Tara: I did two years in prison. I was 17 years old and I was selling acid in high school. I turned 18 in suicide watch in the Effingham County jail. In suicide watch they strip search you and put you in a room with graffiti and dried semen on the walls. And a toilet. That's it. No clothes. They give you some toilet paper. And there's like a carpet thing that you're supposed to use as a blanket.
I was struggling with gender and sexuality issues at that time and prison was an especially regressive period for me. I'd tried to come out to a couple of people in the county jail and it always got used against me. If you talk about it, you're the person they steal from and fuck with. Everyone looks at you like you're a freak.
I did fall in love in prison though. I had a cellmate named Shady. I'd had a couple of cellmates that I had done stuff with, but none of it was by choice really. It was more like I was in the room with them and they hounded me about it until I felt so uncomfortable that I had to do something with them.
Shady was kind of the same way, but he was the first person to read that I was trans. When he touched me, he touched me like I was a girl. He treated me like a fucking princess. I wasn't really interested in him at first, but he coerced me into having sex with him and then he treated me like I was a woman. It became like a fix for me.
Shady had already spent most of his life in prison. He was 38 and he'd already done like 25 years. He used to always mess with my head and tell me that I was going to big boy prison. He would tell me that I was either going to have to come out as gay and get fucked, or have to stand up and even then I'd get raped. He used to make me feel so scared and shitty. It was like Stockholm Syndrome.
After he left, there were rumors going around that I'd slept with people, so I regressed really hard. I acted like I was a super straight, masculine, cis boy. I worked out all the time. I Joined a gang, got into a bunch of fights, did some dumb shit, just trying to prove something, but it all made me feel so empty. I would act so hard and it was so fake.
BW: What's life been like since you got out?
Tara: I didn't realize until I got out that I had PTSD. Going out in public was so hard for me. Standing in lines, even to this day is almost crippling for me. I can't stand for people to be behind me just because of the mentality that you're taught in prison. Everybody's out to get you. You can't show weakness. You carry that out into the free world. I was super depressed. I was drinking every night and doing whatever I could get my hands on to get fucked up.
I dated a couple of girls when I got out. I harbored a lot of homophobia because that's what I was taught. You're taught to think about those people as lesser and disgusting. Obviously that had an effect on me on the outside and I continued to believe that about myself and other people.
So I got a job in a cafe. This job saved my life, by the way. The manager was openly lesbian and everyone there was gay or in a minority group. I was hanging out in the cafe after work and someone said, "You'd be such a pretty girl." That week a couple of people said it. So I went over to my friend's house and she put makeup on me. When she put makeup on me, it hit something in me and I was like OK, I gotta figure out what's going on here.
I went out in public like that. I was feeling myself that day. It was very euphoric, unlike anything that had happened before I did a bunch of research and I found out what non-binary was and I was like, that's me. I didn't want to come out as a trans woman, because society has painted such a nasty picture of trans women. I didn't want to go through that. So I came out as non-binary first. I told my girlfriend at the time and she broke up with me within a couple of days. That was a trying time in my life. I was still very reckless and getting fucked up every night. Still trying to figure stuff out. My dysphoria was so intense still.
A couple of months went by and I came out as a trans woman. That helped a lot. I got on hormones and that's been a blessing.
Part of these collections: Coming Out