My name is Richard and I’m currently serving time at Her Majesty’s Pleasure at HMP Armley in Leeds.
But before you say to yourself, “Not interested” let me explain this isn’t about the injustices of the world, or the boredom of prison life, it’s about trying to make ‘doing time’ a little better for all gay prisoners that are currently in the system.
There are some I’m sure who don’t deserve any sympathy, some might say that I am one myself, however, I’m not wanting sympathy… what I do want is equal rights in prison. Over many years gays have been a targeted minority for the bullies and, lets not beat about the bush, it hasn’t always been at the hands of the other inmates. I was 15 when I was sent down for the first time and I was beaten to a pulp because I was gay. I am now 26 and that was the first and last time I was beaten because of who I am. Prison does make you harder… it’s made me unafraid of anything now… and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. I’m not saying take the law into your own hands… cos if you do you may well end up in the cell next to me… but you have to let people know they can’t pick on you.
I have been in 16 institutions and only 8 had a ‘gay friendly’ group, of which 5 of them I started. We shouldn’t have to put up with being called a puff, queer, Batty man and so on and I for one will not put up with it. I don’t get called it any more because I have built up a reputation as the puff who will fight anyone who’s homophobic – that includes prisoners… and staff. I’m not boasting. I’m not particularly pleased with my reputation but, when I hear on the radio in my cell or read in the paper that 1 in 8 LGB&T people have been a victim of homophobic crime and that 7 in 10 people did not even report that hate crime to anyone… I really feel something has to be done. I don’t and won’t let anyone make homophobic comments to me or the other gay, bi or trans guys in here. It helps having this little group to support, talk and understand just exactly what we’re all going through.
OK, OK. I know that some of you must think that gays in prison must be in their element surrounded by an all male environment, and, if you watch those porn videos set in “Cell Block Sex” I can see where you get your ideas from. But, porn stars aside, it isn’t really like that. I’m not denying that relationships cannot be formed because they can but it isn’t easy. Some gay prisoners are not as strong as me and, are targeted on an almost daily basis as I once was. To escape from their ordeal of constant abuse they will often self harm or when the torment gets just too much… even worse.
Things are changing here in prison and I have to thank some of the Diversity Officers in the service who are trying to make a difference. Here at HMP Armley, I think the Senior Officer George has helped immensely but there are always problems like getting hold of books, mags, info with (if you’ll pardon the pun) a gay bent. Some magazines don’t even respond to a letter if it is from a guy in prison. I have written to mags, groups and organisations and only 7 out of the 30+ letters sent have responded or even acknowledged those letters… it is pretty disheartening. All I want to do is try and stamp out homophobia like they have done with Racism… and support from outside organisations and members of the public is vital.
Thanks for reading this letter and any encouragement or assistance you can offer… to any prison, not just HMP Armley, for their gay inmates, I’m sure would be greatly appreciated.
If you wish to get in touch with Richard please send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org or to the office: Editor, Bent Ltd, APN House, Leeds, LS11 8BP