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Violence and hope: A history of the murder of Brandon Teena and GLBT activism in the Modern American West

Lisa Pollard, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


On December 31, 1993, Brandon Teena, Philip Devine, and Lisa Lambert were brutally murdered in Humboldt, Nebraska. Brandon was a transgendered man who had been living in Falls City, Nebraska, and Humboldt, Nebraska, since mid November 1993. His life has since become the subject of the documentary “The Brandon Teena Story” and the movie “Boy’s Don’t Cry” as well as numerous magazine articles, books, and talk shows. This dissertation returns to the murder, the trials of his murderers, media coverage, and Nebraska to explore the meaning of all of these events in the context of civil and human rights for glbt citizens in the Modern American West. Brandon Teena’s murder and the activist response to that murder and to the many other forms of violence directed towards glbt citizens in the American West since are central to the ongoing struggle for civil and human rights in the American West and in the nation. ^ Understanding the depth of the violence directed towards Brandon in life and death requires deconstructing the violence of the press, the violence of the Nebraska and American legal systems, and the violence of the masses and the religious right in Nebraska. The violence directed towards Brandon began well before his murder and continued after his death. Violence directed towards glbt citizens emerged at every level in this case. The violence that assaulted Brandon was not limited to a “small nucleus of intolerance” in Richardson County, Nebraska. The violence that assaulted Brandon and continues to assault glbt Nebraskans and transgendered men and women throughout the West had a history and that history was demonstrated in the courts, the Unicameral, and the United States Congress before and after the murders. Key to understanding the terrain of the Modern West for glbt Nebraskans and westerners is articulating both the violence and demonstrating the many ways that activism and hope continue to counter and win out over violence in Nebraska and the Modern American West. ^

Subject Area

History, United States|GLBT Studies|Psychology, Industrial|Gender Studies

Recommended Citation

Pollard, Lisa, "Violence and hope: A history of the murder of Brandon Teena and GLBT activism in the Modern American West" (2009). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3360162.