Award winning movie Boy’s Don’t Cry is the kind of film that stays with you after the credits roll; I cried for what felt like forever after I finished watching it. A haunting story that illustrates the destructive power of hate, the movie is so much more disturbing when it’s revealed to be based on a true story of a transgender man who was a victim of unwarranted aggression.
Brandon Teena lived to the age of 21. He was born Teena Renae Brandon, and was a transgender male. Gender is a controversial subject and there are people who refuse to acknowledge that rather than a gender binary, there is a gender spectrum. This can lead to transphobia, a range of antagonistic attitudes and feelings against transgender people, based on the expression of their internal gender identity. Why is this so important to know? Brandon Teena’s death was not accidental. It was hate crime, resulting in a combination of sexual assault and murder.
Brandon had been dating Lana Tisdel when he met John L. Lotter and Marvin Thomas “Tom” Nissen. Both men were ex-convicts. Eventually, Brandon was arrested for forging checks, where it was revealed to Lana and his friends that Brandon’s sex was not male. Shortly after learning this, Lotter and Nissen sexually assaulted Brandon, threatening him in an attempt to keep him quiet, however Brandon went to the police with encouragement from Lana. His attempts to get help after becoming the victim of a crime were disappointing. The sheriff was more interested in Brandon’s gender identity than the sexual assault and Lotter and Nissen were not arrested. When the men learned of the police report, they hunted Brandon down. Brandon, and the two people attempting to hide him, were shot and killed. Lotter and Nissen were sentenced and currently reside in prison
Sadly, a final insult to Brandon can be seen on his gravestone, the epitaph reading, “daughter, sister, & friend”, disregarding Brandon’s transgender identity. Gender identity is not a danger to others, it isnt a threat. However, the prejudice and discrimination against those who do not follow the “traditional” gender binary is a danger to others, to a community. A change needs to be made, and with the publicity that came from Brandon’s murder and other hate crimes like Matthew Shepard’s death, more is being done to address and prevent hate crime in America.