Consensual, same-sex prisoner relationships are common among both male and female inmates. It’s not a reflection of their sexuality, but more out of pragmatism and as a counterbalance to loneliness. The expression is “gay for the stay”.
But don’t confuse, “gay” for “gay for the stay”. I met some women who are lesbians on the streets and they are still lesbians, on the inside. Then there were the ones that come into prison as straight, and get involved with women because they are seeking the companionship and tenderness.
The desire to be touched, embraced and held becomes magnified when one realizes it’s missing. It’s something one learns to go without, or become, “gay for the stay”.
When I met Denise, aka, “The Senator”, (she is quite vocal and opinionated) I liked her. She has that “take it” or “leave it” attitude, plus she can read lips! She said she was deaf in one ear, so she learned to read lips. If I didn’t want her to know what I was saying I had to make sure I turned my head, pissed her off! It was good entertainment though, ha-ha (I’m not usually an instigator, like my son Rocky).
When the Senator said, she had a 10-year sentence, you could have knocked me over with a feather. Ten years, ten years! When she asked me about mine, I didn’t want her to know because mine was considerably less. Isn’t that strange, I was sad to say a lesser sentence? (see what prison can do to someone’s mind) Sometimes the ladies with the long sentences would make fun of the ladies with the shorter sentences. You might hear, “I’ve got 8 years, while you suffer your 20 months”, kind of made me feel like I was no good.
Since Denise was gay, and in a Women’s Prison for 10 years, I thought there might be an “upside”. (think about it). When I asked her if she thought she would have a relationship in prison, she about fell off the aluminum bleachers. (It would have been a very short fall) “Hell no”! “I’m not interested in a relationship in here”. Then she asked me if I knew anyone on the outside. “Seriously, I said”?
She then starting talking loud, louder, outside-voice loud, (she did that when she got excited, which was daily), “I’m gay, really gay, always gay…these women are not really gay”! Strangely, I felt they were imposters and felt honored to be friends with a “real lesbian”. (I’m telling you, prison will mess you up).
I am not active in LGBT rights, but the common fabric Denise, (“The Senator”) and I shared was the longing for human touch, holding a hand, giving and receiving a hug. For whatever the reason someone’s sexual identity differs from yours, it doesn’t mean they don’t desire love. We all do.
Fortunately, my family visited often and I could hug someone almost every week. Upon entering the visiting room, (after being stripped search), I could hug my visitor but only briefly. If I violated the rules, I could jeopardize receiving visitors. I would close my eyes and forget I was in prison. I remember secretly trying to hold on to that feeling and would draw upon it, to help me through the next days ahead of me, until the next visit.
The life outside of the visiting room was different. A different standard. Technically, women are not supposed to hold hands, kiss, or display their affections. The operative word is, technically, but it happens and everyone knows it. While, I never saw a guard do anything to stop it, inasmuch as they knew it was happening, it was easier to turn a “blind eye”. I would look the other way as well, because, I felt uneasy passing two women kissing, while they were trying to be “undercover”. Awkward moment.
When a man asked me if I was permitted to have conjugal sex while incarcerated, I couldn’t help but to ask him if there was anything else he wanted to know! LOL…he said that was about all he could think of. The United States Bureau of Prisons does not allow conjugal visits for prisoners in federal custody.
Skin hunger is everywhere, in prison, in the bars and look at Match.com. “Looking for someone to cuddle” … “Looking for my last dance partner” … “How will you author your next chapter”? Affectionate contact is necessary for a healthy life and we suffer when we don’t get enough!
Be grateful every time someone reaches for your hand, kisses you or my favorite…a big warm hug, soak it up…. things change when it’s missing.
I think I’ll be a “Hug” for Halloween!