As a result Christina’s presence, there was more activity than usual in H-mod. Testosterone was flowing. The inmates were louder and that evening there was more joking, more laughter, more interacting. I am not sure it was constructive, but whatever it was, there was more of it than usual, until finally lights out arrived at 11:00.
By day 2, I had come to look at the situation and Christina more as a physician than as a male inmate. The first conclusion I arrived at was a critical distinction: Christina was not gay, she was transgender. She was not a man attracted to other men, she saw herself and had obviously been living as a woman for some time now. Only the harshness of the system had failed to recognize that.
I wanted to discuss it with her, her feelings and the like; but as a doctor, I felt in this would create a great deal more harm, than good. I surely didn’t want her, or any of the guys, to get the wrong impression.
On a personal note, my colleagues didn’t really need to know who I was either. The presence of this transgender created a flash back to my training days at Michigan. Dr. Smith had had an idea for a transgender surgery department. He saw a great opportunity to be at the forefront of developing those techniques and offering solutions to some pretty troubled human beings. In retrospect, I felt now that I should have listened more closely to him than I did.
I was also troubled at the posturing of my colleagues in H mod. They had created separate groups that were in fierce competition for Christina’s attention. The Latino guys discussed it in Spanish amongst themselves, though the stigma of homosexuality kept them in check, and suspicious of each other. Any mention of her resulted in comments and stares from the other Latinos, and the message was clearly one of condemnation.
There were three young white guys, though, who made no secret that they were each, in his own way, interested in her.
I had heard about modules in Solano County where inmates looking at long periods of incarceration had in fact taken “girlfriends” but in actuality I was unprepared to witness it. My belief was simply that if you displayed homosexual behavior in here, it was because it was already in you. And an alarming number of my colleagues here in H mod were demonstrating behavior that at least until now they had managed to suppress.
Dallas, my new BFF from the upper tier, got around to my door during his unlock. The conversation began by him asking what movie I wanted to watch this evening. Ultimately, he got around to what he really wanted to talk about. Do to more overcrowding, I was informed that Christina wasn’t the only transvestite in the module. Upstairs was another, a black “female” who had also arrived as a woman. He too was obviously pretty far along in his hormone therapy to complete the transition. He was much taller than Christina, about six feet tall, maybe a little less, but equally as convincing.
To hear Dallas tell it, her name was Michael, but she preferred to be called “Beef.” Actually, in telling the story, Dallas dropped his voice about three octaves. “Beef” had a long ponytail that hung down to the middle of her back. According to Dallas, Josh, his celly, who by the way has serious issues, went straight to “Beef.” “Girl,” said Josh, “Is that your hair?”
Dallas then dropped his voice a few more octaves and said, “It’s a clip-on,” apparently in an effort to mimic “Beef.”
So I asked the obvious question: Why does she call herself “Beef,” why not Michelle or Beatrice.
Dallas thought Beatrice was a hilarious name, and so we all laughed for awhile. I suggested Dallas should ask her, but he stated frankly, that he was “afraid to ask”.
“In fact,” he offered, he calls him she, because that’s what she wants.
Niko lay on his bed laughing and it was obvious he had something to add. He merely asked if we had looked at “Beef.” His eyes were wide open in amazement and all that came out was “He looks like more of a woman, more feminine than the other one.” Dallas and I laughed at that too.
The saving grace in this entire scene was the arrival of the medication nurse. It was the morning girl, obviously working overtime. I suggested to Broadax, the floor guard that” I’d like to get my girlfriend a suite in here too”.
He laughed and merely pointed out what we all believed, “If you told someone this story… they wouldn’t believe you”.
Nonetheless, unlock for the upper tier was over, and for now, so was our conversation about “Beef.”
I try not to think about discharge or release but its difficult not to be frustrated, and a little sad as you see people come and go. Big Joey is gone and it has certainly left a hole in “unlock”. I miss his frightening logic and the stories that accompany it. The only consolation is there are always more than enough applicants to fill the void.
Danny V’s court date is getting closer and he’s becoming more of a pain. He had Moses, the mod worker, come down to my suite and ask me to read something for him. I told Moses not to take any papers from Dan but that I would talk with him at the “unlock”. Moses was particularly happy with that because the last thing he needs as a mod worker is to have one of the guards noticing him passing things from cell to cell. It could be the end of his employment. He merely said, “Thank you, Señor Adams,” and I knew by the relief in his eyes, it felt good for him to be out of that.
At unlock Dan (by now he had lost another bunky and had been moved once again to the lower tier) sat across from me with a lot of papers, all completely filled with writing beyond the margins.
“My release date was the 23rd of March, right,” he said.
“I don’t know, Dan,” I began. “I don’t know when your release date was.” (Dan has a nasty habit of holding conversations in his head, and then inviting you in somewhere in the middle.)
“It was the 23rd”, he continued. “Now she, my accuser, was seen on the 26th, but there was some redness as stated by the examiner, and no bruising. I was picked up on the 29th. Shouldn’t she have been bruising if I had attacked her?”
“I don’t know, Dan. The bruises would be the result of a number of factors, including, I guess, how she clots, how hard she was grabbed.”
“Yeah, but she couldn’t get bruising just from my grabbing her. I tried it on myself.”
“Yeah, but you weren’t trying to pull away. Look… in my experience it takes maybe 3-5 days for bruising to reach maximum and maybe 14-21 days to resolve. But that’s not the issue here. You need to get your best white boy haircut; your best white boy suit, something like a blue blazer and a blue oxford button down shirt, and make the jury believe you couldn’t have possibly done what she’s saying. Because I can guarantee you one thing – her lawyer’s going to have her sitting there with ribbons in her hair. She’s going to look like she’s 10 years old and your ass is going to fry…If I were you – God, what an awful thought – I’d look at her like who the hell are you. What happened to the hooker in spandex? I don’t even know this woman in the courtroom here today, your honor.
The point is, Dan… it’s going to be he said/she said, and you better make the jury like and believe you. If not, you’re going to prison for a very long time, and frankly, I don’t think you can make it.”
With that, Dan began to stare off in the distance and get all teary-eyed-again. The fact is he’s a lot more fragile than I care to recognize; but what’s worse is he really isn’t getting what’s going on here. Worse yet, he’s getting bogged down in minutia that’s never going to get to a courtroom.
And that’s when Joey’s replacement stepped up, figuratively. “Who are you?” he asked.
I turned, and at the table adjacent to me and Dan, sitting in a wheelchair, was an older Latino guy.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I mean, it’s obvious you don’t belong here. You’re certainly a lot smarter than the rest of us, so why are you here?”
“I’m a political prisoner,” I offered, and we both laughed.
I spent the rest of the unlock talking with Lee. He had done me a favor. He had scared Danny V off and relieved me of the obligation to listen to Danny V’s shit. True to form, we discussed nothing personal and nothing about Solano County, just reaffirming that we were about the same age and had pretty much the same perspective on things. His first laugh was that Christina, the transvestite, looked like his ex-wife. He was also pretty fond of the TV show 2 and a 1/2 men.
We reminisced about sixties Motown songs and then our “unlock” came to an end. It had been successful, though. I had made a friend.