Facing and Fighting Transphobic Violence for Both the Living and the Dead: CeCe McDonald and Brandy Martell


The corner of 13th and Franklin in Oakland, California, has become a makeshift memorial site for Brandy Martell. Credit: Photo by A.M. (http://transfeminism.tumblr.com).

It is not easy to mourn the dead, it’s an assignment without hope of closure. Nor is it easy to defend the living, but for other reasons. The living pose questions that we hesitate to answer: Whose bodies are grievable? Are our responses sustainable? How much do we have to give, for whom, and for how long? We do not sign up for shifts of pain, they spirit us away. But we do we have a choice to show up – in myriad ways, to make eye contact, to pack the court, to pick up the phone. We must not remember the dead at the expense of the living but instead balance our dedication to freedom.
Just three nights ago here in downtown Oakland Brandy Martell, a trans woman of color, was murdered. There were a lot of people gathered at an emergency vigil on Sunday night at the site of her passing on 13th and Franklin. Friends, community members, and family spoke and witnessed, shouted and cried. An Occupy Oakland street medic, who happened to be out late that night responding to another shooting (despite a curfew order), described trying to save Brandy’s life with CPR and pressure applied to her bullet wounds while the police came late and stood idly by as she died.
Not having known Brandy or her friends, I showed up because, among other reasons, this happened in my neighborhood. The next day when I woke up, I read that CeCe McDonald‘s trial was just beginning. Having survived a racist and transphobic attack, she is facing not justice but two counts of “second degree murder” for defending herself. Today she has taken a plea and as her supporters there are things that we must do and things we mustn’t do. We must respect her decision. Yet, we must not allow the state to gaslight her determination to live. CeCe still needs our support. She needs our energy and efforts not only as she awaits sentencing, not only if/as she moves through the system, not only in the days when she is free again. As the old saying goes, “the heart is a muscle the size of your fist”; so long as it flexes within you, pray with it for Brandy, fight with it for CeCe, and speak from it with one another.
Are you hurting? We shall be free.
Visit ColorLines for an update on CeCe’s plea.
Here’s what out-of-towners can do to support CeCe (still relevant).
Ianna Hawkins Owen is a graduate student in African Diaspora Studies at UC Berkeley. In New York she organized with All City and the Audre Lorde Project. Her research interests include failure, desire, and abolition.

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