Parts1, 2, and 3; A True Transgender Prison Story:

Living With the Ambiguous Genitalia in the Muskegon Correctional Facility

Parts-1, 2, and 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.”

“Now?”

“Yes sir.”

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.”

“Nope.”

“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.

“Prisoner Lamarck?”

“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?”

“Yes.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously.”

“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?”

“Yes.”

“He also told me he needed surgery to change his genitalia.”

“True.”

“He said we didn’t want to pay for the shots or surgery.”

“Also, true.”

“You know this is weird shit.”

“No kidding.”

“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 transexual regardless of how they identify.”

Part-2 of 3

Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins again met with prisoner Lamarck.

“Do you want to have all the surgeries to become a female?”

“Why do you want to know?”

“It makes a difference on what I recommend be done for you.”

“Why do you care? asked Lamarck.

“I don’t want to see you hurt. I don’t want to see other prisoners fighting over you. I’m thinking about institutional safety and security.”

“I’m a threat to the facility?”

“Come on, you know how other prisoners react to you.”

“I can take care of myself. Nobody fucks with me if I don’t want them to. I’m not some bitch owned by anybody. I ‘m not looking for a protector. I’m not looking for protection from you or anyone. I will fight to stay out of protective segregation.”

“Are you sexually active?”

Prisoner Sunny Lamarck said nothing. If he said yes, would he be in trouble? Maybe placed in segregation awaiting transfer, most likely to higher security with less freedom of movement. Muskegon was a nice place to be, given what most prisons are like.

“Maybe,” said Lamarck.

Sunny Lamarck was weird, but not stupid.

“I’ll take that as a yes, now answer my question.”

“If you mean do I want to continue becoming a woman, the answer is yes. I’ve considered myself a female for as long as I remember. Despite the harassment…the beatings from my father….my family’s embarrassment and hatred. So, what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know,” said Deputy Warden Biggie biggins. “I’ll get back to you.”

§§§

Warden Harry Weld listened to Deputy Warden Biggie Biggin’s talk about the conversations he had with Dr, Doe and Sunny Lamarck.

“You sure he’s not simply a homosexual, a run-of-the-mill prison sissy?”

“That’s not what we have here,” said Biggie Biggins. “I think she genuinely thinks herself a woman. Wants to be a woman. You know, do the whole surgery thing.”

“She? Now it’s suddenly she? This is a men’s’ prison. The department says he’s a he, so that’s how we’ll treat him.”

“I think we’re making a mistake.”

“Maybe so,” said Warden Weld. “ But until we’re told otherwise treat him like a man.”

Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins thought about the conversations with Sunny Lamarck. About what Dr. Doe told him. About his responsibility to the facility.

“Okay. What do you want me to do? I assume you don’t wish me to ignore the safety and security issue.”

“No,” said Warden Harry Weld. “You need to work with Lamarck on how he carries himself. Get him to see how he acts and dresses are not going to be tolerated.”

Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins nodded and said he’d give it a try.

“We’ve got to show we tried to work with him,” added the warden.

Part-3 of 3

The major problem Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins faced was Sunny Lamarck wasn’t violating any rules. It was fine the warden wanted to alter Lamarck’s dress and comportment, but there was no rule violation. Unless Sunny was caught having sex or involved in an altercation, the only strategy left was to bluff.

Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins told Sunny Lamarck to come to his office each morning.

“I’m going to look at what you’re wearing and tell you what isn’t appropriate. You’ll then go back to your cell and change and return here. We’ll keep doing this until you understand what to wear. For instance, lose those shorts and that tank top. Get rid of the cosmetics and jewelry.”

“You want me to come here every day? Seriously?”

“Yes. So go and change and come back.”

Sunny Lamarck returned to his cell. She changed clothes and returned for inspection.

That’s better,” said the deputy, “but untie your shirt so your midriff isn’t exposed.”

Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins felt stupid. Lamarck was not a child. What’s to keep her from presenting herself to the deputy warden wearing “appropriate” attire, then returning to her cell and changing again to prance about the prison yard? If she is disciplined, a hearings officer will find her not guilty, and rightly so since there’d be no rule violation.

Deputy Warden Biggie Biggin’s fear was affirmed, when Captain Alderson told him, “You’re pissing in the wind.”

§§§

“I wish I knew more about transgender people,” Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins said to his wife, Anita, while explaining his encounters with Sunny Lamarck.

