I’ve always been gay, but I’ve never been overtly effeminate. Coming from a family of several positive male role models, I never had to hide who I was, so I never did.
Like everyone, I had heard the stories about men being “turned out” in prison. As I was being booked into Orleans Parish Prison in November of 2004, I realized I was a target.
During the processing I was placed in a holding cell with nearly fifty other prisoners.
I was terrified going into the cell. So I found a quiet spot on the floor in the corner. I sat with my knees in and my arms folded with my head down, so I’m not sure how they knew I was gay. Still, a man sat next to me and put his arm around me. I attempted to spring up but another man stood over me and forcefully pushed me back down by my shoulders.
“You ain’t fighting back, is you, sweetness?” he said. I looked at him in horror as tears welled up in my eyes. The man who was standing exposed himself while the other aggressively forced me to give his friend oral sex. Out of fear, I performed oral sex on them both. Even with several people in the cell, no one said or did anything. I don’t know why I expected them to do anything.
I was too petrified to fight back. I was too embarrassed to ask for help. I just complied. This was my first time in jail and, as a scrawny 23-year-old, I was afraid to do anything but obey. Besides the original two, I was intimidated into performing oral sex on two other men. During the acts, I mentally dissociated. I pushed that night so far back into my head that it’s hard for me to even remember the faces of the men. Yet I very much remember the feelings of fright and trepidation.
After that first night I was placed on a dormitory style tier with about 30 other inmates. It was three ten-man “cuts” with a two man shower in the far back. It was not long before the other inmates discovered that I was gay. During my first few hours there, I didn’t see two men take a shower together. That all changed when I went to take mine.
A man entered the shower with me and ordered me to face the wall or he would “break my fucking neck.” This man was literally twice my size and so I faced the wall without question. I felt his hand on me and I tried to move away. He ordered me not to move as he sexually assaulted me. I cried silently.
I was repeatedly sexually and physically assaulted in the shower. I never felt so much shame, embarrassment, and humiliation in my life. I felt degraded and low. The feeling of worthlessness was only amplified when the first man who assaulted me in the shower sold me to another inmate for $20 in commissary items. I became his “ho.” This meant that I was his property and available to him for sex at his beck and call or risk being “put in a ho’s place.”
It was enslavement. I had been bought and sold. With the threat of more violence, I was intimidated into giving up my manhood. I was raped repeatedly. I was used to pay off my “husband’s” gambling debts. I was forced to act like a woman. I was forced to grow my hair and nails and shave all the hair off of my face. I had to arch my eyebrows and wear my clothes two sizes smaller to appear feminine. I had to talk soft and never raise or put bass in my voice. I was forced to wear a tucker — a handmade garment that pulls the genitals back, giving the illusion that the penis is not there — all the time. It is excruciatingly painful. It is punishment for being a man. This was the most demeaning thing aside from the actual sexual assaults.
The forced enslavement and sexual assaults permanently altered my life and my perception about everything. I became disassociated and depressed. I lost touch with reality. I lost my sexual identity and began referring to myself as “she” and “her.” I often do not see myself as a man. I began to take offense at being called “he.”
I still have nightmares and have trouble sleeping because of that gruesome time. I have been suicidal. My psychological stability has been taken away. My self-worth and self-esteem are non-existent.
Hopelessness, depression, and utter despair are constantly overwhelming and abundant. I have hated myself. I have lost myself and forgotten who I was. I have not forgiven myself for doing nothing. I regret not fighting back more. My life has been permanently altered and I am only in jail for check fraud.
I often hear that homosexuals just love being in jail. That it is akin to a kid in a candy store. That cliché is so far from the truth. When I choose to be with someone, it’s personal and intimate. Being raped is anything but. Jail is a nightmare for anyone. But for a gay man — the target of sexual assaults — it is pure hell.
– Rodney, LouisianaBack