In June 2012, CeCe McDonald accepted a plea bargain and was sentenced to 41 months in prison. Her crime? Self-defense. One year prior, CeCe and a group of friends had been verbally accosted and then brutally attacked, with CeCe being struck with a glass bottle — enough to leave a bleeding gash in her face. In self-defense, CeCe fought back and stabbed one of the male assailants. He later died and prosecutors sought to hold CeCe accountable for the man’s death, despite the nature of the attack and her self defense.
The incident isn’t simple and it’s not straightforward. CeCe and her friends were the victim of an attack that was both racist and transphobic. She was later the victim of a a coercive interrogation and then was incarcerated in a men’s prison, despite being a transgender woman.
CeCe’s attack, her conviction and her incarceration led to an international campaign to “Free CeCe!”, attracting high-profile support from media and activists, including actress Laverne Cox, an executive producer of the documentary profiling CeCe’s journey.
The documentary by filmmaker Jac Gares, according to the film’s official description, explores the role race, class and gender played in CeCe’s case. It’s a powerful story, highlighting the groundswell of voices questioning the prison industrial complex and calling for its disassembly. The film pushes past the everyday narratives of victimhood surrounding the lives of transgender people, to spotlight the way CeCe and other trans people are leading a growing movement fighting for the rights of transgender people everywhere.
CeCe’s story as told by Gares comes at an important time for Charlotte. Just last fall, the Charlotte Uprising brought much-needed attention to issues of police accountability, injustices in the criminal justice system and the targeting and profiling of people of color and other marginalized communities, including trans people. During the Uprising, many leaders identified as members of the LGBT community and many say today they were targeted and profiled, too. These complex stories and narratives — from CeCe’s experiences to those of LGBT people living in right here in Charlotte — bring a focus to the intersecting issues of race, class and gender and how they have an impact in the daily lives of our community.