Brandon Teena
ParentsPatrick and JoAnn Brandon

Brandon Teena[1] (December 12, 1972 - December 31, 1993), born Teena Renae Brandon in Lincoln, Nebraska, and known simply as Brandon, was a biological female living as a transgender man[2] who was raped and eventually murdered[3] in one of the most infamous American hate crimes of the 1990s.[4] Brandon is the subject of the Academy Award-winning 1999 film Boys Don't Cry, which was based on the documentary film The Brandon Teena Story.[5]



Brandon Teena was born a female in Lincoln, Nebraska. Brandon's family described Brandon as a "tomboy". While Brandon was still living as a girl, Brandon was sexually assaulted by a male relative. According to Brandon's mother, JoAnn Brandon, she and Brandon sought counseling in 1991.

Brandon began identifying as male in high school and dated several girls. Brandon's mother rejected Brandon's male identity and continued calling Brandon her daughter. Brandon claimed to be intersex several times, but this was later proven to be false.[2][6]

Falls City, Nebraska

In 1993, after some legal trouble, Brandon moved to Falls City region of Richardson County, Nebraska where he identified solely as a male.

Brandon became friends with several local residents. After moving in to the home of girlfriend Lisa Lambert,[7] Brandon began dating one of Lambert's friends, Lana Tisdel, and associating with ex-convicts John Lotter and Marvin "Tom" Nissen. Nissen was married and had two children. Tisdel and Lotter had been friends since childhood and had dated several years before. Another man, Phillip DeVine, began to date Tisdel’s younger sister, and he also became friends with Brandon.

On December 15, Brandon was jailed for forging checks. Tisdel paid his bail. Because Brandon was in the female section of the jail, Tisdel learned that he was biologically female.

When Tisdel questioned Brandon about his anatomical gender, he told her he was pursuing a sex change operation, and they continued dating.[8][9] However in a lawsuit regarding the film adaptation Boys Don't Cry, this was disputed by Tisdel.

Brandon's arrest was posted in the local paper under his birthname, Teena Brandon. His acquaintances subsequently learned that he was anatomically female.

The rape

During a Christmas Eve party, Nissen and Lotter grabbed Brandon and forced him to remove his pants, to prove to Tisdel that Brandon was female. Tisdel looked only when they forced her to, and she said nothing.

Lotter and Nissen then attacked Brandon, and forced him into a car. They drove to an area by a meat packing plant and beat and raped him. They then returned to Nissen's home.

Brandon escaped from Nissen's bathroom by climbing out the window and went to Tisdel's house. He was convinced to file a police report, though Nissen and Lotter had warned Brandon to remain silent. The police report was thrown out due to lack of evidence.

Brandon went to the emergency room where a standard rape kit was assembled, but later lost. The sheriff at the time, Charles B. Laux, asked Brandon questions about the rape. Reportedly, he seemed especially interested in Brandon’s transsexuality, to the point that Brandon found his questions rude and unnecessary, and refused to answer.

Nissen and Lotter learned of the report, and they began to search for Brandon. However, they failed to find him, and three days later, the police went to question them. Laux declined to have them arrested.

The murder

During questioning, Lotter denied ever touching Brandon, while Nissen accused Lotter of raping Brandon, but said that he had simply watched. The two continued to search for Brandon, so Brandon went to live at Lisa Lambert’s house. After Lotter stole a gun from his neighbor, the two men went to Tisdel’s house. Tisdel told them that Brandon wasn’t at her house, but her mother revealed that Brandon was at Lambert’s home.

The two men left for Lambert’s house and broke in. They found Lambert in bed and demanded to know where Brandon was. Lambert refused to tell them. Nissen searched and found Brandon under the bed. The men asked Lambert if there was anyone else in the house, and she replied that Phillip DeVine was staying with her. They shot and killed DeVine along with Lambert and Brandon, in front of Lambert's young child.

The two men then left, but were quickly arrested and charged with murder.[citation needed]

Trial and sentencing

Nissen blamed the crime on Lotter. Later, in exchange for a reduced sentence, Nissen admitted to being an accessory to the rape and murder. Nissen testified against Lotter and was sentenced to life in prison. Lotter proceeded to deny the veracity of Nissen’s testimony, but his testimony was discredited. The jury found Lotter guilty of murder and sentenced him to death. Lotter and Nissen both appealed their convictions, and their cases are currently under review.

