Teena, Brandon: Names – Borderlands

(Post in question)

Now let me emphasize that I don’t disagree with most of what Brown wrote in this essay, in fact I think it’s a useful and interesting essay from which I learned a few historical events. I just wanted to add on to her point on Brandon Teena / Teena Brandon

Addendum 6/24/18:  Interestingly we now have a mea culpa from the lesbian who broke the Brandon Teena story in the Village Voice and set the tone of misgendering him and stealing our history,

I completely agree that misgendering Teena is unwarranted and transphobic as it comes (taking the assumption that Teena identified as a man), but there was an interesting point brought up by Jacob Hale, a trans man. His philosophical work emphasizes that there is no clear-cut distinction between ftms and butches as he conceptualizes the terms.

His paper can be found here. Some points of note are that there is little evidence Teena used the exact name Brandon Teena to refer to themself (using gender neutral ambiguous pronouns specifically because their identity is ambiguous and it’s disrespectful to assume someone’s identity). The “border wars” over whether Teena is a butch lesbian or a trans man aren’t going to be resolved today, decades after the death occurred, but Hale’s position can be interpreted as a reconciliation of the two camps in a way. Rather than create distinct and mutually exclusive categories of butches and ftms, he conceptualizes a border zone where one can occupy both categories simultaneously. (The literature on border zones is fascinating; Anzaldúa is a great read). The attempt to force an individual into one category or another intrinsically breaks down the border zone in an attempt to create a nonpermeable and clearcut barrier between the two categories that erases lived experiences.

(I particularly like this theory and paradigm of the distinction between trans people and SGL people because I so personally resonate with it. )

It can be argued that the trans community’s attempt to “claim” Teena as a transgender man erases his personal subjective identity. By perpetuating this, we make it more difficult for people struggling with their identities, those who live inside both categories and struggle to differentiate between trans and gay (which is in and of itself a Westernized dichotomy).