Alumni Update: Catch up with Damaryious Dorsey

Damaryious Dorsey was on track to earn his associate degree in Business Administration while inside prison when he encountered the transformative programs offered by THEI. Before this, access to student materials and communication with professors was limited, hindering his academic progress. Through advocacy and support, THEI ensured he had what he needed, enabling him to complete his degree post-release.

“THEI came in like Superman.”

For Damaryious, life presents a series of challenges. As an African American transgender man with a history of incarceration, he feels judged for past mistakes, which continue to overshadow his present accomplishments. Despite his education and trade skills, societal stigma and discrimination make securing housing and employment difficult. THEI's support has been pivotal in Damaryious' journey, especially during his search for permanent housing. The Transitional Programs Team at THEI collaborates closely with students and alumni and meticulously vets each housing partner to secure safe and adequate housing.

The Unique Reentry Struggles of LGBTQ+ and Transgender Individuals

Transgender individuals like Damaryious face unique challenges upon reentry into society. Discrimination, lack of access to appropriate healthcare, and societal prejudice contribute to their struggles. Something as basic as using the correct pronouns can make a significant difference in their sense of self-worth and dignity. Even something as simple as a legal name change has proved to be more difficult than necessary, where, despite submitting payment, Damaryious is still waiting seven months later on the status of his request.

“I feel like I already have three strikes against me. One for my felony charge, one for being Transgender, and one for being African American.”

His story is one that highlights the urgent need for systemic change. Policies that perpetuate discrimination, such as asking about felony convictions on job applications, need to be reevaluated. Providing meaningful support and resources, including housing and employment opportunities, is essential for successful reintegration. Discrimination and harm against our formerly incarcerated LGBTQ+ needs to be eradicated, and this starts with spreading knowledge and sharing stories from these individuals’ perspectives.

Advocacy and Insight at NCHEP

Damaryious's participation in THEI's panel at the National Conference on Higher Education in Prison (NCHEP) last November shed light on the unique struggles faced by Transgender and LGBTQ+ individuals post-incarceration. 

During this session, he helped explain how the absence of adequate support mechanisms may coerce individuals into compromising their identities, or resorting to self-erasure, to evade homelessness or recidivism. His insights were invaluable, emphasizing the urgent need for tailored support systems and resources for this marginalized community.

Damaryious's journey is a poignant reminder of the challenges faced by justice-impacted individuals, particularly those from intersectional, marginalized communities. His story underscores the necessity for systemic change and the abolishment of structures that perpetuate cycles of harm. Through education, advocacy, and compassion, we can create a more inclusive and equitable society.