I'm glad Kara finally found happiness.
I did, and thank you. That story isn't quite the same as mine, but I'm definitely happy this officer was able to find herself and be able to keep her job.
My own experience has been... relatively unchanged. I still do the same job, I do my job the same way, and it's business as usual. Of course, many of the inmates don't know WHAT to make of me, and they all know they can be written up for asking me personal information about my life, or are afraid anything they say could be seen as disrespect. I have corrected inmates on how to address me, and am usually met with, "Oh... oh I didn't know, I mean, that's cool I got no problems with that."
I've never once cared what the inmates think of me, and I still don't. Yes, I've had insulting things said to me in the segregation units where the worst of the worst are... but they are BEYOND scum, why would ANYONE care what they think? That was the part of this news story I didn't understand... why was she so hurt by what the inmates said about her? Many of them WANT to hurt you, they want their words to sting... they really do want to "get" at you. And there's no reason to let them. I had an inmate in a Seg unit scream "FAG!" at me... and I didn't even react. On an emotional level, I felt nothing about it at all (I pretty much was expecting to hear that one at some point).
Of course, the transgender inmates recognize me for what I am instantly and they all are very happy to see me (we only have about 6 or 7). And while, again, I can sleep just fine at night whether the inmates respect me or hate me... there's an interesting factor at play with these particular inmates. We have something in common, there is no denying that fact. Almost every single one of the transgender inmates we have are in for the same charges. Burglary, theft, battery, drugs (use or sale), and prostitution. It is easy for me to see how they wound up in prison... because I understand what it was like feeling like being the way I am would rob me of my future. How could I have a job, a family, any kind of a "normal" life? I could have just as easily given up hope and turned my back everything, resorting to being able to be myself at any cost, even if it meant I had to steal. And prostitution is sadly a common career path for transwomen (although thankfully that is on the decline as more and more workplace equality policies are including transgender employees and on-the-job-transition).
The first day I walked into my new post, the cellhouse I used to work in, I found out a transgender inmate I knew from the first year or so I was at the prison had returned to our facility and was in my unit. She called me to her door, tears rolling down her face as she told me how happy she was for me. That's when something I never thought seriously about occurred to me. Part of our duties as officers, the reason we enforce the policies and such, is so that (in theory) inmates will become productive members of society once they are released. Many get out and fall right back into the same things that got them in prison in the first place and they wind up right back in on new charges. But a handful of inmates, seeing me in a new light, are seeing something that THEY never thought about. That a transgender woman can live her life openly, hold a steady job, and be a respected person by her peers. They are seeing that it IS possible to live an honest life while being honest with yourself and others.
When I came out, as my friends and coworkers finally began to see the real me, many told me I inspired them. I couldn't believe that people actually thought I
was inspiring. People told me I inspired them to examine their own lives and find what they've been missing to be complete. I felt like I was actually making a difference for once. And now I can see that there are other people I interact with, people I never factored into the equation at all, who I could potentially make a difference for. Just by being me. How much of a difference to the inmates remains to be seen, but I don't think I'd be crossing any lines to have some hope. Hope that when these inmates I directly interact with (and let's face it, even the inmates who AREN'T transgender but feel like outcasts for whatever reason see the same Kara everyone else at work does) pay their debt to society, when they are given a second chance, that they have the desire to do better because they've seen there's another way.