*Warning – The information you are about to read may include discussions of true crimes, graphic details, and crime scenes, this may be too graphic for some people, please use discretion when reading*
This case is one of the first I had ever read about, and it broke my heart, that people who, hated someone simply for being different, could kill them in cold blood, along with two other innocent people. This case caused great controversy, but also allowed people who identified as gay or trans, a platform to voice their opinions and be heard.
You will learn about the case of Brandon Teena, who had not yet gone forward with a sex reassignment surgery, but who fully identified as male as was living life as a man in most ways. In December of 1993 Brandon was gang raped, assaulted and eventually murdered by two men, John Lotter and Tom Nissen. Brandon’s murder and that of Matthew Shepard five years later, led to increased lobbying for hate crime laws in the United States.
Brandon Teena was born Teena Brandon on December 12, 1972. Brandon began to identify as male during his adolescence, however his mother rejected his male identity and referred to him as her daughter. JoAnn Brandon was outraged over how her son was identified and portrayed in the movie Boys Don’t Cry, starring Hilary Swank.
In 1992, Brandon had gone through a psychiatric evaluation and it was determined that he was suffering from a severe sexual identity crisis. During counseling sessions he eventually revealed that he was raped.
During 1993, living life as a male, Brandon moved into the home of Lisa Lambert and was dating her friend Lana Tisdale. At this same time, he began associating with ex-convicts, John Lotter and Tom Nissen. December 19, 1993, Lana bailed Brandon out of jail and questioned him as to why he was kept in the female section of the jail. He stated he was a hermaphrodite and was pursuing a sex change operation. They continued to date.
Christmas Eve, 1993, at a party Nissen and Lotter, grabbed Brandon and forced him to remove his pants, proving to Lana, that Brandon was a female. Lana looked, but said nothing. Afterwards, Lotter and Nissen assaulted Brandon, forced him into the car and then drove him to a meat-packing plant where they gang raped him. Returning back to Nissen’s home, Brandon was told to take a shower, but was able to escape through the window.
Returning to Lana’s home, Brandon was convinced to file a police report, even though Nissen and Lotter warned Brandon to not tell the police or they would “silence him permanently”. Going to the emergency room as standard rape kit was assembled, but later lost. Sheriff Charles Laux questioned Brandon about the rape, but became especially interested in his transsexuality, and when the questions became rude and unnecessary, Brandon refused to answer.
Nissen and Lotter, learned of the report about the gang rape, and began looking for Brandon. Not finding him, the police questioned them, but, Sheriff Laux declined to arrest them because “What kind of a person was she? The first few times we arrested her she was putting herself off as a guy.”
On New Year’s Eve, 1993 at approximately 1 am, Nissen and Lotter drove to Lisa Lamberts house and broke in. They found Lisa and demanded to know where Brandon was, but she refused to tell them. They found Brandon under the bed. Asking Lisa who else was in the house, she replied that Phillip DeVine was there. They shot and killed DeVine, Lisa Lambert, and Brandon in front of Lisa’s child. The child was not harmed.
Nissen and Lotter were arrested and charged with murder. They were both convicted, Nissen with life in prison, and Lotter got the death penalty.
In the aftermath of this horrible crime, laws have been created to help prevent these types of crimes from happening or going unpunished. In this world, we all need to be kind and understand that everyone has a different path than the one we are on.
Please be ever alert, make good choices and stay safe