About Riley MacLeod
(These are general suggestions for writing prisoners and are adapted from the guidelines at Black and Pink and the Prisoner Correspondence Project. Always refer to CeCe’s support website for details on writing her specifically.)
When someone hears their name called by a prison guard during mail call it can be a powerful reminder that people on the outside care about them, and it sends a message to guards and other inmates that this person has support and isn’t forgotten.
The CeCe McDonald case has brought a lot of national attention to the ways the prison industrial complex persecutes queer and trans people, especially low-income people, trans women, and queer and trans people of color. The folks at Support CeCe McDonald have done an incredible job of publicizing the case and rallying community support and awareness about the racist, classist, and queer/transphobic practices that have taken over two million people away from their communities and placed them behind bars. The Support CeCe McDonald site is always the best place to find current information about CeCe’s status and what you can do to help.
If this case has inspired you to get involved in prison issues but you aren’t sure where to start, becoming a pen pal to a person in prison, either CeCe or another individual, can be a great way to show someone they aren’t alone. Mail call often happens in public spaces in prison; when someone hears their name called by a prison guard during mail call it can be a powerful reminder that people on the outside care about them, and it sends a message to guards and other inmates that this person has support and isn’t forgotten. This can be a vital harm reduction strategy for people who are locked up, especially queer and trans people. Additionally, many people are incarcerated far from their communities or may not have a lot of support from the outside world; many queer and trans people may be in “protective custody” or solitary confinement and may not have a lot of daily contact with others or time out of their cell. A quick letter of support or a long-term correspondence can be a great way to keep their spirits up and let them know they aren’t alone.
About a year and a half ago I went through one of those break-ups of a long-term relationship that, in the professional opinion of my then-therapist, left me looking like I was expecting someone to hit me all the time. One of those break-ups where I ended up sobbing to the salesclerks in Macy’s on Valentine’s Day, the day after he dumped me at a fundraiser; one of those break-ups where the turn of a man’s head in the choreography of cruising may as well have been the sound of someone cocking a gun; one of those break-ups where the thought of dating someone new seemed unimaginable. New York City’s hordes of available but unknown men seemed designed solely to horrify me, so I hid behind my now-rusty lesbian separatist feminism, determined that cis-men were the enemy, and decided to take a break from dating them until I could look one in the eye without wanting to kick him in the groin and tell him what was wrong with him while he writhed on the ground in (what I imagined to be) well-deserved and politically-appropriate pain.