gay

I was taught the game. by richard ross

“I been her three months now. This is my second time. My moms an X-ray technician, she visits. My dad’s not in the picture. My girlfriend braided my hair. I’m from BPS. Black Peace Stone. Where’s that? It’s the Jungles. What’s that? The apartments. Where are the apartments? Western LA over near La Salle. I live there with my homies when I’m on the run. My mother lives in Sun Valley. When people ask me where I’m from and I’m pissed off, the words that I spit out are BPS. People know BPS. I came here when I was 14. I was going through things. My best friend was shot in front of me. I’ve been shot at. I’m a Blood. I pimp girls. I was taught the game. It's a way of life; it's a way of getting money. I really never went to school. I always ditched. Yea I’m 16, but instead of going to school I would pick up my hoes. They’re all 23, 25. Age isn’t a problem. It’s how you carry yourself. You gotta know the game. You gotta have that mind.

I came here when I was 14. I was going through things. My best friend was shot in front of me. I’ve been shot at.

Barry J Nidorf Juvenile Hall, 16350 Filbert St, Sylmar, CA 91342

Barry J Nidorf Juvenile Hall, 16350 Filbert St, Sylmar, CA 91342

I may be 16, but I dress like a guy and I act like a guy. I shoot steroids to make myself buff. I been gay since I been here. I don't do drugs. I only smoke weed and shoot steroids. Being gay? When it’s guy on guy you get judged a lot more. When it’s girl with girl nobody really cares. While I’m in here, I still make bank. I keep control over my whores. They get nothing from me. Yea they get a little present here and there, once in a while I give em a compliment. My mom got pissed ‘cause she didn't know where all the money was coming from. I work with BPS and we all don't come together unless everybody needs a big solution, when there are enemies in the hood. But kids are gang members when they’re five years old. You’ll hear em say, “I’m Hoover.” That's a crip. The Jungle is over by Crenshaw mall, but Crenshaw mall is enemy territory. I went to school in Tajunga, but there are a whole bunch of Naps there. Naps are the enemy. Yea I read the bible, but I’m no holy roller spirit. But I read it. After this I’ll go to camp for six months.”

-U.N., age 16

**Interviews with youth are recorded to the best of our ability. All personal histories and anecdotes are self-reported by the children. To protect confidentiality of the youth, identities have been obscured, initials have been changed, and identifying details have been removed. Interviews have not been edited for content.

"I lost my freedom in detention!" by richard ross

This week, Juvenile In Justice concludes the features on two adults who spent much of their childhood lives in detention.
Jose Vidrio shares his experience of being in and out of the juvenile justice system and the conditions of confinement, and touches on his achievements as an adult now.
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by Jose Vidrio I was physically abused by my father. When I was young, my sister and I were always afraid of my father because we didn't know what mood he was going to come in. My Dad was this big macho guy that didn't like hugs and or kisses for his birthday or Father’s Day, especially coming from me. He thought that it was a gay gesture and if I attempted to do so, he would hit me of course. I can say that alcohol did play a big factor here; when my father was drinking his mood was unpredictable.

I started to get into trouble when I was 10 years of age. I did three months then because of tagging and refusing to give my name. I guess when my mother left my father I kinda took advantage and would leave the house a lot. When I was 12, I was arrested for armed robbery and did almost 2 years in Juvi. When I was 15, I was sentenced to 10 years and did 5 and 1/2. I came out when I was 21 years of age.

When I was in CYA, I was in isolation from 6AM to 10PM. They put me in a "cold room" with just my boxers on—there was no mattress, no sheets. All day I walked around the 8’x10’ room and did random workouts because the room was so cold. By the time that they put me back in my cell I was so tired that I just wanted to go to sleep. Sometimes the staff members would go inside when I was asleep and they would beat me before putting me in the cold room. Sometimes the staff members would put me with other rival gang members to fight in the rec room.

Sometimes the staff members would go inside when I was asleep and they would beat me before putting me in the cold room. Sometimes the staff members would put me with other rival gang members to fight in the rec room.

I guess that I can say that there was no love at home. My mother was always yelling and screaming at us. We didn't understand and take into consideration that she was going through a hard time divorcing my dad and she hid us while doing it for a while.

