A True Transgender Prison Story:
Living With the Ambiguous Genitalia in the Muskegon Correctional Facility
Part-1 of 3
Lieutenant Shakime Brown popped his head into the Muskegon Correctional Facility conference room and said to Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins, “Deputy, Captain Alderson would like to see you in the Control Center.”
Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins traversed the three main security gates, having passed the Security Bubble from which all gates, the visiting room entrance, and the arsenal entrance were controlled, and entered the Control Center.
“What’s up John?”
John Alderson, shift commander on first shift looked up from the transfer list he was holding and said, “You need to see what’s gotten off the prisoner transfer bus.”
They exited the Control Center together and walked the short distance to the sally-port where the prisoner transport bus was unloading convicts and their property. The sally-port gates had closed trapping the bus; prisoners off the bus lined up while corrections officers removed their cuffs, belly chains, and leg irons.
Captain Alderson pointed out a prisoner. “Third one from the head of the line. The skinny convict. The one wearing lipstick and eye liner.”
“Is it a male or female?” asked the deputy warden.
“Beats me,” said John Alderson. “What do you want us to do?”
“Hell if I know. Ever deal with this kind of thing before?”
“Not personally. But I know many joints lock them up in protective segregation. Seems to me that only causes more problems. In segregation long enough, you go batshit crazy. On the other hand, what else is there?”
The arrival of the transfer bus is always greeted by a small group of prisoners looking for friends, enemies, or relatives, or just curious who’s arriving. Our new attraction was generating a growing crowd of gawkers.
“If we do nothing, I assume there will also be problems,” said Biggie Biggins.
“Does the bear shit in the woods?”
“Have the quartermaster confiscate any cosmetics in the prisoner’s property before it’s delivered to him. Let’s start there,” said Biggie Biggins. “Where the hell he get that stuff?”
Captain Alderson shrugged and said, “Who knows?”
At the time, the late 1970’s, the Michigan Department of Corrections allowed prisoners to have and wear their civilian clothing, as opposed to a prison uniform, as both a cost cutting measure, and to “normalize” the prison environment…whatever that meant. Prisoners were required to wear prisoner uniforms (known as “prison blues”) when being transported, or when they had no other clothing.
“This is a first for me too,” said Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins. “Let me talk to Warden Weld. I’ll get back to you. But before I do, have the prisoner’s file brought to my office.”
The prisoner file told Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins that Sunny Lamarck was doing a bit for assault with intent to do great bodily harm; Lamarck injured a man he was with in a motel room involving a money dispute. Seems Lamarck was a prostitute and the john was an undercover cop. The cop reported that soon after entering the motel room, Lamarck broke a lamp over the cop’s skull. Lamarck said, “Uh uh, I sucked his cock and he refused to pay me.”
A case of “He said, she said,” said Lamarck’s lawyer.
The jury believed the cop.
Warden Harry Weld smiled when Biggie Biggins asked if he knew anything about prisoner Sunny Lamarck.
“Yep, I was warned he was coming, and told he had…let’s see, what was the phrase they used…oh, yes, “ambiguous genitalia.”
“That so?” Biggie Biggins said, “And you didn’t think to warn me?”
Like God, wardens work in mysterious ways,” laughed the warden, then added, “Besides, I don’t know what ambiguous genitalia means. Do you.”
“I suggest you talk to Dr. Doe. See what he knows.”
“He’s not going to give me the medical file.”
“Oh, I have confidence you can finesse the good doctor.”
Before meeting with Dr. Doe, the deputy warden sent for Prisoner Sunny Lamarck to meet in the deputy’s office.
Lamarck walked through the yard security gate to the Control Center. A crowd of prisoners watched him cross the yard in warm Spring sunshine that coaxed leaves from the many scrub oak trees populating a yard looking like a college campus. The Control Center officer, pointed Lamarck across the hall to the deputy’s office open door.
“You want to see me, deputy?”
Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins looked up from paperwork and though stunned, retained his composure. Prisoner Lamarck had ditched his transfer state blues and now wore skin-tight yellow short-shorts, an orange halter tube top, and white sandals, his hair in a ponytail tethered by a green scrunchy. Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins realized Lamarck had breasts behind that halter top, and had refreshed his eyeliner and mascara.
“That’s me!” exclaimed the convict in an adolescent voice.
“Please, have a seat.”
Prisoner Sunny Lamarck slowly sat, demurely crossing his ankles, and said, “Call me Sunny.” He wore a woven multi-colored bracelet on his right wrist.
“Okay Sunny, let me get to the point. Are you a male or female?”
Sunny laughed and said, “At this point, hard to say.”
What’d you mean? Your gotta be one or the other.”
“Okay, I’m the other.”
“Don’t get smart with me. What the fuck are you?”
Sunny took a deep breath and said, “When I caught my bit, I was in the middle of a sex change.”
“You mean your gay?”
“No. I consider myself a woman. I’m changing from a man to a woman.”
Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins thought awhile then said, “They can’t do that.”
Sunny sighed and said, “Oh yes, they can. I was taking female hormone shots, and I got breast implant surgery. I still need the surgery to change my equipment. Problem is the MDOC doesn’t want to pay for the surgery or the shots, so I’m caught in between,” then added, “you okay deputy? You look a little stunned.”
“I…ah…I’ll get back to you,” said Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins. “Thanks for coming in.”
“Did I have a choice?”
“No, I guess not. By the way, the tank top and short-shorts don’t match.”
Dr. Doe had the improbably first name of John and, swear to God, a wife named Jane. He was the MCF Medical Director and was good at his job.
“What can you tell me about Prisoner Sunny Lamarck?” asked Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins.
“What do you want to know?” said Dr. Doe.
“Is he a man or woman?”
“Hard to say.”
“I’ve heard that before. Okay, let’s try this. Can a person born male be turned into a woman?”
“What can you tell me about what’s happened to Lamarck…medically, I mean.”
“Nothing. Medical confidentiality, you understand.”
“Lamarck told me he’s had hormone shots and breast implants. Is that true?”
“He also told me he needed surgery to change his genitalia.”
“He said we didn’t want to pay for the shots or surgery.”
“You know this is weird shit.”
“How can they surgically change genitals from male to female?”
Dr. Doe explained, “They perform what is called an orchiectomy where the testicles are removed. The scrotal skin is then used to form a labium. Then they do a penectomy. To remove the penis. After that they do vaginoplasty, labioplasty, and clitoroplasty together.
Most surgeons use the skin of the penis to form the vaginal wall. Sometimes extra skin is needed. It may come from the lower belly, intestine, or scrotum. The nerve-sensitive head of the penis is used to create a clitoris. The urethra is shortened and repositioned so the patient has to sit to pee. Presently, Lamarck has ambiguous genitalia because his clitoris is quite large despite the fact the rest of his genitalia are female.”
“This is real?” said Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins.
“It is. Some patients have all the surgeries, and others have some. If a person has none of the surgeries, they aren’t considered transsexuals regardless of how they identify.”