workout partner stood up beside me. Two are always better than one when attempting to do what is right in prison. Plus, my workout partner is black, and his actions sent a clear message to Bull, telling him that there was zero chance this incident might be escalated into a black/white thing. It was going to stay exactly what it was: a right/wrong thing.

“Johnny, come finish your workout with us,” I said, and Kiki happily complied.

But that’s not the end of Kiki’s story. If she’d gone and reported that incident to a staff member, she most likely would have been laughed at and told to come back when someone had actually sexually assaulted her, or at the very least, touched her inappropriately.

Don’t miss: “How Art Saves My Life in Prison” by Jerry Metcalf

In prison, there are no real preventative measures for protecting gay and trans people, only reactive measures. Sure, there are places to protect those transgender people who’ve undergone gender reassignment surgeries, and those who possess breast implants and such. But all those like Kiki (women still trapped in men’s bodies) are pretty much left to fend for themselves. They’re sheep thrown in with wolves.

I once heard a guard tell a gay kid: “If you don’t want to suck dicks and get fucked in the ass, then you shouldn’t be gay in prison.”

The LGBTQ community in prison is probably more harassed by the guards than anybody else. These “righteous” government employees often take it upon themselves to “fix” homosexual and transgender prisoners. And their methods are creative. Years ago, while housed at a different prison, I came across this guard who would corner gay and trans prisoners and then preach to them directly from a pocket-sized bible. At the end of every spiel, he’d tell the gay/trans prisoner that they were going to “end up in hell if they didn’t repent, find Jesus, and begin to like women.” Which he claimed was: “The natural order of things.”

I may not be an expert on what is or isn’t good for the LGTBQ community in prisons across America. But I know this: As a people, we Americans need to start thinking of the imprisoned LGBTQ community as a real, true group of people. The LGBTQ community has rights in every other aspect of life; why not in prison as well? People like Kiki do not deserve to be repeatedly raped and abused by sexual predators in prison. Maybe Kiki is legally considered a male, but I tell you this. She does not think, act, or look like a male. She deserves better. She deserves the right to a safe, welcoming prison environment. Maybe it’s time to do away with the ancient two-gender system our corrections departments across America utilize. Maybe it’s time for people like Kiki to have their own prison. A prison not male, not female, but other…

Just something to think about.

You can contact Jerry here: 

Jerry Metcalf #251141
Thumb Correctional Facility
3225 John Conley Drive
Lapeer, MI 48446
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