I lost my freedom in detention! I have learned that it is easier to mess up your background than it is to restore it. I also gained some knowledge about my history, family, and also graduated high school in there as well as doing my first communion. As far as the food, if we ever had meat, it didn’t taste like meat. We called it mystery meat because it tasted funny. We joked and said that maybe it was gopher meat because they had a big problem in the yard.

I lost my freedom in detention! I have learned that it is easier to mess up your background than it is to restore it.

I was just approved for a Certificate of Rehabilitation on Oct 8th and I am very excited about that. I currently work for a radiology company processing insurance claims and reconciliation from complicated claims. In April 2016, I will be graduating with my Bachelors of Business in Health Care Management.

I talk to all of my family, including my father and we talk good. I am not going to say that we have the best relationship but he is in our lives. I talk to family that I have never spoke to before. I am married and have been with my wife for 13, going on 14 years. I have 5 children that keep me busy and love them to death. And yes, I give them all kisses and hugs, both my boys and my girls.

—Jose Vidrio

"I opened the door and there he was dead." by richard ross

She had me going to the store to steal bread and milk.

I’ve been here three months. This is my third time here. I was 13 when I came the first time. I had a curfew violation. For three days I didn’t come home to my house. My parents didn’t know where I was. I just had to get out of the house. I’ve got a bunch of sisters. I had a brother but he was struck by lightning in front of the house when I was 13. I opened the door and there he was dead. It was crazy. I don’t know my father. When I would run away I would stay at my boyfriend’s house. Sometimes there would be name calling but words don’t hurt me. They would call me mook. That’s a term for gay. I was adopted when I was seven. I think I was five or six when they picked me and took me home. I thought it was crazy. My mom was a drinker and a smoker. Then she put her hands on me. She would put my head in the doorway and try to smash it. That’s why I have bald spots. She had me going to the store to steal bread and milk.

K.D., age 15

K.D., age 15

I’ve been in four foster homes. I have a 37-year-old sister. When I get discharged she will have custody of me. I’ll do better there than my mother who used to try to kick me. She can’t kick me anymore because she’s got diabetic legs and she’s all swelled up. The court will allow my sister and her wife to have custody of me. She’s gay so she’s going to be more tolerant and open. After six months I can have a home visit. I go to court. It’s a long process physically. It’s at least a two hour trip. I want to be a choreographer. I like those Flexn dancers. I imagine if they get cuffed they can bend their arms and get out. I can see a counselor when I need it. There are a lot of kids here that are gay. A lot of them know it; a lot of them are confused. One minute they’re playing basketball, the next minute they’re “extra.” That means they’re going girlie. I don’t do extra. I know what a girl don’t do. I trust my best friend and my sister. My call day is on Thursday. We can talk as long as we want, and they can call us at any time.

- K.D., age 15

A.W, age 16, Youth Training Center, Elko, NV by richard ross

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I’m from southern California originally. I was living in Las Vegas, partying a lot,  doing lots of drugs and trying to be a DJ. My Mom is emotionally distant and my step dad is very aggressive. One’s Catholic and the other is a Jehovah’s Witnesses. They really don’t like that I am gay.

I am here for curfew violation and running away from rehab. I use X, Acid, MDMA, Alcohol. I shouldn’t be in rehab as I stop doing drugs whenever I want. I am not addicted to anything--I just take different drugs when I want. Rehab wasn’t right for me-so I ran away. A lot of guys here think they can have sex with me anytime they want because they are in prison so it doesn’t make them gay. It doesn’t count as long as they are giving rather than getting. These are a bunch of closet fags and a lot of homophobics. If I report them to the staff they hate me. Being gay in a place like this is hell. Being trans? I can’t even imagine that nightmare. I am here for 4-6 months…but I am not sure I will make it.

  - A.W, age 16

There is a relationship among the last several postings: isolation and sexual identity. LGBTQ juveniles are more frequently ostracized by their families and friends, this loss of support leads to a higher degree of homelessness and criminal behavior to survive. Once the criminal behavior results in institutionalization, there can be further isolation or abuse from staff or peers. All juveniles have multiple issues they are dealing with--these adolescents have the added burden of unconventional sexual identity that makes their status much more fragile.

Statistics from Youth Pride 

the EQUITY project