Samuel Hall sat beside me in band class back in our high school days. We both played the alto saxophone. In fact, Sam and I were in many of the same classes for our junior high and high school days.

We both kept good grades and were active in school, participating in plenty of extracurricular activities. We were both well liked. I don’t think anyone in our school would have expected either of us to be less than successful and, truth be told, most people would have expected Samuel to be one of the shining stars of our class, not me.

Life does not turn out the way we expect, though, and Samuel Hall now resides in Cumberland County Jail, most likely fearing what inmates will do to him due to his femininity and for being transgender.

I sit in Santa Fe, New Mexico, enjoying fine restaurants, creating my art and traveling wherever I wish. I have relatively few fears of retribution just for the fact I am a transgender lesbian.

I have been asking myself how two lives that are so similar at their start, relatively, can become so different later on in life. Could our lives have been reversed? Why am I not the one sitting in prison and Samuel not designing high fashion garments in New York City?

Samuel was one of two people in our class, and our school (Leavitt Area High School, class of 1993), who was of African-American descent. Samuel was also very effeminate at a time when that was not well received in rural Maine.


I was an athletic, white-as-snow, assured young man. Samuel, though popular and with friends, did not escape taunting and bullying for being himself.

I am ashamed to say that I, too, at times made fun of Samuel unfairly. I masked my true self to avoid the discrimination Samuel faced for being himself.

I lost track of Samuel and often wondered what became of him, what fabulous life he was living. On Monday, July 22, I found out what happened to him and it broke my heart, along with the hearts of many of his classmates.

I do not condone what Samuel did, it was obviously wrong. Any adult has to take ownership of their actions. But society is responsible for its criminals and can learn something by understanding why they turned out how they did.

Being a part of the transgender community, I see news all the time that details the sad facts of those in our community. The National Center for Transgender Equality publishes many statistics on the discrimination transgender folks face every day. The statistics are staggeringly disgusting at best.

Though Samuel Hall should not have illegally sold prescription creams on the Internet, maybe society should have treated him differently, too. Maybe, if he had more support and better access to health care for being transgender he would not have ended up in jail.


I have not talked with Samuel since we graduated high school. I do not know what life has dealt him along his journey. I suspect he has had a difficult road. I, on the other hand, have had one of the easiest transitions I know of and have faced very little discrimination, despite being so very open about it.

I feel sorry for Samuel and the likelihood that he was let down by society and how Samuel was most likely discriminated for just being Samuel.

I also feel a little guilty for having such a different experience in my journey.

Yes, he is black; yes, he is effeminate; no, he was not born into a rich family. Those are things that shouldn’t matter in life.

Samuel is smart, joyful and a good human being, or at least he was when I knew him.

I can only hope that when Samuel finally gets out of jail, society treats him better and he can find his way with less discrimination than has been prevalent in his life to date.

April S. Hartford, formerly Justin A. Hartford, worked in the Lewiston-Auburn area for many years at The Hartford Agency and was very involved in the community. She now resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Editor’s note: On Monday in U.S. District Court, Samuel Hall, 38, of Greene was sentenced to serve 18 months in federal prison on charges related to his illegal sale of a skin cream prescribed to him by his physician and paid for by MaineCare.  He has also been ordered to pay more than $167,000 in restitution.

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