We, as a society, have gone through many changes in the last century alone. It was a time of great upheaval of toxic social norms. A time of globally recognized civil rights that were common to all men and women as equal on Earth.

t was when past preconceived notions were swept aside as social acceptance replaced them as the norm for all people.

For black people, Jewish people, Asian, Hispanic, religious minorities, ethnic minorities, et cetera. But for the sexually different folks, their time came much later.

Brandon Teena was a transgender youth from Nebraska born when his life was seen as a choice, a lifestyle, a fad, or just an unwelcome perversion. LGBTQ identities were not firmly rooted at that time.

While there was some degree of representation, it came from entertainment. It was handled by people who lived only for the silver screen, the lauded celebrities who were seen primarily as just making a show of themselves for an audience.

The real-life existence of transgender people mainly remained a divisive topic to the new millennium, where the terrible fate Brandon suffered is still very much active.


10 /10 Teena, Brandon

Brandon was born a biological female. JoAnn Brandon had left a single mother eight months before Brandon was born when her husband died in a car accident.

JoAnn also suffered from a disability and was declared ineligible to raise her children, so the duty fell on her mother until they reached an appropriate age.

Brandon’s life was already fraught with struggles before he knew that he was a “he.”

9 /10 Girls Don’t Cry

Teena was born Teena Renae Brandon, but when he became more aware of his sexual identity, he chose Brandon Teena.

His young childhood was difficult, being raised in a split family, and he claims that an uncle raped him as a child.

Teena was sent to private religiously funded schools in and around Lincoln, Nebraska but never fit in.

He cut his hair short, did sports and weightlifting, and was ruled as a “tomboy” by others, though he began to identify more and more as, simply, a man.


8 /10 Billy Brinson

By senior year in high school, Teena started dating. Girls. However, this was not an easy transition time for him or his family.

It was still just the mid-80s. People heard of lesbians, but his case was not readily accepted, especially in a religious part of Nebraska.

His mother never directly referred to Brandon by his desired identity. He started using the name Billy Brinson to distance himself from his family further but defaulted to Brandon Teena as a chosen name later on.

Fox Searchlight Pictures

7 /10 Boys To Men

Teena was not a good student. His focus on athletics and other manly pursuits put him in trouble with his observers.

He was expelled just three days before graduating in 1991 and attempted to join the Army once he turned 18.

However, he failed out of their written course, and he skipped most of his classes and failed due to his absence. Despite this, Teena did have one promising prospect.


6 /10 Lady’s Man

Teena was very popular with girls his age. They saw him as an “ideal man” of the area, a rugged cowboy type who took charge and had Kennedy-esque features, which were highly popular for the time.

Teena got by mostly on his looks with others and had several short romances over his last few high school years.

As a man, he had a sweet, American Pie fulfillment for his previous years of education. In reality, Teena was hurting worse and worse each passing year.

5 /10 Interventions

Teena had no support from his family for his identity. His mother refused to see him as anything but a daughter, which caused him to lash out and become depressed.

One depression spiraled to a suicide attempt, for which he received counseling in a crisis center.

The psychiatrist there determined he was suffering from gender identity crisis and personality disorder and also managed to work through Teena’s history of sexual abuse.

4 /10 Man On The Run

Teena stopped going to therapy, seeing as it only seemed to pin the problems of others on him and developed worse and worse tendencies. He became compulsive, impulsive, and legally reckless.

He was arrested for forging checks and theft via credit card, which was used to buy gifts for his girlfriends. He was arrested in 1993 and was bailed by his girlfriend, Lana Tisdel.

3 /10 Humboldt Reborn

Teena moved out of Lincoln in December of 1993 and went to Humboldt, Nebraska, a town where no one knew him, and therefore no one would judge him for presenting as male.

Unfortunately, his identity was discovered by two associates he met, ex-convicts John Lotter and Marvin “Tom” Nissen.

Teena was making plans to, somehow, afford a formal sex-change operation to finally cement his identity in a way no one would want to deny.


2 /10 Horrible Death

Lotter and Nissen exposed Teena after hearing rumors that he was a biological female. They did this by forcing him to remove his pants in public, then took him to a secluded area where the two men gang-raped Brandon Teena.

They then moved him into Nissen’s home and ordered him to take a shower so they could continue. Teena escaped and reunited with Tisdel, who called the cops.

A few days later, Lotter and Nissen realized they’d been reported and came to the house where Teena was staying to kill him.

The two killed Lisa Lambert, Phillip DeVine, and Brandon Teena by shooting them in the head. The two were arrested and sentenced to life in prison and later death.


1 /10 Boys Don’t Cry

Brandon’s tragic story was portrayed in the 1999 film Boys Don’t Cry, which despite achieving Academy Awards, was disputed by JoAnn Brandon on many grounds.

She continued to deny her son’s identity until around 2013, 20 years after his death, and through many legal disputes with people who attempted to portray the story through media.

Teena’s brutal and inhumane death has since resulted in increased lobbying for hate crime laws to expand the same protections afforded to people of different races and creeds to those of different sexual identities in the hopes that they, too, will have equal protection under the law and human rights.

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