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Discussion 3


Gender identity disorder was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980. The move was seen as a way towards ensuring that people suffering from gender dysphoria get access to medical attention despite the controversy surrounding the disorder. Speaking about controversy, gender identity disorder can be emotive and life threatening as seen in the film Boys Don’t Cry. This paper focuses on Teena Ray Brandon, the main character in Boys Don’t Cry, mainly addressing the gender dysphoria as it appears in Brandon Teena’s case.

Boys Don’t Cry is a film, which premiered on October 8, 1999 and was directed by Kimberly Peirce. It is based on the experiences of transgender people. The film starts with the birth of an anatomically female transgender man Teena Ray Brandon. Her condition is discovered by her former girlfriend’s brother who then targeted her with physical threats. His antics, which include a bar fight, lead him to being evicted from the trailer of his cousin. Teena Brandon, using the name Brandon Teena, moves to a new location in Falls City where he meets new friends Tom Nissen (played by Brendan Sexton III), John Lotter (played by Peter Sarsgaard), Candace (played by Alicia Goranson), and Lana Tisdel (played by Chloe Sevigny). Brandon then develops an intimate relationship with Lana; she is totally unaware that Brandon has gender-dysphoria problems (Peirce, 2000).

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Due to his troubled past, Brandon is put in a women’s section in the prison of Falls City. Lana bails him out and starts to wonder why he was put in a women’s prison. However, he convinces her that he was born with a hermaphrodite condition and he was due to undergo a sex change operation. Lana assures him that she will still love him despite his condition. Tom and John, who were ex-convicts, become suspicious of Brandon’s sexual orientation and demand that Brandon removes his pants, thus showing his genitals. Lana avoids this scenario as they bungle him into Lana’s car and drive off to an unknown place where they physically assault and rape him. Brandon later escapes from his captors and is convinced by his girlfriend Lana to file a complaint with the police (Peirce, 2000).

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Then the two captors, Tom and John, plot to kill Brandon who is seen hiding in a location in Candace’s remote house. Brandon is shot by John and dies on the spot while Candace is shot by Tom in the head. Lana attempts to stop them by screaming but is almost shot by Tom, were it not for the intervention of John. They later flee the scene and leave Lana lying next to the cadaver of Brandon. The movie ends sadly where Lana is seen lying next to Brandon’s dead body the following morning. Lana is comforted by her mum as they leave Falls City, and a letter that Brandon wrote to Lana is read in the background (Peirce, 2000).

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Brandon experienced a range of symptoms that depicted his transgender problem. For instance, he felt a strong dislike for his own genitalia and felt a strong desire to alter it or completely remove it. He was very comfortable in his most preferred gender identity as a male. He developed strong feelings of the conflict between his gender identity and the biological sex, as he expressed this by telling the police that he experiences a gender identity crisis. Brandon hid the female physical developmental traits such as hips, breasts, derriere, or hair despite expressing his emotional feelings by crying and the tone in his voice which betrayed him. By dressing like a male and establishing emotional connections with the ladies such as Lana, Brandon further indicated that he experienced gender dysphoria, while twisting his name from Teena Brandon to Brandon Teena may be seen as the ultimate symptom of this condition (National Health Service, 2014).

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Nature of Gender Identity Disorder as depicted by Brandon

Brandon was born with the gender-dysphoria problem. Given that this issue arises during ones birth, it is seen as a part of the human condition. Therefore, it is not a psychiatric disorder itself but an intense feeling in the minds of the victims that one’s body is inconsistent with their most preferred gender (Glicksman, 2013). Many research studies argue that the condition results from hormonal problems in the brain. The condition is thus classified as a disorder owing to the anxiety, confusion, and stigma that the patient experiences. 

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