Lessons from CeCe McDonald

Lessons from CeCe McDonald

Lessons from CeCe McDonald

One night in Minneapolis in June of 2011, a transgender woman personally defended herself. In May of 2012, she was convicted of second-degree manslaughter for this. If you know CeCe McDonald's story, you are aware of the corrupt nature of the aftermath.

CeCe was on her way to the grocery store at night because she only felt safe walking around at that time, but people outside of a local bar harassed her. Those people were shouting racist and transphobic slurs at CeCe and her friends, and became physically aggressive. One of the girls at the bar threw an alcoholic drink glass at CeCe's face, causing a bleeding gash that required stitches. Another member of the bar at the group followed CeCe as she tried to leave, so she took out a pair of scissors to defend herself. The man who was following her started charging so he was impaled by the scissors when CeCe fought back.  She was later charged for second-degree murder.

CeCe ended up taking a plea deal, which lowered her charges to second-degree manslaughter, with forty-one months in prison. Then, she was put in a man's prison with her gender identity completely disregarded. She was released in January of 2014, and had received tremendous support during her trial and imprisonment.

Many LGBTQIA activists advocated for CeCe, saying she was the victim of a hate crime. Despite this overwhelming amount of support, the media largely ignored CeCe's case. In an interview in the summer of 2014, she says that the Human Rights Campaign, and other large LGBT organizations, refused to advocate for her.

This is not uncommon in cases of violence against black transgender women.  CeCe's case is an anomaly in the amount of attention it garnered (which still was not as much as it deserved). According to a report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 72 percent of victims of anti-LGBT homicide were transgender women, and 67 percent of victims were people of color. With this kind of majority in cases of violence, how is it that black trans women remain invisible to the media, and even to movements? The #BlackLivesMatter movement has tended to focus on cis black men, which must change.

Many people turn their backs on trans black women because the intersectionality of their cases call into question many of the engrained ideas we have from oppression and white supremacy. There is deep-seeded misogyny and racism in our society, as well as transphobia. There is something safer about rallying behind black cis men only, which is problematic. As CeCe also highlights in the aforementioned interview, nobody can be truly free until everyone is free. There cannot be black liberation without trans liberation and women's liberation.

CeCe has taught society a very valuable lesson by publicizing her case. She shows how the violence against black trans women is very real. She will not be silenced. She will not let society ignore her like it has other trans black women. We have a lot of work to do in terms of trans liberation, and CeCe has taken a huge first step in the struggle. We must condemn organizations that masquerade as progressive, but pick and choose which marginalized group they see fit to support. When we talk about gay rights, we should also discuss trans rights. We cannot accept any form of oppression if we want liberation.


Nikki Camera is currently a freshman in the Liberal Studies Program at New York University. She plans to major in English and minor in creative writing. Along with writing, she is a passionate activist and considers herself a revolutionary. She is a member of the International Socialist Organization, which works to combat issues like racism, sexism, inequality, climate change, and more. She has always been a proud feminist. She has volunteered for Planned Parenthood, Breakthrough Collaborative, the SPCA, various environmental organizations, and more. She is currently volunteering for Peer Health Exchange. She is a dog lover and has an adorable Yorkie named Sparky at her home in Connecticut.


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