For Pride Month, CDCR/CCHCS Government Alliance on Race & Equity (GARE) spoke with LGBTQIA+ member and GARE Ambassador Mek Thorpe from Folsom State Prison.
What does Pride Month mean for you?
Pride Month represents solidarity, collectivity, and identity as well as resistance to discrimination and violence. I identify as a transgender male.
Why did you transition?
My whole reason for transitioning was so I would be able to look at myself in the mirror to see the person that I feel I am, to like and love what I see. At the same time, I made these changes so that everyone else could also see who I am.
In order to become visible and gain acceptance, a transgender person has to avoid adopting behavior that made them invisible in the first place.
How has transitioning affected life at work?
I am fortunate to have worked at the same institution for almost 16 years, so there was no hiding my transition, and why should I? Is that not what pride is all about? There is no shame involved. Pride is a consciousness of one’s own dignity, a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements.
Have staff ever asked you questions about transitioning, and how do you feel about that?
Occasionally there are questions from staff. I don’t mind answering them. It is all about education, right? I tend to associate any negative encounters with ignorance. I am blessed to be shown nothing but love. People realize I am who I am regardless of the new beard. So, I put myself out there. Not for myself, but for those who come after me.
CDCR and CCHCS are committed to creating supportive spaces and ally-ships for our LGBTQIA+ community and to being supportive of all individuals in our communities, both inside and outside of our prisons.