Brandon Teena is my last hero of the week. Murdered in 1993, aged 21, by two ex-convict associates of his girlfriend, Lana Tisdel, his tragic and violent story is the product of ignorance, hate and fear. Brandon’s only crime was passing as a man in a community that did not understand him and did not want to understand him, for which he paid with his life.
If Brandon was the last transgender person to be murdered, it would still be one too many but he’s not. In May 2013, figures were released showing that 78 transgender people had lost their lives in violent incidents since the start of the year. Goodness knows what the total is now. You can read a report from Gay Star News here. This is why Transgender Awareness Week is so important.
Brandon Teena is buried in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Lincoln, Nebraska, his headstone inscribed with his birth name and, in a final indignity, the epitaph “daughter, sister, & friend”.
A more fitting memorial to Brandon’s life is Kimberly Peirce’s 1999 movie Boys Don’t Cry starring Hilary Swank and Chloe Sevigny. It cost $2m and grossed $11.5m at the box office, which means that a lot of people now know Brandon’s story. Hilary Swank won the best actress Oscar and Golden Globe in 2000 and the movie went on to win 47 other industry awards. If you haven’t seen the movie, I urge you to do so. It is a difficult film to watch at times but, through Swank’s central performance, it manages to also have a good deal of heart.