MB: Were you looking for attention?
There was a part that was safer if I could keep it at a distance. And you could be more playful with it. Someone would say something like, you know, “Oh look, there goes mama.” And you could say, “All right now,” and you’d just kind of go about your way, you know, like, “Ah-ah, mama’s watchin’,” and kind of get out of the way. But it changed from being sexually harassed to being sexually assaulted. You know, so there was a fine line: how to divert some of that attention was by becoming more effeminate. Which sounds weird, but it worked.
MB: It sounds like a great survival technique, but was it weird internally for you?
No, I think that all gay men have a very effeminate side, at some point or another. I might have put mine to the max at times, but I’ve seen worse. In the system, where they’re always tying their shirts, you know — I kept it to just enough to get by, you know what I mean? (laughter)
MB: Is there anything in two decades in prison that you haven't spoken much about publicly that you want to share?
You have men in the system who are in there not for being good dudes. And, uh, deviance runs rampant inside the system. I don’t think people understand the constant torment that goes on. And it’s every day; all day long. And you can’t get solace from the officers, because they’re right in there on the same thing.
MB: You’ve mentioned Dennis, and I know on the Web site there’s a letter from Dave. Were these men you could get emotional sustenance from?
Yeah. One thing about the men I befriended platonically was almost all these men were homophobic — very badly — Dennis being one of them. And the way I made them feel comfortable was by making fun of myself or, like, maybe a gay thought. But not to where it was gay malice or not where it hurt me; it was where they were laughing with me and not at me. You know, “Ah, you’re crazy. Ah, I can’t believe you said that” — you know. Just little things. But it was also a way to let them know that just because we’re around each other doesn’t mean I’m going to change who I am. I didn’t do it then on the street; I’m not gonna do it now. Another thing about Dennis is that — you know, we had the same things going on. I would just be able to look at Dennis and just know that he was having a tough day.
There are some men in there that I think might never change. But there are a lot of guys in there struggling to get out that have changed — or you just see something different in them — you know, a kindness that other guys don’t have. Or a decency, or the way they might treat the older people. There’s a gentleman at the treatment center called Buck Rogers. And everybody is mean to him. They hate him … He’s probably close to 80. Buck’s been in maybe 40 years. And, you know, how could you — even if he is a little aggressive, a little meaner — then that means you be a little bit nicer, a little bit kinder to him, and he’ll come around. You pick and choose your own little network to kind of help you. And each one of them helped me. Buck helped me to realize that: to have empathy for other people in tough situations and not have a lot of my own anger.