CeCe McDonald is an African American trans woman from Minneapolis who was arrested, convicted and imprisoned for the “crime” of defending herself against a racist, transphobic assault. CeCe was charged with two counts of murder and faced spending the remainder of her life behind bars, but her determination to keep fighting back and the support of a strong campaign to raise awareness about the case and demand her release pressured prosecutors to offer a plea deal, and then an early release. On January 13, after serving 17 months in a men’s prison, CeCe was finally released.
In this interview, CeCe talked to Keegan O’Brien about her ordeal—and the struggles she intends to keep fighting now that her long-awaited freedom has been won.
… OF ALL the groups in the LGBTQ community, trans women experience the highest rates of violence, incarceration, unemployment and violence. Can you talk to me about why this is and what needs to happen for this to change?
I THINK a lot of it has to do with ignorance. What people don’t know, they fear. I also think our society tries to dehumanize us and demoralize us and delegitimize us as trans women.
Given all of this, it’s easy to see why people want to discriminate against us, and don’t want to take us seriously or see us as people. I’ve been to so many interviews and job fairs where I can tell, just by the way the person is looking at me, that they aren’t going to hire me—because of the way I look and who I am.
That tends to put trans women in these predicaments where they feel like they can only do what society is saying is available to them, or what they know best. That’s why so many trans women end up getting involved in sex work or drug dealing. Especially when you have no money, people tend to get involved in these kinds of things. Our society keeps putting women and trans women in these positions that are dangerous. It’s all connected to how our society dismisses trans women and tells people that we’re less then human.
We’re starting to see more strong and influential trans women role models in our society. They’re showing us that we don’t need to fall into these stereotypes, and it’s possible for trans women to become a doctor or a lawyer or whatever. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that we need to start showing people that we’re human, too. We deserve to be able to work and go to school and all the things that any other human being would want.