Who was Brandon Teena?
Brandon Teena was a young American trans man, who was raped and murdered by his former friends after they discovered his truth. Born as a female into a conservative Irish-American family, he was sexually molested for many years by an uncle. He began to identify himself as a boy in his adolescence, eventually starting to date young girls, having quite a few romances by the age he was eighteen. Around this time, he also got involved with petty crimes in order to buy gifts for his girlfriends. To avoid probation, he moved to Falls City around the age of twenty-one, hoping to start a new life there; but was soon arrested for check fraud. Eventually it was revealed that he was biologically a female, which infuriated two of his male friends, who abducted and raped him. When he reported the incidence to police they were further enraged and shot him dead.
Childhood & Early Life
Brandon Teena was born as Teena Renae Brandon, a female child, on December 12, 1972 in Lincoln, Nebraska. His father, Patrick Brandon, was nineteen years old when he died of car accident, eight months before Brandon Teena’s birth. His mother, JoAnn, was sixteen years old at the time of his birth.
Born younger of his parents’ two children, Teena had an elder sister named Tammy. For the first few years of his life they lived with their maternal grandmother. Possibly in 1976, soon after their mother’s second marriage (1975-1980), they moved in with their mother and stepfather.
JoAnn divorced her husband in 1980 and thereafter continued to raise her children singlehandedly in spite of financial constraint. Meanwhile Teena began his education St. Mary Elementary School.
Little is known about his childhood spent as a girl child except that he was sexually molested by an uncle for several years. We also know that as a child, he was identified as a tomboy, kept his hair short and enjoyed sports like basketball, football and weightlifting.
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After elementary school, Teena was enrolled at Lincoln Pius X High School. By then, he had begun to identify himself as a boy and had started dressing in a more masculine fashion even though it broke the school’s dress code. His behavior had also become bit awkward.
Sometime in his sophomore year, he left his mother’s house to live with his girlfriend; but quickly returned home, finding her rather abusive. Later in December 1990, he went to Holiday Skate Park with his friends, binding his breast tightly so as not to give up his biological sex.
Over time, he began to dress as a boy and started dating girls. Considered socially awkward till then, he suddenly became gregarious and started skipping classes, as a result of which his grades began to fall. Eventually he was expelled from his school in June 1991.
In 1991, he tried unsuccessfully to join the US Army, listing his sex as ‘male’. Meanwhile, he continued to develop romantic relationships with girls, many of whom were not aware of his biological sex and described him as the ideal man.
In spite of his success with girls, Brandon Teena soon began to feel depressed, unsure of his gender as well as sexuality. Since his mother had refused to acknowledge his sexual orientation, he got no support from her.
In January 1992, , he tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide, following which he was admitted to the Lancaster County Crisis Center, where it was revealed that he was suffering from a gender identity crisis and personality disorder. On his release, he started attending therapy sessions; but did not continue for long.
To support himself, he started taking up menial jobs, presenting himself as a male. Concurrently, he also started forging checks and stealing credit cards, mainly to buy gifts for his girlfriends.
Falls City, Nebraska
By late 1993, Brabdon Teena had had number of warrants issued in his name for theft and forgery. To avoid probation, he now moved to Falls City, Nebraska, where he found shelter with a young single mother, Lisa Lambert. By and by, he was introduced to Lambert’s friend Lana Tisdel.
Very quickly, the two developed an intense relationship that did not include sex. Sometime now, he also met John L. Lotter and Marvin Thomas "Tom" Nissen, both of whom had criminal background. All along, money remained an issue.
On December 19, 1993, Brandon Teena was arrested for check fraud, leading to court appearance. When Tisdel showed up to pay the bail money, she was surprised to find him housed in the female section. Teena convinced her that he was actually an intersex and wanted to have gender reassignment surgery.
Very soon, his arrest details, along with his birth name, were published in the local papers. With that, it became widely known that he was actually born female. John L. Lotter and Marvin Thomas Nissen, who had so far taken him as a male, were infuriated.
On the night of December 24, 1993, Brandon Teena was invited to a Christmas Eve party in Nissan’s home. There he was forcefully disrobed in front of all the guests, revealing his sex.
In the early hours of December 25, 1993, he was taken to a remote area in Humboldt, where he was raped by Lotter and Nissen. Thereafter, they drove him back to Nissen’s house, where he was warned that he would be killed if he reported the rape.
Escaping out of the bathroom window, he eventually reached Tisdel’s house, where Tisdel convinced him to report the crime. However, when he did report the rape he was subjected to degrading interrogation and the Sheriff refused to arrest the culprits because there was no witness.
On December 31, 1993, on learning that Teena had made police complaints, Lotter and Nissen went to Lisa Lambert’s house, where they shot him dead, later stabbing to make sure that he had actually passed away. They also murdered Lambert and Phillip DeVine, who were present in the house at that time.
Brandon Teena was buried in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Lincoln, Nebraska. His story was later retold in numerous publications. The 1998 documentary ‘The Brandon Teena Story’ and the 1999 biopic ‘Boys Don't Cry’ are also based on his life.