On September 20, 2007, Nissen recanted his testimony against Lotter. He claims that he was the only one to shoot Brandon and that Lotter was not involved. Lotter is currently appealing and is using Nissen's new testimony to assert his claims of innocence.[10]


Because Brandon had neither commenced hormone replacement therapy nor had sex reassignment surgery, he has sometimes been identified as a lesbian woman by media reporters.[11] However, some reported that Brandon had stated that he planned to have sex reassignment surgery.[12]

JoAnn Brandon sued Richardson County Nebraska and Charles Laux for failing to prevent Brandon's death, as well as being an indirect cause of it. She won the case, and was awarded $80,000. District court judge Orville Coady reduced the amount by 85 percent based on the responsibility of Nissen and Lotter, and by one percent for Brandon's alleged contributory negligence. This led to a remaining judgment of responsibility against Richardson County and Laux of $17,360.97.[13] In 2001, the Nebraska Supreme Court reversed the reductions of the earlier award, thus reinstating the full $80,000 award for "mental suffering", plus $6223.20 for funeral costs. On October 11, 2001, the same judge added an additional $12,000 award.[14] The plaintiff was awarded an additional $5,000 for wrongful death, and $7,000 for the intentional infliction of emotional distress.[13]

Laux was also criticized after the murder for his attitude toward Brandon — at one point Laux referred to Brandon as "it."[15]

In 1999, Brandon became the subject of a biopic entitled Boys Don't Cry, starring Hilary Swank as Brandon in an Academy Award-winning performance, and Chloe Sevigny as his girlfriend Lana Tisdel, in an Academy Award-nominated performance. The real Lana Tisdel sued the producers of the film for unauthorized use of her name and likeness before the film's release. She claimed that the film depicted her as "lazy, white trash and a skanky snake". Tisdel also claimed that the film falsely portrayed that she continued the relationship with Teena after she discovered Teena was anatomically female. She eventually settled her lawsuit against the movie's distributor for an undisclosed sum.

Brandon’s headstone is inscribed with the name "Teena R. Brandon" and the epitaph "daughter, sister, & friend".[16]

Cultural references

In 1999, a film titled Boys Don't Cry about the murder was released. In 2006, the British duo Pet Shop Boys released a song called "Girls Don't Cry" (a bonus track on UK issue of I'm with Stupid) about Brandon Teena.

See also


  1. Note: - as Brandon Teena was never his legal name, it is uncertain the extent to which this name was used prior to his death. It is the name most commonly used by the press and other media. Other names may include his legal name, as well as "Billy Brenson" and "Tena Ray"
  2. 2.0 2.1 Matzner, Andrew. Teena, Brandon (1972-1993). GLBTQ Encyclopedia. Accessed 14 March 2007.
  3. U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals JoAnn Brandon v Charles B. Laux. FindLaw. Retrieved on 2006-12-07.
  4. Howey, Noelle (2000-03-22). Boys Do Cry. Mother Jones (magazine). Retrieved on 2006-12-07.
  5. The Brandon Teena Story. IMDB. Retrieved on 2006-12-07.
  6. Ramsland, Katherine. Notorious Murders - Not Guilty? Teena Brandon Accessed 14 March 2007.
  7. Teena or Brandon? -
  8. Teena Brandon, a young transsexual who is murdered in a hate-crime on
  9. Teena Brandon, a young transsexual who is murdered in a hate-crime on
  10. Jenkins, Nate. "Inmate Recants Teena Brandon Story", Associated Press, 2007-09-20. Retrieved on 2007-09-20. 
  11. Brandon Teena Gets Dunne Wrong. Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (24). Retrieved on 2006-12-07. “A New Yorker writer does not understand Brandon Teena's transgender identity, and describes him as a "predatory" butch lesbian, referring to him as "her" for most of the piece.”
  12. Griffy, Anna M. (4). The Brandon Teena Story: Chapter 2: Brandon. The Brandon Teena Story 2. ustice Junction. Retrieved on 2006-12-07. “Teena made her decision for good: she was going to live as a man and began to tell people she was having a sex change operation.”
  13. 13.0 13.1 [1] Summary of case by JoAnn Brandon's attorney with Nebraska case # references. Retrieved on 2007-12-06.
  14. The victims of prejudice, BBC News, 26 December 2003
  15. Gabriel, Davina Anne (15). Activists Protest Violence As Lotter Trial Begins. Retrieved on 2006-12-07. “Laux has also been quoted as saying "you can call it 'it' as far as I'm concerned" when describing Teena.”
  16. "Teena R. "Brandon Teena" Brandon", Find A Grave, August 28 2000. Retrieved on 2007-05-14. 

External links

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