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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

CeCe McDonald: Trans Woman Released Early From Prison and Here's Why You Should Care

Posted By on Wed, Jan 15, 2014 at 8:45 AM


Great news! CeCe McDonald, the trans woman who was imprisoned for stabbing a man who assaulted her, was released on Monday from the Minnesota men's prison where she has served 19 months of her 41-month sentence.

A little background on her case from the Support CeCe blog

"On June 5, 2011, CeCe was walking to the grocery store with some friends, all of them young, African American, and LGBTIQ or allied. As they passed a local bar, the Schooner Tavern, a group of older, white people who were standing outside the bar's side door began hurling racist and transphobic slurs at them, without provocation. They called CeCe and her friends 'faggots,' 'niggers,' and 'chicks with dicks,' and suggested that CeCe was 'dressed as a woman' in order to 'rape' Dean Schmitz, one of the attackers. When CeCe approached the group and told them that her crew would not tolerate hate speech, one of the women said, "I'll take you bitches on," and then smashed her glass into CeCe's face. She punctured CeCe's cheek all the way through, lacerating her salivary gland. A fight ensued, during which one of the attackers, Dean Schmitz, was fatally stabbed."

McDonald maintained that she was acting in self-defense, and was the only one arrested and charged with two counts of second-degree murder. On May 2, 2012, CeCe accepted a plea agreement, and pled guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree manslaugter.

CeCe's plight has received much attention of late thanks to the efforts of Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox, who is making a documentary about McDonald, and who just keeps getting more awesome by the day. Here's Cox, being awesome, and talking about the doc:

CeCe's story is one that should have been covered more in the press. Trans women, particularly trans women of color, experience disproportionate amounts of violence and not enough is being done to eradicate that violence. CeCe's story in so many ways encapsulates the intersectional issues that lead to far too many of us experiencing violence. I wanted to do a piece that explores the nature of how race, class, and gender affect violence towards trans women and also give CeCe a space to tell her story in her words in the context of a piece that truly values the lives of trans women of color.

Before we break out the Courvoisier and party balloons to celebrate CeCe's early release, the ACLU, (which we are pretty sure stands for Actually, (Don't) Celebrate Liberals, Ugh -- just kidding, ACLU, you are the reason 90 percent of us aren't in prison or dead and we love you, keep up the good fight) reminds us that LGBT people of color are facing criminal charges for warding off attackers is exceedingly common. Even here in the Gay Area. The most recent example comes from Jewlyes Gutierrez, a 16-year-old trans girl of color in Hercules who is being charged with battery by the D.A. for defending herself in a fight at school against long-time tormenters. Aside from a few scratches, no one was injured in the fight.

"I think by charging her, it sends a message to bullies that you can bully individuals, and that adults will then further victimize the person that you've been tormenting," said Kaylie Simon, Jewlyes' public defender, to KTVU.

Jewlyes is the only one facing charges in the fight involving three other teens, and maintains that school officials did nothing to help previous bullying and harassment. The ACLU also notes that violence against LGBT people of color continues to rise, that there were 14 documented homicides of trans women in 2013, that mass incarceration of trans people is prevalent, that physical and police violence is rampant, and instead of helping, you are sitting over there photographing your cat dressed up as Jennifer Lawrence in her Golden Globes dress! (We may have exaggerated that last bit, but we don't know what to do with our own rage and helplessness.)

If you'd like to show your support for Jewlyes and the safety of trans students in California, sign this petition

If you'd like to throw some well-deserved bucks to the ACLU, you can do so here

And if you'd like to send some support to Ms. McDonald, here are a few ways to get involved.

Follow @annapulley on Twitter. She'll tweet you right.

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Anna Pulley


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