Luverne Cox, a co-star of Netflix’s hit series Orange is the New Black, is co-producing a documentary about Cece McDonald, a transgender woman of color serving time in a Minnesota prison for what she has adamantly maintained was self-defense.

In an interview with Persephone Magazine, Cox explained why she and co-producer Jacqueline ‘Jac’ Gares are producing the documentary titled, Free Cece.

CeCe’s story is one that should have been covered more in the press. Trans women, particularly trans women of color, experience disproportionate amounts of violence and not enough is being done to eradicate that violence. CeCe’s story in so many ways encapsulates the intersectional issues that lead to far too many of us experiencing violence. I wanted to do a piece that explores the nature of how race, class and gender affect violence towards trans women and also give CeCe a space to tell her story in her words in the context of a piece that truly values the lives of trans women of color.

Gares and Cox were able to get an interview with McDonald in the St. Cloud Correctional Facility where McDonald has been serving her sentence. (McDonald is likely to be released on Jan. 13).

Gares told Persephone a bit about that experience.

The interview was incredible to witness between Laverne and CeCe. When it was over, I was jolted into the reality of prison that CeCe deals with everyday. When we had completed the interview, the guard told me, speaking of CeCe, “He would need to be strip searched” upon exiting the room. CeCe just smiled and laughed it off, “They can’t get enough of me here.” I was humbled by the positive attitude of CeCe, and her ability to cope inside the prison walls.

Cox notes in press materials for the documentary how she relates to McDonald’s story.

“But for the grace of God I could be CeCe McDonald. CeCe’s case represents a long list of instances of violence against transgender women who are disproportionately trans women of color.”

The Free Cece documentary is seeking financial backing by individuals and foundations through the Independent Filmmaker Project.

Photo by Joe Pollock.

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Andy Birkey

Andy Birkey has written for a number of Minnesota and national publications. He founded Eleventh Avenue South which ran from 2002-2011, wrote for the Minnesota Independent from 2006-2011, the American Independent from 2010-2013. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, The Star Tribune, The Huffington Post, Salon, Cagle News Service, Twin Cities Daily Planet, TheUptake, and much more. His writing on LGBT issues, the religious right and social justice has won awards including Best Beat Reporting by the Online News Association, Best Series by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and an honorable mention by the Sex-Positive Journalism awards.