“I Use My Love to Guide Me”: Surviving and Thriving in the Face of Impossible Situations

CeCe McDonald, Reina Gossett, and Dean Spade
Apr 21, 2014 | 7:30pm
The Auditorium at The New School
66 West 12th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues)
Co-Sponsors: BCRW, Office of Social Justice Initiatives at The New School, Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at NYU, Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School, Transgender Youth Support Network


Event Informaton

In 2011, CeCe McDonald was a fashion design student at Minneapolis Community and Technical College when while walking to a grocery store, she and her friends were attacked by a group of white people shouting racist and transphobic slurs. When CeCe fatally stabbed one of their attackers in self defense, she was arrested and eventually imprisoned for 19 months. As she awaited trial and experienced incarceration, the Transgender Youth Support Network in Minnesota created the Free CeCe campaign, inspiring an international community of activists to support CeCe and rally for her freedom. Throughout, CeCe updated community members with her evocative and thoughtful writing on police brutality, transphobia, homophobia, racism, and the power of love against systems of injustice.

Recently, CeCe joined prison abolition activists Reina Gossett and Dean Spade in a conversation about her own experiences surviving trauma and impossible situations, and the importance of collective organizing for people facing systems of violence. Watch videos from this conversation here.

On April 21, CeCe, Reina, and Dean will share additional excerpts from their discussion and continue the conversation, responding to questions from the audience and online. Join us to support CeCe and the continued push for an end to the prison system and the institutionalized structures of violence throughout our society which support it.

This event is part of the series No One is Disposable, which features conversations on trans activism and prison abolition with BCRW activist fellow Reina Gossett. Co-sponsored by the Barnard Center for Research on Women, the Office of Social Justice Initiatives at The New School, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at NYU, the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School, and the Transgender Youth Support Network.

Dean Spade, CeCe McDonald, and Reina Gossett

CeCe McDonald is an activist living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is a creative and energetic person who, before her life was so unjustly interrupted, was studying fashion design at MCTC. She had a stable home where she lived with and helped support four other African American youth, her family. CeCe’s family describes her as a leader, a role model, and a loyal friend. She is known as a wise, out-spoken, and welcoming person, with a history of handling prejudice with amazing grace. She is currently working with actress Laverne Cox and director Jac Gares on a documentary about her experience.

Reina Gossett lives in Fort Greene, Brooklyn and believes creativity & imagination are vital in movements for self determination. She is a trans activist & artist, working as membership director at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and blogging at reinagossett.com. Reina’s work has been featured in BCRW’s The Scholar & Feminist Online, as well as Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment & The Prison Industrial Complex. She is an activist fellow at BCRW.

Dean Spade is the founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, author of Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of the Law, and an associate professor at Seattle University School of Law. He is currently a fellow in the Engaging Tradition Project at Columbia Law School.


Captions are available on YouTube. Additional videos, including event footage, will be posted here as soon as they are available.

Prisons Aren’t Safe for Anybody

Police + Prisons Don’t Keep Us Safe – We Keep Each Other Safe

I Use My Love to Guide Me: Surviving and Thriving in the Face of Impossible Situations


Have a question for CeCe, Reina, or Dean? Submit your question here, email bcrw@barnard.edu, tweet @bcrwtweets, or ask on BCRW’s facebook page. Questions will be accepted both before and during the event.

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No One is Disposable: Everyday Practices of Prison Abolition
In this video series and online event, activists Reina Gossett and Dean Spade respond to questions about prison abolition as a political framework, exploring why this is a top issue for those committed to supporting trans and gender-nonconforming people.

No One is Disposable: Resources and Context for a Conversation on Prison Abolition
Research Assistant Carly Crane wrote a BCRW Blog post intended to be “a reference for the videos and discussion, to provide broader context as well as a starting point for further exploration of the prison abolition movement.” Carly’s post includes helpful definitions, links to the organizations and activists Reina and Dean mention in the videos, as well as additional links and twitter handles to follow to learn more.

The Barnard Center for Research on Women engages our communities through programming, projects, and publications that advance intersectional social justice feminist analyses and generate concrete steps toward social transformation.

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