How Some Men Find Love... by Corey John Richardson
We don't always do the right things. For me, I rarely did the right ones. A few years ago, I was facing a lot of prison time for a rather atypical white collar crime... and my co-defendant had just taken a deal in the middle of our joint trial. For those of you who do not know about the system, this ensured that I would be the one to go away for quite awhile.
I was paralyzed with fear. Surely, I would be a target, and not just because of my rather obvious middle-class demeanor or my high-profile case . I am gay. Not in an overt way. I never inundated myself in the gay culture. I am just gay. As I waited for that day to come when I would be transported to a concrete world behind razor-wire fence, the prison violence documentaries on A & E were foremost in my mind -- not my favorite Jeff Stryker videos from college when he made all his sexual conquests in the local county lock-up.
Oddly enough, I developed a fantasy of meeting someone in prison. Certainly not some gang bang, rape-fest fantasy, but maybe some strong young soul who needed love just as much as I did. The world had thrown me away. In prison, the land of the throw-aways, there's much hunger for love (and food and money and freedom), and it mutates into behaviors difficult to fully explain.
I have heard that the Roman armies, the Spartans, and other cultures of the ancient world embraced homosexuality. When you lock men up for decades at a time, it is quite easy to figure out why it becomes natural to seek the arms of another man. Just men, men and more men, year after long year. It was just as natural for the ancients with their long campaigns to conquer distant lands. Perfectly straight men become situationally-gay, or a least for a time. Homosexual acts in prison facilitate the sexual release and sometimes the need for love.
After I unpacked the little bit of property I had, I walked around the prison. I tried to look natural, but surely my eyes were as big as half dollars. I know that my nerves were shredded. It did not take long to see a few "sissies," a few "punks," and a few "boys" [common prison nomenclature], all walking with their respective "friends." Gay men in quite a larger number than I had expected in prison. How could this be? Had drinking, drugs, or just plain stupidity brought them to prison like it had me? It would seem so.
Gay men in prison are an unusual bunch. Some are under cover and some are proud tough queens. Some are just rather average. Many gay men in prison distinctly assume female affectations. They aren't transgendered, though prison has plenty of transgendered also. To some gay men, female attributes are bait and many straight convicts are more open to sex with another man when they perceive a female illusion orchestrated with shaven legs and plucked eyebrows. I was lonely, but that just wasn't me.
In a few weeks it was overwhelmingly clear to me that prison (at least in this state) was a 24/7 meat market. This is what had terrified me? And while several hundred men were trying to figure out if I was merely a "fish" easily tricked or perchance gay, I had already decided to plant myself in the path of the biggest, most beautiful young buck this world has ever known. Eventually, he sat down beside me and said hello.
As a gay man I had often felt, underneath the surface, rejected and alone, but now I felt utterly destroyed. I hoped to find some companionship. I hoped he would be the one. It was more than I could have ever dreamed possible. It was instant. He loved my knowledge, my worldview, and our multitude of differences. He dragged me to the weight pile, took me to the chow hall, and even hopelessly tried to teach me basketball. We shared meals in the dorm, watched movies on the weekend, and, well... we didn't just screw. This man made love to me like no one else had ever has. It was wonderful each and every time. This was a man so straight that I was terrified to even kiss him that first time. This straight man completely, unreservedly, met every need that I had sexually and otherwise, and found several that I had not known even existed. No man that I have ever known was stronger, nor more tender and sensitive.
Then he was gone. It was about a year that we had shared and then he made parole. As much as I thought I had appreciated him, it was only a fraction of what he deserved. He held me in his arms as I cried real honest-to-goodness tears. This man loved me as I was, never asked for more from me than my time and love. I still do the same workouts. Still cook the same meals. Still run the same track. I still smile when I think about his beautiful face laughing in the summer sun as we walked together across the prison yard.
Prison is still a 24/7 meat market, but I never found love again. As I edge closer toward release, being pursued lost its luster. When my love left I began to discover more of myself. I still see men -- gay with straight -- finding comfort in each other's arms. Don't think though that corrections administration is accepting of homosexuals, or that prison is safe. Neither is true. A fight is prison may cost you 15 days in segregation, but get caught in the arms of another man and you will spend 90 days in "the hole" and you will get 6 months added to your sentence due to loss of good time. Purchasing condoms on the black market is nearly impossible and the medical departments are loathe to offer expensive HIV testing. Think of this: "Barely Legal" porn mags showing clearly underage girls are permissible, but a gay political or literary magazine is considered contraband, and therefore not permitted into the institution. Allegedly it "promotes homosexuality." Serving ten, twenty, thirty years or longer promotes homosexual acts -- not a magazine. Straight men in prison do not see their partner in a particularly male way.
These couples still fight like couples in the free world. Some are even abusive. Some cheat. Many scam lonely gay men through pen pal services. Gays need to fight sometimes like everyone else. Everyone, gay or straight, miss their families, miss their freedom. It is still prison. But one thing is certain: I grew into the man I always wanted to be in prison, but not because of it -- in spite of it.
When my friend left, he went to live with his parents who were raising his twin sons. In his enthusiasm over us, he told his mother the whole truth. Maybe I was merely part of his prison experience as well. We often joked: What happens in prison stays in prison -- like some ad for corrections. Maybe when he shed his prison attire, he shed me too, but I hope not completely. I pray that part of what we were lingers still. He said before he left that I had changed him forever. I felt the same, and still do. After having truly been loved for the first time in my life I found that I was finally proud to be myself without reservations, I was glad to have been born gay, and maybe now I could find real love once again upon my release, but this time with another gay man. Imagine that?
Mother Teresa said once that we humans are angels with only one wing and that we need each other to fly. He helped me get from that place of loss and confusion to the sure-footing of where I am today. I hardly knew that it was happening. What an odd place for it all to have occurred.
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