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Stencil of Tupac Shakur overlaid on a transgender rights flag
Illustration by Teresa Tauchi. Original photos by Lena Balk on Unsplash and Adam Jones (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Have you ever felt boxed in? Like you are trapped in a body or an environment that does not fit your needs? 

Growing up, I felt different than other kids. I was born a male who felt out of place, like I was trapped in a body that did not reflect my gender identity. Recently, I found liberation from that box, when I got to know the real me. 

My name is Summer Kool Breeze. I am a transgender (male to female) prisoner at Western Missouri Correctional Center. Since I decided to embrace my truth, I’ve felt empowered. 

Accepting me for me was not an easy task. It was hard being an LGBTQ youth. No one understood me, and I felt vastly outnumbered, like the world was against me. Sometimes, for my own safety, I’ve wanted to crawl back in that box and hide. 

Sometimes I thought of my life as the setting of an old Western or cowboy movie. You know, the kind where a good guy is chased into a boxed canyon by bad guys with no way out. The good thing is, the good guy always escapes and survives. Thank God, I am a survivor. 

I often use music as a coping mechanism. One of the greatest songs ever made came from Tupac Shakur. In “Keep Ya Head Up,” Tupac tells us that things will get easier.  I always believed those words, even when it seemed impossible. 

Other messages from artists are hurtful, particularly to the LGBTQ community. 

In early 2020, rapper Boosie made transphobic comments about former NBA star Dwayne Wade’s 12-year-old child, who is transgender. Wade has publicly supported his child with their transition.

I am disappointed in Boosie. He is an iconic rapper, and his opinions matter. He should have researched the terms “gender dysphoria” or “transgender” to understand the issues transgender men and women face. Boosie needs to understand how powerful his views are and how harmful his words can be to a young transgender individual who is trying to get to know themselves. 

Some of us are deterred by detractors like Boosie when we are trying to find our balance in life and get to know who we really are. We have to stay faithful to ourselves, and we cannot allow others’ opinions of us stop us from being who we are. Commit to yourself. Not doing so means missing out on the rewards of living your best life.

The greatest gift we can ever give ourselves is the gift of knowing who we are. Do not allow people to box you into a life that does not fit you. 

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.

Summer Breeze is the pen name of a Black trans writer incarcerated in Missouri.