On one horrific night in June 2011, Cece McDonald was violently attacked while walking with her friends. Attempting to defend herself, Cece, a transgendered woman, accidentally stabbed one of her attackers. Her incarceration sparked an international outcry as it once again highlighted the injustice that the transgender community endure when it comes to the criminal justice system.
Jacquelin Gares’ documentary, Free Cece, dives into the grassroot activist movement that grew after Cece’s arrest, and shows how the young woman became a beacon of inspiration for a community. With the assistance of actress Laverne Cox, who not only provides star power to the film but was also one of the key supporters in the “Free Cece” movement, Gares presents an in-depth look at the systemic violence towards transgendered individuals.
As Cece and activists such as Katie Burgess note in the film, trans youth now grow up expecting to be the victim of a physical hate crime at some point. What is even more disturbing is the alarming rate at which trans individuals are murder, or unfairly imprisoned for trying to protect themselves. When it comes to the latter, Free Cece effectively raises concerns over the rampant practice of misgendering that regularly occurs throughout the penal system.
Similar to Cece’s experience, many transgender women are being placed in male prisons. Furthermore, they are thrown into solitary confinement, and find themselves under stricter clothing guidelines than their fellow inmates, all under the false pretences of being “for their safety.” Actions that only help to perpetuate stereotypes and further punish transgender prisoners.
Though Gares’ film feels inexplicably rushed at first, when Free Cece settles into its rhythm, it proves to be a vital conversation starter. Cece may be free from jail, but the fight to end injustice and misgendering continues.
Sunday, May 28, 1:45 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Tickets can be purchased at the Inside Out website.