Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Brandon Teena Story

The Interrogation

The hospital, where they took specimens for a rape kit, was one ordeal, but the questioning was another. 

Richardson County Sheriff Charles B. Laux had never heard of this kind of thing before. He knew what rape and assault were, but this creature who passed herself off as a boy was something altogether new and exotic... and not in a good way. From his way of questioning her, he obviously found her sexual preferences to be repugnant, and was later quoted as referring to her as "it."

In fact, transsexual individuals are generally met with confusion, prejudice, and utter disbelief. Also known as gender dysphoria, the psychiatric bible, DSM-IV, lists persistent transexuality as a gender identity disorder. In general, it's a state of conflict between one's gender orientation and one's physical self. In other words, sex-related brain structures associated with gender are the opposite of the physical sex organs. People born as girls feel more oriented in the world as boys, and boys as girls. They can feel miserably trapped and resentful. One's sense of gender is part of one's identity, and it's disconcerting to be expected to act a certain way when that's not how things feel.

This conflict becomes part of early awareness, when girls get teased for being tomboys and boys teased for being sissies. They begin to doubt themselves, and may even develop a deep self-loathing, brought on by being misfits in an intolerant society. Their needs become a source of embarrassment and suffering. They're often driven to "fix" themselves, but can't always achieve it, and the estimate of suicides by age 30 among transsexuals is around 50%. Even going to a therapist doesn't necessarily work, since some mental health practitioners believe it's a matter of curing the "pathology." Often, doctors will encourage hormonal treatments and sex change operations to bring gender orientation into line with the physical body. This appears to be the best approach and has been quite successful with many transsexuals, but not everyone can afford it. The transition stage, too, can be quite painful.

Homosexuality sometimes occurs in conjunction with transsexuality, but not always, so to assume a person like Brandon is also a lesbian is to misunderstand the way Brandon expressed his identity. It's also not about the sexual fetish known as transvestitism or cross-dressing. Brandon may have looked female, but he felt best as a male.

Sheriff Laux was supposed to be asking Brandon questions specific to the rape and assault, but he veered away to ask things like, "Why do you make girls think you're a guy?" and "Do you kiss them?" He implied that there was something wrong with Brandon and insisted he needed answers because these were questions that would come up in court. They struck Brandon as prurient and unnecessary, so at times he refused to answer. He was later called uncooperative.

Hilary Swank in Boys Don't Cry
Hilary Swank in Boys Don't Cry

Laux acted as if he discounted Brandon's claim to being a virgin and kept asking probing questions about his sexual experiences. Wasn't Brandon amazed, he insisted, that John Lotter had pulled down her pants and not fondled her? "Doesn't that kind of, ah, get your attention somehow?" he asked. In fact, on this point he persisted, asking it at least three times. He seemed unconvinced that a man would have a naked woman under his control and fail to take advantage to at least touch her private parts. He also suggested that during the rape, Brandon had physically stimulated John to get him going.

Whatever was said at the end of the interview will never be known because the last part of the tape was erased.

Brandon signed a complaint and assumed that the two men would be picked up. There was every reason to believe they might act on their threat, so the sooner they were off the streets, the better.

After three days, deputies went out to question the suspects and thought they ought to be arrested, but Laux would not allow it. On the fourth day after, Brandon's sister Tammy called Laux to question why the suspects had not been apprehended, and she was surprised by his attitude. He didn't think she ought to be interfering. He'd do what needed to be done.

Yet these were men with criminal records. Boys Town had rejected John as a child, and with brain damage and a low IQ, he'd always been in one kind of trouble or another. Tom was an abuse victim who suffered from major depression and liked to cut himself. Both were heavy drinkers, and there was evidence that Tom had abused his wife. That they might be guilty of assault was no surprise, so why were they still free?

No one knows why Laux failed to move on Brandon's accusation, but his decisions allowed them the time they needed to carry out their threat.

 

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