Disciplining Gender: Rhetorics of Sex Identity in Contemporary U.S. Culture

By John M. Sloop | Go to book overview

TWO
Disciplining the Transgendered
Brandon Teena, Public Representation, and Normativity

How can we have a discussion of how much sex and gender diversity actually exists in society, when all the mechanisms of legal and extralegal repression render our lives invisible? Leslie Feinberg, Transgender Warriors

Given the critical success of the 1999 feature film Boys Don't Cry and Hilary Swank's Oscar winning portrayal of Brandon Teena, a surprisingly sympathetic telling of a story about a transgendered individual has been etched in the consciousness of the movie going public. Even before the film's release, however, evidence of a growing public fascination with this story was evident as the narrative, or elements of it, were told and retold repeatedly and widely in local newspapers as well as in the Village Voice and Playboy. The story also became the subject of a true crime book, multiple Web sites, a play, a documentary film (The Brandon Teena Story), and the first on-line Guggenheim art project, all before the release of Boys Don't Cry.1

A review of the story, at least as recounted through mass mediated outlets, might go something like this: Brandon Teena (born Teena Brandon) was a twenty-one-year old woman who moved from Lincoln, Nebraska, where she had been “living as a man, ” to the smaller town of Falls City, Nebraska, in late 1993. 2 While this move was prompted by a number of brushes with the law as a result of Brandon's forging checks and using other's credit cards without permission, it was also a move that allowed Brandon a fresh start with a male identity in a community

-50-

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