What are the documents and letters in the header picture? Probably not what you think.
After the Orlando shooting, I was distraught at how such menacing, loathsome hatred could turn into a slaughtering of the LGBTQ+ community. I was shocked, outraged, and helpless.
Unsatisfied with merely being a voice online to support the cause, I searched for ways to help.
The one that stuck out the most to me was becoming a pen pal. I love to donate money or goods when I can, but this was a perfect way for me to reach out in my current situation.
The Black and Pink organization is dedicated to LGBTQ+ individuals in need that you can become penpals with. Oh, yeah–and they’re all currently in prison. The B&L group is pro-prison abolition and the better treatment of inmates.
The list provides information about the inmates, such as name, age, sexual orientation, preferred pronouns, and a small biography. You choose who you want to write to. Simple as that!
I thought I’d challenge my own beliefs and preconceived notions while hopefully having a positive impact on someone.
I chose three very different people, all in solitary confinement. I was curious how they got there. What choices they made. If they regretted anything. If they were happy with their lives, regardless of their current state. Have they learned anything? Can they teach me something? Maybe I have more in common with them than I’d like to believe.
I have already received two letters back. It could be its own blog post, but so far, I can tell you the answers to the above questions might surprise you. What surprised me the most is that it didn’t surprise me much at all. I tend to think most people in prison belong there–and perhaps that was the extent of my thoughts. Whether or not a person belongs there, inmates are still humans who deserve rehabilitation and redemption. Bearing that in mind, they are, above all, people. Actual people like me–and we aren’t so different.
One of my new friends requested several pages’ worth of information for me to research and print out, including the tax form you see above. I admit that it did inconvenience me, but in a way, I’m glad it did. This whole penpal thing isn’t about my comfort and convenience; it’s about forming a connection with someone, learning something, giving back, being a friend, and not being in my own self-centered bubble. It was really a small sacrifice in the grand scheme of things.
I may not have directly impacted the victims or Orlando, or their families, but it’s a way to help someone in need, someone who could very easily be a target of this type of hatred, someone who likely already has, if they’re openly queer or trans.
This post is not about me though. Yes, I want to help. I want to contribute, no matter how small. I want to learn and grow. I want to be more compassionate to my fellow humans. I want to give back because I’m able. I want to be a positive force with such many awful things happening to innocent people.
But more importantly, I feel like it’s our duty as humankind to lend a helping hand or two when our fellow human beings need us. I don’t think we should do it because, “Oh, SOMEONE NEEDS ME. Only I can save them!!!!!” I think we should do it because it’s the right thing to do.
Kindness and good gestures won’t end homophobia, transphobia, or racism. It won’t cure hate or stop evil. Love and kindness though can heal the aftereffects. You can’t save every terrible person from being terrible, but maybe together, we can save those who have been hurt by them.