Culture Clash

'86–'95: From Evangelicals to Trannies, the First Gulf War to Tupac Shakur

Last November, Brandon Teena blitzed into Falls City, a dusty farming community in the southern tip of the state, asking to be introduced to the most attractive women in town—even leafing through a new friend's phone book and requesting that she point out the best-looking girls so Brandon could invite them to "his" birthday party.

Two days after Brandon arrived in Falls City, every teenage and young adult woman in town was after this pool player with the jawline of a Kennedy, who could often be seen in a White Sox jacket and slicked-back hair. To the girls he fancied, Brandon brought perfume, roses, and teddy bears, as well as the cards and love poems other boyfriends were too crude—or too repressed—to send. Sometimes he'd call a limousine to take a girl to work, or, with Elvis-esque extravagance, give a woman his entire paycheck. When it came to making out, Brandon was rated heavenly, and unlike most boys, he never pressured women for sex. (One of his favorite songs was "Shoop," in which women rappers Salt-n-Pepa instruct men to "get your lips wet.")

Every former girlfriend the Voice talked to says Brandon was the best boyfriend they had ever dated: the most alluring suitor and certainly the best lover. No wonder that, both in Falls City and back home in Lincoln, where Brandon had also passed as male, girls were always hanging on his arm. "But when she saw Lana Tisdel," swooned the Chicago Tribune, "Brandon focused exclusively on her."

After they spotted each other at the Kwik Shop, Brandon asked Lana, the most glamorous 19-year-old in this economically depressed town of 5000, out on dates to Hardee's and the movies (where they saw Addams Family Values), and they fell in love in about two weeks. "Brandon was nicer and looked better than any boy I'd ever been with," says Lana, a cool, shy, and soigné blond who met him one evening when she was singing karaoke country-western songs at the Oasis, Falls City's only nightclub. "With a lot of guys around here, it don't matter what the woman wants, but Brandon wouldn't tell a woman to do anything—he asked. He knew how a girl liked to be treated."

Even after Brandon's true gender became known—when she'd been jailed on check-forging charges in late December—Lana stood by her, not an easy thing to do in a town where gossip is the major form of recreation.

A Rape in Cyberspace

by Julian Dibbell

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December 21, 1993

They say he raped them that night. They say he did it with a cunning little doll, fashioned in their image and imbued with the power to make them do whatever he desired. They say that by manipulating the doll he forced them to have sex with him, and with each other, and to do horrible, brutal things to their own bodies. And though I wasn't there that night, I think I can assure you that what they say is true, because it all happened right in the living room—right there amid the well-stocked bookcases and the sofas and the fireplace—of a house I've come to think of as my second home.

Call me Dr. Bombay. Some months ago—let's say about halfway between the first time you heard the words information superhighway and the first time you wished you never had—I found myself tripping with compulsive regularity down the well-traveled information lane that leads to LambdaMOO, a very large and very busy rustic chateau built entirely of words. Nightly, I typed the commands that called those words onto my computer screen, dropping me with what seemed a warm electric thud inside the mansion's darkened coat closet, where I checked my quotidian identity, stepped into the persona and appearance of a minor character from a long-gone television sitcom...

I won't say why I chose to masquerade as Samantha Stevens's outlandish cousin...or what exactly led to my mild but so-far incurable addiction to the semifictional digital otherworlds known around the Internet as multi-user dimensions, or MUDs. This isn't my story, after all. It's the story of a man named Mr. Bungle, and of the ghostly sexual violence he committed in the halls of LambdaMOO, and most importantly of the ways his violence and his victims challenged the 1500 and more residents of that surreal, magic-infested mansion to become, finally, the community so many of them already believed they were.
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Tupac Shakur Gives the Performance of His Life

By Touré

This [trial] is all about my image, this has nothing to do with me. . . . I'm selling records. This is what I do for a living: I'm selling records. Don't get it twisted. This is not my real life. —Tupac Shakur

December 13, 1994

Riding across the Brooklyn Bridge on Thursday morning, heading toward the courthouse the day the verdict in Tupac Amaru Shakur's trial for sexual abuse, sodomy, and criminal possession of a weapon is delivered, one day after he was shot five times by unknown assailants, feels like riding into the front lines of a war zone. Waiting just across the approaching shore are the generals and soldiers—lawyers and reporters who battle to shape what Tupac's attorney Michael Warren calls a "propaganda war" that could stretch on interminably or end at a moment's notice. At least one man has been injured and is, at the moment, MIA—Tupac—and I feel the gnawing probability, call it tension, that soon, maybe before the day is over, there will be a casualty. Tupac. . . .

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