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Dalton Harrison

Dalton Harrison is a poet in his third year as a student of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of Leeds, working on his dissertation You're in a Female Prison; what Do You Expect? An Autoethnography of Transgender Male Experience in the Female Prison System in England.

Dalton is the founder of StandFast Productions - a collective of ex-offenders who use art and performance to tell their stories. StandFast Productions will be releasing their third radio play What Ifs and Maybes after the success of High Risk and HMPride for Chapel FM's Writing on Air Festival!

He has taught poetry workshops for Durham book festival, New Writing North, Trans Leeds, Trans Barnsley, and PRA. His poetry has also been published in the award-winning anthology Bloody Amazing and TransVerse II: No Time For Silence. One of his poems, Wanted One Good Man, was recently published in Leeds Unlocked Men's Health Zine.

He is attending the award ceremony for The Education Review for his co-authorship of Education as the Practice of Freedom? Prison Education and the Pandemic.

His last biographical poetry book relays his story as a transgender man in a women's prison: "My book The Boy Behind the Wall is a roadmap. To all those who found themselves lost to other people's perceptions of them. We all react differently. We all lose our way. [...] Right now in my life I am everything they told me I would never be. I am the living breathing version of my dreams that my past me only saw as a mirage."

IG: @daltonjayharrison79 Twitter: @daltonharrison9



What you gonna be

See it’s not about me

when I disagreed with she

told them I was he

Guarantee this was never about politics

Leave me out of it

Especially where I pee

Cos it was never about me

See my face next to the next moral panic

Hear Tennessee passed another anti-Drag law

While the BBC report common sense speeches foresee the best way to cover their asses

Free to be who you want to be in heteronormativity?

Key to living rent-free if you fit the patriarchy!

Leave poverty to take the food bank line straight to jail

We can plea on protests

Be ready in public spaces

But how do we face this?

Lace the drug that got us here high on the cocaine clouds of the rich?

They told me I was a girl

Never made any other way

Yet what did I say?

It was never about me

History maybe repeating in more

Community policing

On society and more prisons

On punitive Tory ambitions

On conservative bleakly believing they can do better

I am simply a trans guy that will shout

I am a man and I exist

I will fight to be free

Just to be me



What is identity inside these walls,

Doors so thick it binds the chest you hide so you can't breathe,

Define me by numbers,

a sign that says female estate,

I can't deny I'm here,

but I'm just visiting,

Yet still I see the dirt tracks of ghosts walking in rows,

the smell of death like somehow that was the only way to ever be free,

What is identity,

identify me in societies hollow walls,

where no one hears you cry in towels,

given used and repeated in a system that deals with mass incarceration,

this blue towel in my hand that I leave the streaks in,

my sobs, my grief, my guilt, my past,

I could ring it out tear it in half in anger,

But I sit with this feeling that stretches across from hand to hand

I look and wonder in the middle of my pain in the pinnacle of my fallen tears,

if anyone used this as a noose to stop theirs,

I throw it aside and it coils around like a viper In the room,

I feel the poison, I taste it on my lips,

I feel it in my body,

what is identity,

the system is they/them,

I am the boy behind the wall and the sign says female estate.

"The lesson I learned was don't underestimate the power of reflection. I had grown up hating myself for the body I was given but who I was as a person wasn't bad. It was my reaction to my situation that was and the behaviour that grew out of those decisions. I had spent so long losing to myself and lying to myself; it began to ooze out of every pore and become who I was. I needed to change."


I beLIEve I try not to beLIEve,

I’m evil beLIEving is all I have It’s all I have ever known

But here I am beLIEving even after all I've seen and been through, like it’s nothing

Yes, I still beLIEve But as the clock ticks to midnight

All my beLIEf does is eat away at my soul

What remains, I ask myself

What am I?

Do I beLIEve to save me

Or let guilt tame me

In pain I suffer to a future I can be proud of

Do I beLIEve in everything, you ask

I beLIEve in love

I beLIEve

I beLIEve

Because I can

My head in my hands

Looking through metal bars

I need to stop beLIEving and just change

"Life is never easy. Life is a war and prison is a battleground. I had now found a role within the chaos and purpose, but the battle was far from over. Being transgender is very hard in prison. You have all the same problems as outside, but now you can't lock your own doors. Set your boundaries and let go of toxic people. Trigger warnings are only for those who don't have a conviction, those who deserve it. In prison, what's right or wrong changes, and you must be careful how you react, or you may never get out."

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