Treatment Considerations

Many aspects of Brandon's life would have been easier in a culture that was not transphobic, but recovery from incest trauma would not have been one of them.

Recovery from traumatic sexualization… begins with the process of reintegration whereby the original trauma is brought to consciousness. Only then can the idealization of the perpetrator give way to the reality of his sexual violence. With the deconstruction of the idealized father, the daughter can begin to reclaim and redefine the female self, diminishing the impact of the internalized aggressor. (Jacobs, 165)

When the internalization of this ideal has become incorporated into the gender identity of the victimized daughter, specifically as a response to the trauma, this kind of deconstruction is impeded. These may have been so damaged by the incest that it might appear more expedient and more therapeutic to adopt a differently-gendered identity that is not so apparently freighted with traumatic associations. This identity, however, cannot—by definition—offer the integration that characterizes recovery.

So, how does the victimized daughter heal? In Victimized Daughters, Janet Liebman Jacobs elaborates some of the stages associated with recovery, noting that not every survivor will experience these changes: (Jacobs, 136)

•          Deconstruction of the idealized father.

•          Recognition of the sense of self constructed around the ideal of maleness embodied in the perpetrator.

•          Separation from the perpetrator.

•          Identification of the self as victim (which may include identification with other powerless members of society, and which allows her to deconstruct the "bad self" at the core of her development).

•          Recognition of past victimization integrated in the context of original sexual trauma (which may result in establishing and maintaining better boundaries in potentially victimizing relationships).

•          Reclaiming the sexual self (a result of deconstruction of the idealized perpetrator and development of a separate sense of self, which may involve controlling dissociative responses and intrusive flashbacks, and the restructuring or elimination of sexual fantasies that signifies disengagement from the perpetrator).

•          Self-validation and reconnection to the female persona (through therapeutic transference that models respectful caretaking, or reconnection or empathy with the mother, or identification with female spiritual power).

•          Reintegration through creative imagination.


As an adult, Brandon exhibited behaviors consistent with a diagnosis of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a syndrome associated with incest survivors. Gender dysphoria has been clinically identified as a response to child sexual abuse and incest, and it is logical to question whether or not it was therapeutic in the case of Teena Brandon to diagnose transsexualism and recommend surgical reassignment in lieu of focusing on diagnosis and treatment of Complex PTSD. If healing from child sexual abuse and incest requires retrieval and assimilation of dissociated material, a strong case can be made that Brandon's transsexualism diagnosis served to enhance her dissociation, impeding recovery from the incest and enabling an escalation of high-risk behaviors based on a dissociated identity.

As a final footnote, one of Brandon's friends has shared this story about the week between the rape and the murder:

On Christmas day of 1993, when Lisa brought Brandon back… from Falls City, [a friend] met him[Brandon] at the door and said "Hi Brandon" In reply [the friend] was told by Brandon that there was no Brandon, Brandon was gone. Her name is Teena. That didn't change at any point in that last week. (private email, December 20, 2004).