CeCe McDonald, a transgender woman imprisoned for fatally stabbing a man who attacked her, was released early from a Minnesota men’s prison today, BuzzFeed reports.
McDonald, who became an international symbol for the transgender rights movement, served nineteen months of a forty-one-month sentence.
“CeCe is doing well. She is in great spirits. She is happy to be free,” said Roxanne Anderson of the Trans Youth Support Network, who was in the car that picked McDonald up.
“This is a day to celebrate, and to honor CeCe for all she’s done from the day of her arrest to draw attention to the systemic violence women of color, and particularly LGBT women of color face everyday,” ACLU staff attorney Chase Strangio told The Nation. “Her message from the start was not to sensationalize the story, but to bring attention to the issue.”
On June 5, 2011, McDonald was walking with friends to a grocery store when four white people accosted her group, all black, with racist and transphobic epithets. A fight broke out, in which McDonald was sliced in the face with glass. She stabbed Dean Schmitz, 47, in the chest with a pair of scissors, which she claimed was an act of self-defense. Schimtz died at the scene.
Originally charged with second-degree murder, which carries up to forty years in prison, McDonald took a plea bargain in May 2012 with the reduced charge of second-degree manslaughter. She was sentenced to three-and-a-half years at Minnesota Correctional Facility-–St. Cloud, a men’s prison, in June.
Transgender rights activists around the world rallied behind McDonald. Supporters held several demonstrations to protest her incarceration and Minnesota’s decision to send her to a men’s prison. Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox, a vocal McDonald supporter, is producing a film about her case.
From prison, McDonald kept in touch with her supporters through a blog, where she wrote about her own case, as well as the pervasive violence faced by the LGBT community on a daily basis. In a November 26 post, in honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance, she wrote:
I would have rather been punished for asserting myself than become another victim of hatred. No, I’m not saying violence is key or all people should react the way I did, but our communities, whether here or abroad, have become the victim of malicious and hateful crimes. We need to start now. Make your voices heard. Reach out to the lawmakers, hell get it to the president if we have to. But we need to stop and work from inside out. We need to find strong leaders who can handle the pressures of being just that. Also we need to stop “throwing so much shade” to each other. All that anger that we direct towards each other should be directed at its true source, the people who treat us badly. The politicians who act like we don’t exist and don’t focus on the rights and safety of the LGBTQI people, especially (trans)women. I would be lying if I said that I once wasn’t a shady girl, but now I am a woman who wants to be a role model and a leader for the (trans)woman of the 21st century. To be unmarginalized and recognized for who I am, and who we are: strong, wonderful, loving women, and that we are people. That femininity can be as, if not more, strong and resilient than masculinity. That we deserve the same rights as any heterosexual, cissexual, or any person who objects against our being. It kills me to know that a man, or any person with a penis, can get a “genital pump,” with medial insurance, but we as (trans)women have to struggle with costs for GRS and other trans related medical issues, some of which hare not even considerable for insurance coverage. Crazy, right?
The Trans Youth Support Network will host a welcome home party for McDonald in Minneapolis on Saturday.
Watch footage of McDonald’s release below: