The Brandon Archive
A Triple Murder in Humboldt, Nebraska
On December 31, 1993, Tom Nissen, who was accompanied by John Lotter, murdered Philip DeVine, Lisa Lambert, and Brandon Teena in Humboldt, Nebraska. Everyone in Lambert's house that night knew each other. They were either friends or acquaintances. Brandon had dated Lambert and was dating another woman, Lana Tisdel, at the time of his death. Lotter and Nissen were friends with Brandon and Tisdel, and Tisdel's sister, Leslie, was dating DeVine. The only life spared that night was that of Lambert's infant son, Tanner, who was too young to be a witness.
In '93 and '94, the murders made headlines across the nation. The media was particularly interested in the case because Brandon, a biological female, had been living in Humboldt as a man. Prior to the triple murder, Nissen and Lotter had beaten and raped Brandon on Christmas Eve after discovering that he was biologically female. Brandon had reported the sexual assault to local police, but they had neglected to apprehend Lotter and Nissen. When Lotter and Nissen later went on trial, Nissen took a plea bargain, which implicated Lotter as the triggerman. However, Nissen has since recanted, stating that he was the lone murderer on New Year's Eve. Nonetheless, Lotter remains in a maximum security prison, serving a life sentence.
The murders went on to inspire a number of cultural productions, including a documentary The Brandon Teena Story (Susan Muska & Gréta Olafsdóttir, 1998) and an Academy Award winning film Boys Don't Cry (Kimberly Peirce, 1999). Brandon's murder is frequently cited as an important moment in the American Transgender Movement, and the millennial cultural productions about his death increased awareness of Hate Crimes legislation that was being pushed at the turn of the twenty-first century.
In his 2003 book In a Queer Time and Place, Jack Halberstam writes, “The Brandon archive is simultaneously a resource, a productive narrative, a set of representations, a history, a memorial, and a time capsule. It literally records a moment in the history of twentieth-century struggles around the meaning of gender categories and it becomes a guide to future resolutions” (23).
This website takes its name from Halberstam's text, and it hopes to create an online archival space for materials associated with the Humboldt murders. Currently, it features pages dedicated to artistic, academic, and media interpretations of the murders. One thing that you might notice while exploring the site is that the majority of materials focus on Brandon. Even the title of this space is named after him. Brandon's name and experience often eclipse the two other lives that were lost on December 31, 1993: those of DeVine and Lambert. It is crucial that we recognize these absences and build archives that decenter Brandon. Doing so doesn't just do justice to the lives lost; it also paints a more complex picture of the events and socio-cultural processes that led up to that night. If we really want The Brandon Archive to "record a moment in the history of twentieth-century struggles around the meaning of gender categories," then we need to know more about DeVine, Lambert, Lotter, and Nissen (Halberstam 23). Perhaps then this space can be renamed The Humboldt Archive.
Contributions and corrections to this archive are welcomed. If you would like to provide artistic, academic, media, or other source material--or if you notice incorrect information--please contact Mixon at firstname.lastname@example.org.