This was the 1970’s and few people had personal computers; the internet was a military effort and generally not available to the public.

Anita said, “Anna Crawford knows a transexual. Give her a call. She might be able to give you information, maybe even arrange a meeting. Only thing is I think this person Anna knows is changing from a woman to a man.”

“I’ll take what I can get,” said Biggie Biggins.

Anna Crawford did indeed arrange a meeting between Biggie Biggins and a person named Johnnie. Johnnie and a woman named Laura lived together as lesbian lovers.

Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins met with Johnnie and Laura in their Heritage Hill apartment. Heritage Hill is a Grand Rapids, Michigan, neighborhood full of old mansions formerly built by wealthy lumber and furniture barons; the mansions were eventually subdivided into apartments, and were generally populated by politically liberal and alternative life-style adherents. Johnnie and Laura had a small apartment: high ceilings, crown molding, hot water radiators, hardwood floors, avocado colored kitchen appliances. Laura fixed tea.

Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins described his interactions with Sunny Lamarck, and the dangers she posed to herself and the prison.

“There is no way you’re going to get her to change her behavior,” was the first thing Johnnie said. “You’re singling her out, and your scrutiny will only bring her more prisoner attention. She is who she is, and there’s nothing you can do to change that.”

“That’s the sense I’m getting,” said Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins. “And I appreciate your opinion supporting mine. But I’m also hoping you can help me understand transsexuals. For instance, Anna tells me you and Laura have been together as lesbians for several years? Why do you want to change genders now?”

Johnnie smiled at Laura and she nodded, which I took as her approving Johnnie continuing our conversation. That’s how I knew they were in love and trusted each another: In addition to their consulting one another, when Laura poured our tea she rested her hand on Johnnie’s shoulder, and during our conversation they would occasionally hold hands. It’s the little things. The friendly smiles. The quickness to back off and let the other speak when they began interrupting one another.

“I always considered myself male,” Johnnie began. “I’m sure you notice I groom and dress masculine. This has not always been so. My parents insisted I was female and dressed me accordingly. Yet I still acted more male than female even when I was insistently passed off as female. This brought me much harassment from girls and boys…even physical attacks. As soon as I got away from my family, I started looking and acting more male. At some point I simply decided to go all the way. With the surgeries, it will be harder to know I’m transgender, so this is as much about self-preservation as anything else. I’m sick of the violence, the depression, and thoughts of suicide. I thank God I met Laura. I’m not sure what I would have done.”

“Are the surgeries dangerous and expensive?”

“They’re expensive, and they can be dangerous under certain conditions,” answered Johnnie. “As a female I was small-breasted to begin with, so that’s not much of a problem. My genital reconstruction shouldn’t be too bad since I have a very large clitoris to turn into a penis.”

“I can vouch for that,” laughed Laura. She was obviously supportive and with a sense of disarming humor.

“There are also sources of funding to help transgenders make the change,” Johnnie added.

§§§

Armed with Johnnie and Laura’s information, Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins constructed the argument he was going to give Warden Weld, who once he made a decision such as “We have to show we worked with him” was loathed to change.

As it turned out, the deputy warden didn’t have to convince Warden Weld that Prisoner Sunny Lamarck should be transferred to a women’s prison, and the MDOC should seek funding to help her make the gender transition. Warden Weld had a heart attack and Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins was appointed Acting Warden while Weld recovered.

In addition to the Sunny Lamarck issue, Acting Warden Biggie Biggins let custody to put in a new cement walkway allowing officers to escort prisoners straight from the Control Center to segregation cells, without having to take a longer circular route for the sake of the sidewalk symmetry Warden Weld so dearly loved. A light was also installed to illuminate the American flag that flew in front of the administration building so staff didn’t have to continuously waste time hoisting in the morning and taking it down in the evening. Preparing for Warden Weld’s eventual return, Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins embraced that old adage “It’s better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.”

Regarding Sunny Lamarck, the argument Acting Warden Biggie Biggins would have used on Warden Weld was put to good use on Central Office staff. Though he couldn’t talk Central Office staff into a direct transfer to a women’s facility, they agreed to send her to the prison hospital for evaluation, with the possibility of future transfer to a woman’s prison if funding for the surgeries could be arranged. “Oh well,” thought Biggie Biggins, “I’ll take what I can get.”

“What made the warden agree,” Sunny Lamarck said when Acting Warden Biggie Biggins broke the news.

