Women in Prison Conference

Beyond These Walls was invited to speak on trans prisoner issues at the Women in Prison conference. We hosted a pop-up holiday card station (sponsored by Egg Press), where conference attendees took a moment to put some conference ideas into practice by writing a personal note for an incarcerated LGBT person.

Trystan Reese, one of our founders, spoke about his personal journey towards doing direct prisoner support. Here are his “notes” for the speech:

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Why I Write, by Yanin

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Hand-written stories are a powerful and personal exchange, and I was extremely lucky to be paired with a fellow FTM trans* person.

I chose to participate in this project because I think it is important for all LGBTQIA+ people, and particularly those who are most vulnerable, to feel heard and connected to a broader community that cares deeply about their experience.

Already, my penpal and I have found many commonalities, distant yet shared experiences and ample opportunities to learn from each other. I’m looking forward to getting to know my penpal and thank the organizers of this project for the opportunity!

 

Why I Write, by Leahnora

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My name is Leah, I am a transsexual woman who came out 3 years ago. I have no family support or contact, either with my three daughters or with any of my siblings.

I first got involved with Beyond These Walls at an in-person Holiday Card event, hosted at Portland’s Q Center. The cards go to TLGBQIA inmates who are very sad and lonely during this time of year. TLGBQIA prisoners are targeted for rape and beatings because of who they are, especially Transwomen. I wrote several cards to Transwomen around the country. I included a letter from me, asking if they wanted to be pen pals.

I wanted to make sure I could make some small effort to give someone a small measure of joy and happiness. I hope I can brighten their day, and set the tone for the holiday season.

I now write to several transwomen in prison, through the Beyond These Walls program. I put my entire authentic self into these letters. I can channel my amazing longhand cursive and be completely understood, and receive the most amazing, heartfelt, and loving longhand cursive reply.

It is so wonderful to receive these letters in the mail. To read these letters brings a full range of emotions, because my pen pals put tremendous effort and emotion into them. I truly believe that this old fashioned tradition brings life strengthening hope, and friendship for the individuals that are in such an unfortunate situation, as well as for me. I believe that everyone should engage in this amazing fellowshipping and loving opportunity to engage in someone’s life, where you can make an immediate and lifesaving impact on the lives of real people, that deserve a chance to hope and dream of a brighter future.

I am so grateful to be a small part of this project. I am so glad to have pen pals in this program. I encourage others to join me. You will not regret it. It will amaze you, I am sure.

With Love Always,

Leah