FREE CeCe! OITNB’s Laverne Cox Co-Produces Doc On Trans Woman CeCe McDonald
Have we told you lately, how much we love the women of the Netflix series, “Orange Is The New Black?” Of course we have but it never gets tired. And today, we’re adding another reason on the long list. If you’re a fan of the show, you know the character Sophia Burset, the hair stylist who happens to be a trans woman. The character is played by Laverne Cox, who is also a trans woman in real life.
Cox is taking on what we’re sure she’d call a passion project in co-producing a new documentary about CeCe McDonald. You may remember we’ve covered McDonald a couple of times in the past few years. But here’s a refresher of her story.
On June 5, 2011, two white women and a white man began harassing CeCe and four of her trans friends. They were calling them racial and homophobic slurs. Allegedly, one woman hit CeCe in the face with a glass of beer. Afterward the man, Dean Schmitz pursued CeCe and she fatally stabbed with him a pair of fabric scissors in her purse.
When police arrived, CeCe was the only one arrested though she was visibly injured. We reported last year:
The young woman received 11 stitches after her salivary gland was lacerated and the side of her cheek was sliced open by the beer mug, and according to reports she was interrogated without counsel and placed in solitary confinement, pending the outcome of her upcoming case.
Many were already outraged about the injustices surrounding her arrest. And people were even more up in arms when CeCe, who pled guilty to second degree murder, was sentenced to three years and five months in a male prison.
More discrimination and injustice.
There is a bright spot in this story though, not only has the Minnesota Department of Corrections indicated that CeCe may be released from prison on January 13, 2014, now the world will have a chance to hear her story in the new documentary FREE CeCe!
The documentary, which has already begun production, will detail CeCe’s life and highlight the issues that plague trans women and specifically trans women of color. In an interview with Persephone Magazine, Laverne Cox, explained why she felt it was so important to tell CeCe’s story.
CeCe’s story is one that should have been covered more in the press. Trans women, particularly trans women of color, experience disproportionate amounts of violence and not enough is being done to eradicate that violence. CeCe’s story in so many ways encapsulates the intersectional issues that lead to far too many of us experiencing violence. I wanted to do a piece that explores the nature of how race, class and gender affect violence towards trans women and also give CeCe a space to tell her story in her words in the context of a piece that truly values the lives of trans women of color.
Cox also explained the intersection between the oppression women, black women and trans women all experience in this country.
I feel that at the heart of the intersections of transphobia and misogyny, transmisogny, is the policing of womanhood. That policing is about the idea that there are just one or two ways to be a woman. Various forms of violence are a key component in that policing. All too often, historically women of color particularly black women have been subject to being told we aren’t really women, this is both for trans and nontrans black women. So our womanhood as well as our humanity are often not valued, our voices silenced. Violence is a part of that silencing, not hiring trans women for jobs is part of that violence, forcing far too many of us into street economies which make us more likely to be victims of violence. Because our lives are not valued, all too often our perpetrators get away with crimes against us. Black bodies are often assumed to be criminal. These systems are in place to see to it that trans folks of color don’t exist by de-legitimizing our existences, economic injustice and through violence. The prison system is part of that violence.
And then she shared how learning of CeCe’s story will help her to play the role of Sophia on “Orange Is The New Black.”
I was struck by CeCe’s sense of hope and faith, her amazing resilience in the face of an injustice that [took] her freedom, because she survived the violence far too many women like her don’t survive, her humanity is deeply intact in the face of a system which wants to deny that humanity. I think that is at the heart of Orange is the New Black, a group of women who maintain their humanity within a context which would constantly like to strip them of that humanity.
The documentary is set to be released sometime in 2014. If you’re interested in supporting CeCe McDonald herself, you can donate here. If you’re interested in supporting the documentary project FREE CeCe!, you can do so here.