Steph's Place

The boy behind the wall - a self review by our very own Dalton Harrison.

By Dalton Harrison

Representation matters.


Pride month to me is more than a month.

It's remembering back to when I sat in a classroom and did not see myself in any of the discussions we were having in school. It was hearing those I so desperately wanted approval from call people like me evil. It was looking at the face of my father in 1994 and his reaction to the first female kiss before the watershed. I sat in silent terror, trying not to react, trying not to let this evil inside me come to the surface and expose me.

I heard about section 28, but I already knew what it meant to live it.

I was chased and abused, and as I grew, I thought I couldn’t be any worse than I already was. I would look at myself and repeat I am a monster.  I was a generation born in real-time. I could not get the information I needed; I didn't even know what transgender was. I just knew I liked girls, I didn't feel like a girl, and everyone knew I was different. I know many people who went down another road to me who had also suffered unimaginable pain because of who they were. But what happened changed me. I grew angry and destructive, and I lost my humanity in humanity. That route eventually took me to prison.


I don't need you to judge me anymore.

I know deep down it is so easy to say what you would do if you were in my position and how somehow it wouldn't be what I did or how I did it. I sat in the prison library and read. Until one day I read - if you can’t see the book you want to read- write it.

So I did.

I wrote for myself. I wrote about all the days I was told I didn’t matter. I wrote about the times I was told no one would save me. I wrote about the times I couldn’t live, and the times I thought I couldn’t live with myself.


When I was in prison, I saw myself at every stage of my journey in the people who came in. The young beat women, those that did whatever they were told, those that survived, those that did whatever it took to survive. I saw the non-confirming be made to conform, and if they didn’t, there was always prison. I was connected to so many voices; I was also empowered in so many ways. One thing we all had in common was we all had a history of not being heard. I wanted to be heard. I wanted to be real, no longer a shadow, no longer told to shut up and put up. I wanted to be counted.

I wanted people to see the real me.


My book was born, and one day we were sitting in a board meeting talking about prison issues, and I saw a picture of a bird's eye view of the prison I was in, to which I whispered:


"The boy behind the wall".

 

But writing a book is just half the battle – this is what some academics has said about “The boy behind the wall”

Val from Qwriters (a Quaker writer’s group):

His description of entering prison really spoke to me as nothing had before: I felt his humanity being robbed:


"When I entered prison, I was
stripped of everything, I
thought was me; my money, my
phone, clothes, and coat. My
mind was blank – my heart felt numb."


While Dr Rosie Reynolds is a Practice and Partnerships Lead at homeless impact wrote:

'The Boy Behind the Wall' is full of poems that will make you laugh and make you wince, because they remind you of things that we so often hide behind prison walls. Trauma, hunger, mental health - but all are dealt with here with wit and the most inventive metaphors
I've read in a long time. Hours in prison are 'hula hoops of time,' white carrier bags 'Scottish Highland terriers' being walked by the wind. There is a lot of pain here, but such bright language and satire.

I hope this book might change the way some people think about prison, gender identity, love, and loneliness.' Having met with Dalton and been blown away by his drive, I was delighted to see his book and immediately ordered a copy. It is fair to say I am not your usual poetry book buyer, so didn’t know what to expect. This book is a beautiful insight into Dalton’s experiences, and so much more. You feel something coming off the pages, which in turn makes me admire him even more. His tenacity and human spirit move me, and surely that is what poetry is about, I think. To feel, imagine, question, and consider things you know little about.

This book does all of those things and more besides.

 

Dr Kelly Henderson. Managing Director. Addressing Domestic Abuse (C.I.C.)

This book I wrote has been read by many, and one thing I find is poetry finds a way to explain what years of living hadn't. It made me whole. It was with this thought I stood in front of a girl on a warm Sunday morning on my way to work. She was with a man sitting out talking to a passerby who offered them a coin to maybe get a coffee from McDonald's that was overspilling with Saturday night drunks and people waiting to get taxis or buses. I stopped in my tracks as I looked at her. I saw the first time I spoke to her in prison and remembered that moment and then saw us now. I was on my way to work, and she was there. I hated myself for being lucky enough not to be there, and I hated myself for thinking it. I knew how easy it was to be on a journey that led to places you
didn't want to go. I found some change and turned back as I did.

She bumped straight into me.


“Sorry, you got any change, mate, anything you can spare.” The guy spoke as she looked
tired, and the smile I once saw was replaced with frown lines across her face that no longer
sparkled in the way I remembered. I spoke to her, and then her face jumped in a flicker of connection, and she said she couldn’t believe how well I was. As she talked to me, she unconsciously zipped up my jacket, and I thought how warm I had come from a night inside a bed and a home. Yet how she felt the cold morning, she was unconsciously protecting me. She told me it was o.k, and he was bi, so he gets it. She said he protected her from this man trying to assault her the other day, and
they have been friends ever since. It was then her ex-girlfriend appeared and began
threatening her. I thought again about pride. I thought again about journeys. I thought again
about moments that change everything and moments that don’t.

How do you change your destiny?

How can you stop the way you are going and change direction?

How do you make people see more than they believe?

 


The boy behind the wall was published by reconnecting rainbows
https://www.reconnectingrainbows.co.uk/books/boybehind/

You can buy this book from many outlets but if possible , buy from independent LGBTQ
bookshops:

https://thebookishtype.co.uk/products/the-boy-behind-the-wall-poems-of-imprisonment-and-fr
eedom-by-harrison-dalton-harrison?_pos=1&_sid=4d1208c58&_ss=r

Reconnecting Rainbows Press is proud to be working with @LaCrecerelle on an anthology
of works by the survivors of the #Section28 era.

Were you at school in the UK between 1988 - 2003? We are looking for submissions and
would love to hear from you!
https://t.co/DW4gEJEqSG
https://t.co/hMC0M4lVB


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