While we were at A-Camp, I led a workshop titled, “Solidarity from the Mountain: Writing Letters to Incarcerated Queer and Trans Women.” We wrote letters to incarcerated members of Black and Pink, a national network of queer and trans incarcerated people and their free world allies, to send our support, to let them know they aren’t forgotten, and to share a little bit of the love and community we were building in our queer-normative space at A-Camp.
It felt really essential that we make space to think about incarcerated queer and trans people at A-Camp. As I wrote on Autostraddle,
“We know how important finding community and camaraderie in queer and trans spaces are, and we are lucky to have it, whether it comes for you in 3D at A-Camp, 2D on Autostraddle dot com, somewhere outside the Straddleverse, or maybe in some fourth dimension I don’t know about. I think it’s important that we remember our incarcerated queer and trans siblings who can’t share in those community spaces, because of the violence of a Prison Industrial Complex that targets and preys on queer and trans people, particularly queer and trans people of color — black trans women especially. I hope we can spread some of the love and support that comes in buckets on the Mountain to them.”
About 20 people attended the workshop and made beautifully hand-drawn cards, even though prison mail restrictions make it so we could pretty much only use computer paper and markers.
I interviewed Jason Lydon, founding director of Black and Pink, about how people living in the free world can show solidarity with incarcerated people. He told us about the significance of letter-writing:
“The experience of getting a letter is one of the most important moments or feelings of connection to something. So not only represents connection, it IS connection for prisoners that are receiving mail. It’s a moment to be thinking about something beyond the prison walls, to be reminded that someone is thinking of them. Hopefully that leads to reductions of self-harm and suicide, because LGBT folks and prisoners in particular have enormously high rates of suicide or self-harm, and so we are providing ongoing connection between people on the outside and the inside.”
I wrote an essay about losing my mother on Autostraddle.
And so I screamed. I screamed for the woman who’d been my best friend. I screamed for the woman who will never sit beside me driving along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. And then I cried, calling for my mother while I drove with my hands in the ten-and-two position, keeping myself magnificently alive while I faced the fact that we would never live in the same time and space again, head on.
What is the news today?? The Supreme Court rules that apparently racism is a thing of the past, while completely mis-defining tribal identity and threatening native sovereignty. And then Senator Wendy Davis is currently filibustering in Texas to keep draconian abortion laws off the book, too, so that’s cool.
Meanwhile, I am reflecting on a protest I attended yesterday at the Suffolk Detention Center in Boston, opposing the massive deportations that happen each week, invisible to the eyes of many Americans, but brutally real to many others.
We stood at the intersection of Mass Ave and I-93, 40 or 50 of us within sight of the Suffolk Detention Center, where detainees could see us through their barred windows. We waved and chanted, holding signs showing our solidarity and support; they waved back and banged on the windows, showing signs of their own: ICE 7 Years, and Thank You All.
As deportations continue by the thousands and the US sits on the brink of Immigration Reform, we need to be watching. This country doesn’t make it easy for us to watch passively and see the full picture, so we have to look, and we have to listen. Carefully.
We could see into the part of the detention center nearest the highway, but walking there, we passed walls of windows, which were mirrored on the outside. We could not see in, but the people inside could see out. If we listened, we could hear them banging on the glass, hidden from us.
A two-way mirror is a simple tool to hide an atrocity. What would it look like, to drive by on the highway and see hundreds of faces peering through the glass, hands pressed between bars, mouthing words? Would we ask who those people are? Would we ask if they really need to be there? So long as deportation and incarceration stays hidden, it’s easy to dismiss deportation and incarceration as something that doesn’t apply, so long as you follow the law. “I don’t know the people detained,” you might say, “Aren’t they there for doing something wrong?”
Well who says it’s wrong? The same people hiding them behind mirrored glass.
The people in the wrong are not who’s behind the mirror, but those who put the mirror there in the first place.
I am so lucky to have my Dada supporting me in absolutely everything I aspire to do and be. I am proud of and excited for his upcoming trip to Toolik Field Station in Alaska! Follow him here, and check out his video describing his upcoming project (pay special attention to his green screen technology)!