“Oh,” replied Biggie Biggins, “let’s just say he had an epiphany, bless his heart.”

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.”

“Now?”

“Yes sir.”

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.”

“Nope.”

“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.

“Prisoner Lamarck?”

“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?”

“Yes.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously.”

“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?”

“Yes.”

“He also told me he needed surgery to change his genitalia.”

“True.”

“He said we didn’t want to pay for the shots or surgery.”

“Also, true.”

“You know this is weird shit.”

“No kidding.”

“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 transexual regardless of how they identify.”

Part-2 of 3

Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins again met with prisoner Lamarck.

“Do you want to have all the surgeries to become a female?”

“Why do you want to know?”

“It makes a difference on what I recommend be done for you.”

“Why do you care? asked Lamarck.

“I don’t want to see you hurt. I don’t want to see other prisoners fighting over you. I’m thinking about institutional safety and security.”

“I’m a threat to the facility?”

“Come on, you know how other prisoners react to you.”

“I can take care of myself. Nobody fucks with me if I don’t want them to. I’m not some bitch owned by anybody. I ‘m not looking for a protector. I’m not looking for protection from you or anyone. I will fight to stay out of protective segregation.”

“Are you sexually active?”

Prisoner Sunny Lamarck said nothing. If he said yes, would he be in trouble? Maybe placed in segregation awaiting transfer, most likely to higher security with less freedom of movement. Muskegon was a nice place to be, given what most prisons are like.

“Maybe,” said Lamarck.

Sunny Lamarck was weird, but not stupid.

“I’ll take that as a yes, now answer my question.”

“If you mean do I want to continue becoming a woman, the answer is yes. I’ve considered myself a female for as long as I remember. Despite the harassment…the beatings from my father….my family’s embarrassment and hatred. So, what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know,” said Deputy Warden Biggie biggins. “I’ll get back to you.”

§§§

Warden Harry Weld listened to Deputy Warden Biggie Biggin’s talk about the conversations he had with Dr, Doe and Sunny Lamarck.

“You sure he’s not simply a homosexual, a run-of-the-mill prison sissy?”

“That’s not what we have here,” said Biggie Biggins. “I think she genuinely thinks herself a woman. Wants to be a woman. You know, do the whole surgery thing.”

“She? Now it’s suddenly she? This is a men’s’ prison. The department says he’s a he, so that’s how we’ll treat him.”

“I think we’re making a mistake.”

“Maybe so,” said Warden Weld. “ But until we’re told otherwise treat him like a man.”

Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins thought about the conversations with Sunny Lamarck. About what Dr. Doe told him. About his responsibility to the facility.

“Okay. What do you want me to do? I assume you don’t wish me to ignore the safety and security issue.”

“No,” said Warden Harry Weld. “You need to work with Lamarck on how he carries himself. Get him to see how he acts and dresses are not going to be tolerated.”

Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins nodded and said he’d give it a try.

“We’ve got to show we tried to work with him,” added the warden.

Part-3 of 3

The major problem Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins faced was Sunny Lamarck wasn’t violating any rules. It was fine the warden wanted to alter Lamarck’s dress and comportment, but there was no rule violation. Unless Sunny was caught having sex or involved in an altercation, the only strategy left was to bluff.

Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins told Sunny Lamarck to come to his office each morning.

“I’m going to look at what you’re wearing and tell you what isn’t appropriate. You’ll then go back to your cell and change and return here. We’ll keep doing this until you understand what to wear. For instance, lose those shorts and that tank top. Get rid of the cosmetics and jewelry.”

“You want me to come here every day? Seriously?”

“Yes. So go and change and come back.”

Sunny Lamarck returned to his cell. She changed clothes and returned for inspection.

That’s better,” said the deputy, “but untie your shirt so your midriff isn’t exposed.”

Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins felt stupid. Lamarck was not a child. What’s to keep her from presenting herself to the deputy warden wearing “appropriate” attire, then returning to her cell and changing again to prance about the prison yard? If she is disciplined, a hearings officer will find her not guilty, and rightly so since there’d be no rule violation.

Deputy Warden Biggie Biggin’s fear was affirmed, when Captain Alderson told him, “You’re pissing in the wind.”

§§§

“I wish I knew more about transgender people,” Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins said to his wife, Anita, while explaining his encounters with Sunny Lamarck.

This was the 1970’s and few people had personal computers; the internet was a military effort and generally not available to the public.

