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Brandon Teena 10 Years Later
(Falls City, Nebraska) While most of the world prepares to celebrate New Year’s Eve this week, transgendered Americans are pausing to remember Brandon Teena on the tenth anniversary of his murder.
The December 31, 1993 killing of the good-looking 21 year old galvanized Falls City, Brandon’s hometown, and for the first time put a national spotlight on the plight of the transgendered. It was the inspiration for the award-winning 1999 film, “Boy’s Don’t Cry” and led to the first civil rights laws for trans citizens.
Teena was a female to male pre-op transsexual and had been living as a male for several years. In December, 1993 he went to County Sheriff Charles Laux and reported he had been raped by two men, John Lotter and Marvin Nissen, after they discovered he had been born female and still had female organs. Teen had been dating a female friend of Lotter’s at the time.
Laux refused to investigate. A week later Teen was murdered by the pair who also killed two people who witnessed the killing.
Lotter and Nissen were eventually charged, tried, and sentenced, but not before the nation became gripped by the brutality of the case and the indifference of authorities.
An appeal by by Lotter was rejected by the Nebraska Court of Appeal earlier this year.
But, in his death, Teena gave birth to transgender militancy. Trans men and women across the country began to organize, forming lobby groups to not only educate the public but to press for civil rights.
Today, 65 municipalities and states have hate crime laws that specifically include transgendered people, according to the Transgender Law Policy Institute. California became the fourth state to adopt such a law earlier this year.
“How many times do you get to see a giant sea change like this in people’s perceptions? But you look at Congress, corporate America, and cities and states … and you see this enormous change in how people are looking at gender as a civil rights issue,” said Riki Wilchins, executive director of the Washington-based Gender Public Advocacy Coalition.
Yet, despite the advances, violence against the transgendered continues. Last year, 17 year old Gwen Araujo was murdered in California by three men who discovered she had been born male. A year ago, Nizah Morris a TG performer was murdered in Philadelphia. In the past 12 months, Remembering Our Dead, an online memorial that tracks bias killing of transgendered people around the world, recorded 17 deaths in the United States.
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