Walk Like a Man

‘The Brandon Teena Story’ is a documentary about hatred and homophobia in the heartland.

Feature by John Stiles.

Brandon Teena

An audio tape is played for us about two thirds of the way through the documentary, The Brandon Teena Story . It is of the actual “interview” between a backwoods country sheriff and Teena following his report of the beating and rape that preceded his murder at the hands of two bottom-dwelling small-time cons from Falls City, Nebraska, on December 30, 1993. It is impossible to hear this recording without sharing the anguish of this poor tortured soul. In a barely audible voice he recounts the beating and rape, valiantly trying to protect what remains of his shattered self from the prurient prying of the monster that represented justice in this backwater community. I imagine reaching through the screen in a hopeless attempt to protect him from any more damage. Too late. Within 72 hours he will be dead. Shot and stabbed to death by his rapists, along with a friend and a young man at the wrong place at the wrong time.

For those who tell you the fictionalized account of Teena’s story told in Boys Don’t Cry , the film that introduced us to the unparalleled talent of Hillary Swank, packs a more powerful emotional punch, they must not know the difference between a punch and a knockout. Boys Don’t Cry is a powerful punch, The Brandon Teena Story is a knockout. You awaken changed.

BrandonStoryThe 10-year anniversary DVD of Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdottir’s film is available from Docurama Films (

Photo caption: His final days: The Brandon Teena Story tells the tale of Brandon’s coming of age struggle with identity and how his gender ambiguity induced feelings of betrayal, confusion, and hostility among the residents of an isolated American township still attempting to understand what happened during his fateful final days.

John W Stiles ( writes regularly for
OutSmart magazine.

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