Brandon Teena (December 12, 1972 – December 31, 1993) was an American trans man who was raped and murdered in Humboldt, Nebraska. His life and death were the subject of the Academy Award-winning 1999 film Boys Don't Cry, which was based on the documentary film The Brandon Teena Story.
Teena was born Teena Renae Brandon in Lincoln, Nebraska, the younger of two children to Patrick and JoAnn Brandon. His father died in a car accident eight months before he was born, and he was raised by his mother. JoAnn named her second child after their German shepherd dog, Tina Marie. Teena and his older sister Tammy lived with their maternal grandmother in Lincoln, before they were reclaimed by their mother when Teena was three years old and Tammy was six years old. The family resided in the Pine Acre Mobile Home Park in northeast Lincoln, and JoAnn worked as a clerk in a women's retail store in Lincoln to support the family. As young children, Teena and Tammy were sexually abused by their uncle for several years, and Teena and his mother JoAnn sought counselling for this in 1991. JoAnn remarried once from 1975 to 1980, with the marriage having failed due to her husband's alcoholism. Teena's family described him as being a tomboy since early childhood; Teena began identifying as male during adolescence and dated a female student during this period. His mother rejected his male identity and continued referring to him as her "daughter". Teena claimed to be intersex several times, with this later being proven to be false.
Teena and his sister attended St. Mary's Elementary School and Pius X High School in Lincoln, where Teena was remembered as being socially awkward. During his sophomore year, Teena rejected Christianity after he protested to a priest at Pius X regarding Christian views on abstinence and homosexuality. He also began rebelling at school by violating the school dress-code policy to dress more masculine. During the first semester of his senior year, a U.S. Army recruiter visited the high school, encouraging students to enlist in the armed forces. Teena enlisted in the United States Army shortly after his eighteenth birthday, and hoped to serve a tour of duty in Operation Desert Shield. However, he failed the written entrance exam by claiming to be male.
In December 1990, Teena went to Holiday Skate Park with his friends, binding his breasts in order to pass as a boy. He went on a date with a 13-year old girl, and they shared a passionate kiss. He also met the girl's 14-year-old friend, Heather, and began cross-dressing regularly in an attempt to attract teenage women. In the months nearing his high school graduation, Teena became unusually outgoing and was remembered by fellow classmates as a "class clown". Teena also began skipping school and receiving failing grades, and was expelled from Pius X High School in June 1991, three days before high school graduation.
In the summer of 1991, Teena began his first major relationship, with Heather. Shortly after, Teena was first employed as a gas station attendant in an attempt to purchase a trailer home for himself and his girlfriend. His mother, however, did not approve of the relationship, and convinced her daughter to follow Teena in order to know if the relationship was platonic or sexual.
In January 1992 Teena underwent a psychiatric evaluation, which concluded that Teena was suffering from a severe sexual identity crisis. He was later taken to the Lancaster County Crisis Center to ensure that he was not suicidal. Teena later confessed to his mother that he had been raped by a male relative as a young child. He was released from the center three days later and began attending therapy sessions with his mother four times per week, which ended two weeks later.
In 1993, after some legal trouble, Teena moved to the Falls City region of Richardson County, Nebraska, where he identified solely as a man. He became friends with several local residents. After moving into the home of Lisa Lambert, Teena began dating his friend 19-year-old Lana Tisdel, and began associating with ex-convicts John L. Lotter (born May 31, 1971) and Marvin Thomas "Tom" Nissen (born October 22, 1971).
On December 19, 1993, Teena was arrested for forging checks; Tisdel paid his bail. Because Teena was in the female section of the jail, Tisdel learned that he was transgender. When Tisdel later questioned Teena about his gender, he told her he was a hermaphrodite pursuing a sex change operation, and they continued dating. In a lawsuit regarding the film adaptation Boys Don't Cry, this was disputed by Tisdel. Teena's arrest was posted in the local paper under his birth name and his acquaintances subsequently learned that he was anatomically female.