Investing in a Bright Future: Queen’s Story

Investing in a Bright Future: Queen’s Story


Since arriving at The Fortune Society in 2016, Queen has made a significant mark as an advocate, friend and now staff member. Her role at Fortune remains rooted in community and inclusivity, and with her new staff position, Queen aims to amplify LGBTQ+ voices in the organization further.

Queen was incarcerated in a men’s prison. However, while incarcerated, she was lucky to find friends who supported her and her identity as a transgender woman, including other people who identified as transgender as well. Maintaining her firm boundaries, Queen shared that the men in the facility respected her authority and confidence.

“I met people in my unit, and we looked out for each other. They asked me if I needed anything to let them know. The guys there are observant, so they saw me as the new girl in the compound and let the next person know about me.” 

While incarcerated, Queen stayed motivated by imagining her future after release. Magazines like Vibe, Source and Jet offered inspiration with houses she dreamed of living in, fashion and cars. Her cell walls became a vision board and reminder of the world that awaited her. 

“I wanted to know what was going on, and I tried to keep the mental state that I was out in the world with everyone else. I put up pictures that made me feel like I was part of that world, and it showed me what to look forward to once I got out.”

Following her release in 2012, Queen held tight to her dreams and focused on saving money. After finding work, Queen purchased a car, found an apartment and began reconstructing her life. In 2016, she moved from Michigan to New York City to find community and new opportunities. 

“During the time I was there, there was nothing for me as a part of the LGBTQ+ community. My city was so small and there was nothing to do. It was empty. Coming to New York was exciting, and I found a great community here.” 

At Fortune, Queen plans to facilitate an LGBTQ+ group for participants in the community to educate other participants and staff, increase representation and create a safe space for people to share their common experiences. She emphasizes the importance of respect and allowing others to exist in their identities without shame. 

“In an environment like The Fortune Society, disrespect can’t be tolerated. People come here and should be welcomed with open arms, and a group for LGBTQ+ people can help people feel more comfortable knowing something like that is here.”

Queen has seen incredible progress since connecting with Fortune. In 2023, she was a part of the first cohort of women who graduated from the Women Rising career readiness track. She is deeply connected with the Creative Arts community, where she frequently sings at the weekly Music Cafe. As she measures her success, she looks at the photos that covered her cell walls with pride. Rather than dreaming of the future, Queen lives in it, and seeing how far she has come is empowering.      

“Since coming here, I have grown so much. I never want to go back to the way I used to be. I was mean and stubborn, and I always wanted to fight, but I am not that person anymore. I took anger management and I talked to a counselor for advice on how to take care of myself. I can say that I am now the person I used to think about with all my pictures on my wall, and I’m proud of myself for that.”

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