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Woman draped with the transgender flag over her shoulders while holding a smaller flag in her hand
Photo by Vladimir Vladimirov on iStock

On a Monday evening, Mother Nature was watering gardens and fields. The sound of rain helped lull me into a much needed sleep in preparation for a lecture I was to give to a group of criminology students. 

Some six months prior, I was contacted by a professor of criminology and criminal justice studies at a private university here in Missouri. The professor asked if I would be willing to talk about my personal truth: being transgender and confined to a men’s maximum-security prison. 

I have been in prison for 42 years and have never seen a webcam in person, let alone used one. But I was game. The next morning, I became the first incarcerated Missourian to use one; I was also the first to give a lecture to a college class via webcam — and all this without a college degree.

It is not unusual for me to be asked to write an article or story about things in my wheelhouse. I am, after all, a transgender woman, feminist, activist and advocate for the incarcerated LGBTQ+ community. But this presentation was both inside and outside my comfort zone, speaking about my truth while at the same time invoking statistics and intellectual ideas.

After the lecture, I felt exhausted. Reliving much of my past took more out of me than I had expected. But without a face to the story, it is just another story. And the point of the lecture was too important to be just another story. Drug addiction, suicidal thoughts and actions, the experience of gang rape, promiscuity, a lifetime of self-hatred and anger being thrown at so many undeserving victims should never be just another story.

The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University printed a paper I wrote in the spring 2019 issue of its LGBTQ Policy Journal. In this paper I talked about the lack of programs available to those within the juvenile justice system and how, if society does not intervene, another generation may be lost to our nation’s prison systems. 

My lecture to the university students hit on that very topic. Some of them could be the very ones who adopt policy and directives within the juvenile justice system.

Oftentimes, I feel I am not the one for this work. I have been incarcerated for over four decades, my highest educational level is a GED with three semesters of college theology. No degree, no official recognition academically and decades of being told I am nothing but a number. Yet I find I do have something of value to contribute. So I write, I teach and I give back. I work to help repair those broken souls entering our system so they can return one day and pay it forward.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Patricia Elane Trimble is a transgender feminist writer, activist and author incarcerated in Missouri. She is an advocate for the fair and just treatment of all incarcerated LGBTQ people. Her book “Finding Purpose: One Transgender Woman's Journey" is available on Amazon.