In the spotlight: LGBT issues










Brandon Teena

Brandon Teena, born Teena Brandon, was born female but lived as a man as an adult. Teena grew up in Nebraska. He stated that he planned to save up money for sex reassignment surgery. On Christmas Eve, in 1993,  two males, John Lotter and Tom Nissen, with whom Teena had been friends, discovered he was physically a female, they revealed this fact to Teena’s girlfriend, then raped and assaulted Teena. Teena went to a hospital where a standard rape kit was administered, but this evidence was lost. Teena was convinced to file a report with the police, despite being warned by her attackers not to do so. The Richardson County Sherif, Charles Laux, questioned Teena and was apparently referred to him as “it” and asked grotesque questions that made Teena refuse to answer. Three days after filing it, Lotter and Nissen found out about the report, tracked Teena down and killed him. Teena’s mother successfully sued Sherif Laux for failing to adequately protect Teena. Teena’s story is the subject of the Academy Award winning film Boys Don’t Cry. 



Matthew Shepherd

Matthew Shepherd was an openly gay student at the University of Wyoming. On October 7, 1998, Shepherd met two men, Arron McKinney and Russell Henderson, in a bar in Laramie. McKinney and Henderson offered Shepherd a ride, but on finding out he was gay, they robbed, pistol whipped and tortured him, then they tied him to a fence in a remote rural area. Shepherd hung on the fence for 18 hours before being discovered by a jogger who initially thought he was a scarecrow. Shepherd was taken to a hospital and died, five days later, as the result of his injuries. Henderson pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against McKinney in order to avoid the death penalty. Although Wyoming had no hate crimes statute, the jury deliberated as to whether or not to impose the death penalty for McKinney. Shepherd’s parents stepped in, asking that the death penalty not be considered, as they felt more killing would bring no good to the situation. McKinney received two consecutive life sentences instead.