Anita said, “Anna Crawford knows a transexual. Give her a call. She might be able to give you information, maybe even arrange a meeting. Only thing is I think this person Anna knows is changing from a woman to a man.”

“I’ll take what I can get,” said Biggie Biggins.

Anna Crawford did indeed arrange a meeting between Biggie Biggins and a person named Johnnie. Johnnie and a woman named Laura lived together as lesbian lovers.

Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins met with Johnnie and Laura in their Heritage Hill apartment. Heritage Hill is a Grand Rapids, Michigan, neighborhood full of old mansions formerly built by wealthy lumber and furniture barons; the mansions were eventually subdivided into apartments, and were generally populated by politically liberal and alternative life-style adherents. Johnnie and Laura had a small apartment: high ceilings, crown molding, hot water radiators, hardwood floors, avocado colored kitchen appliances. Laura fixed tea.

Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins described his interactions with Sunny Lamarck, and the dangers she posed to herself and the prison.

“There is no way you’re going to get her to change her behavior,” was the first thing Johnnie said. “You’re singling her out, and your scrutiny will only bring her more prisoner attention. She is who she is, and there’s nothing you can do to change that.”

“That’s the sense I’m getting,” said Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins. “And I appreciate your opinion supporting mine. But I’m also hoping you can help me understand transsexuals. For instance, Anna tells me you and Laura have been together as lesbians for several years? Why do you want to change genders now?”

Johnnie smiled at Laura and she nodded, which I took as her approving Johnnie continuing our conversation. That’s how I knew they were in love and trusted each another: In addition to their consulting one another, when Laura poured our tea she rested her hand on Johnnie’s shoulder, and during our conversation they would occasionally hold hands. It’s the little things. The friendly smiles. The quickness to back off and let the other speak when they began interrupting one another.

“I always considered myself male,” Johnnie began. “I’m sure you notice I groom and dress masculine. This has not always been so. My parents insisted I was female and dressed me accordingly. Yet I still acted more male than female even when I was insistently passed off as female. This brought me much harassment from girls and boys…even physical attacks. As soon as I got away from my family, I started looking and acting more male. At some point I simply decided to go all the way. With the surgeries, it will be harder to know I’m transgender, so this is as much about self-preservation as anything else. I’m sick of the violence, the depression, and thoughts of suicide. I thank God I met Laura. I’m not sure what I would have done.”

“Are the surgeries dangerous and expensive?”

“They’re expensive, and they can be dangerous under certain conditions,” answered Johnnie. “As a female I was small-breasted to begin with, so that’s not much of a problem. My genital reconstruction shouldn’t be too bad since I have a very large clitoris to turn into a penis.”

“I can vouch for that,” laughed Laura. She was obviously supportive and with a sense of disarming humor.

“There are also sources of funding to help transgenders make the change,” Johnnie added.

§§§

Armed with Johnnie and Laura’s information, Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins constructed the argument he was going to give Warden Weld, who once he made a decision such as “We have to show we worked with him” was loathed to change.

As it turned out, the deputy warden didn’t have to convince Warden Weld that Prisoner Sunny Lamarck should be transferred to a women’s prison, and the MDOC should seek funding to help her make the gender transition. Warden Weld had a heart attack and Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins was appointed Acting Warden while Weld recovered.

In addition to the Sunny Lamarck issue, Acting Warden Biggie Biggins let custody to put in a new cement walkway allowing officers to escort prisoners straight from the Control Center to segregation cells, without having to take a longer circular route for the sake of the sidewalk symmetry Warden Weld so dearly loved. A light was also installed to illuminate the American flag that flew in front of the administration building so staff didn’t have to continuously waste time hoisting in the morning and taking it down in the evening. Preparing for Warden Weld’s eventual return, Deputy Warden Biggie Biggins embraced that old adage “It’s better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.”

Regarding Sunny Lamarck, the argument Acting Warden Biggie Biggins would have used on Warden Weld was put to good use on Central Office staff. Though he couldn’t talk Central Office staff into a direct transfer to a women’s facility, they agreed to send her to the prison hospital for evaluation, with the possibility of future transfer to a woman’s prison if funding for the surgeries could be arranged. “Oh well,” thought Biggie Biggins, “I’ll take what I can get.”

“What made the warden agree,” Sunny Lamarck said when Acting Warden Biggie Biggins broke the news.

“Oh,” replied Biggie Biggins, “let’s just say he had an epiphany, bless his heart.”

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