Monday, February 6, 2012

The Silence Around CeCe McDonald

          I can't say I'm ever really surprised by the racism and transphobia that pervades the mainstream Gay and Lesbian "movement", but sometimes I really can't understand why these hatreds exist in what should be my community.  Often, it's the news that makes me stop and think, and today it's the news that has compelled me to write.

          For those of you who don't know, for whatever reason, CeCe McDonald, a Black Transwoman living in Minneapolis, is currently facing charges of second degree murder for possibly killing a man in self-defense in June of 2011.  Several sources relate that CeCe and some of her friends, all Black, most Queer, were attacked while walking to a grocery store by a group of white people.  A white woman cut CeCe's cheek all the way through by smashing a glass in her face, and in the fight that followed one of the attackers, Dean Schmitz, was killed.  When police arrived they placed CeCe under arrest, and while in custody she has been denied adequate medical treatment, which resulted in her cheek swelling to the point where eating was painful and the pressure from the growing lump caused her severe headaches.  CeCe has also been placed in solitary confinement "for her own protection" for months on end.

         There was a call to help CeCe on January 27th by writing to the Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman to drop the charges held against her, but this call does not seem to have been picked up by the mainstream Gay media.  I personally found out about CeCe and her trial on the blog Racialicious, which deals with issues of race and pop culture.  Racialicious has proven itself a good ally in the past, and in this instance it has set a new standard because it has been the only relatively major blog to carry CeCe's story, and it has encouraged its readers to support CeCe.  As of the time of this writing, searches on the Advocate and the Washinton Blade give no returns for CeCe's name, and even the Bilerco Project, often the best mainstream Gay blog in terms of Social Justice, returned only one hit on her name, a passing mention last October by a guest blogger who is Trans and white.

           What this proves to me is that rather than explain once again how important it is for the white Gay and Lesbian movement to become better allies to Trans people and people of Color, it is time to say that Trans people should organize themselves.  We have been too dependent on the work of allies, we have put too much time and energy into trying to be included while at the same time we have been the most visible activists against, and victims of, heterosexism.  To the other Trans people of color reading this, it is time we create our movement, it is time that our community rise up and defend itself, for no one else has or will.  Together, we will be able to have our needs met, our issues taken care of.  We can at last make a movement in which CeCe, and all imprisoned and systematically marginalized Trans people, would be welcomed and loved.


  1. To find out more about the case and how you can help CeCe go to this Wordpress:

  2. !!FIGHT RACISM & TRANSPHOBIA BY THE CLICK OF A MOUSE!! Please post far & wide, invite all yr contacts, send it out on yr listserves, post it to yr blogs, tweet it, fax it out to folks. Let's fill this petition to drop the charges against CeCe with thousands of signatures!
    Thank you
    The CeCe McDonald Support Committee

  3. Here is a letter I sent to the Prosecutors today:

    Dear Chuck Laszewski and Michael Freeman,

    I expect that some will doubt the sincerity of this, but I truly did approach your office with concern but with an open mind regarding the case of Chrishaun "CeCe" McDonald.

    I am middle class, fifty-nine and white. I admit my own fears and bias of intercity youth at times so the outcome of my search for information could have come out much different.

    I have done my best for over a month to collect as many facts as I can from news sources and your office. Today I have sent my first Letter to the Editor, regarding this prosecution and jailing, to your StarTribune.

    I hope your office will consider an outsiders perspective as you hold your view of "beyond reasonable doubt" CeCe McDonald's claim of self - defense.

    Dear StarTribune Editor,

    Perception of Minnesota ala Garrison Keillor moves toward George Wallace’s Alabama.

    Minneapolis to Moscow people are seeing an extremely positive articulate twenty-three year old co-ed with no criminal record simply Cub Foods bound, attacked by three middle-aged bar patrons screaming racist, homophobic and transgender-phobic hate, then slicing open her face with broken glass.

    Hennepin County Prosecutors sends this to those who ask about CeCe McDonald:

    *“In cases of self-defense, our office may decline to press charges if the facts of the case meet the standard defined by state law. “

    “Self-defense is available under Minnesota law when “necessary in resisting or preventing an offense which the actor reasonably believes exposes the actor or another to great bodily harm or death.” Based on the information we have, this case does not meet the standard.” *

    CeCe McDonald had already suffered “great bodily harm”, a cut to her face required 12 stitches with a month’s golf ball size swelling.
    Hennepin County's Prosecutor and the Judicial system shows little respect for “self-defense” and “innocent until proven guilty” by;ignoring the hate and the one who sliced CeCe, charging CeCe with murder with intent to kill, demanding an unattainable one-half million dollars bond, withholding medical treatment and jailing CeCe pretrial for most of eight months in solitary confinement “for her protection” or housing her with the male prisoners.

    It’s time for Minneapolis to question your Prosecutor!