I am a Human of San Quentin.
My father only had a third grade education and was content simply knowing how to write his name. My father and mother bore nine of us in 21 years. There is no doubt he was a busy man. On weekends he would tie one on with his favorite beverages, Ten High or SonnyBrook whiskey.
Little did we know that he was a functioning alcoholic, nipping throughout the week. He showed his love but it was more conditional when it came to his sons. The characteristics he wanted from his sons were aggression, assertiveness, defending his own beliefs, dominant, forceful, independent, leaders with a willingness to take a stand and to take risks.
My life changed forever in the summer before seventh grade when I was introduced to the female anatomy by a woman forty years my senior. Fortunately and unfortunately, I learned to be adaptable, secretive and tactful, I was well on my way to toxic masculinity. Once I reached high school, I thought I could ride on my athleticism.
Boy was I wrong. I started ditching classes and was expelled for a week and that angered me since I had an attitude of entitlement. I had one foot in school and one foot in the streets. The streets won out. Several prison terms later I made my way back to school. My school experience replaced the cockiness of my youth with confidence.
Of all my mentors at San Quentin, I accredit much of my self awareness to Dr. Karen Louvass and Dr. Jennifer Fisher. They helped me shed my biases toward gender. My true process of becoming a better human being started with my mother. She taught me to be affectionate, compassionate, understanding, tenderness, warmth and sensitive to the needs of others.