On a page on her personal website titled "Message to TS Community", Susan Stanton, the transwoman who came under fire from the transgender community for comments that were published in a story on her in the St. Petersburg Times that were seen as unsupportive and even offensive to transgender community members and our interests by many, including myself and Marti Abernathey, has released a statement stating her views on the matter.
In the statement, Stanton describes herself as "shocked and disappointed" in the article and the way it portrayed her publicly, expressing her belief that "anyone reading this article would think I am a conceited, arrogant, depressed, suicidal victim in need of immediate medical intervention.". Stanton complains that in recent days she has received hundreds of emails from transpeople upset with the quotes attributed to her and concludes her statement with:
"I do understand how upset everyone is with me; I understand your feelings and I accept that the "trans-community" does not want me to "represent them" any longer.
I would request that everyone stop sending me e-mails since I am no longer going to read this poison any longer.
In all future media communications I will expressly state that I do not speak for or represent anyone other than myself."
It seems to me that Stanton is more than a little bitter, perhaps with good reason. Yet, one would think that's all the more reason to speak out publicly and set the record straight. Her bitterness indicates to me that she may understand the nuts and bolts of living a transgender life, but she really doesn't understand what it is to be a part of the American transgender community socially and politically. She hasn't yet really come to terms with what it means to be seen and treated as "less than equal" in her everyday life, not just to be unfairly denied employment opportunities, but also to be seen as a freak, out of the mainstream, and even a radical extremist, just because of who she is, how she lives her life, and how she presents herself to others. She doesn't yet understand what that does to people who have had to deal with that perception, not only from straight America but even from those who define themselves as our fellow community members and allies, day after day, year after year, and have been doing so far longer than she's been in the media spotlight.
As I promised I would last night on my radio show, earlier today I once again phoned Susan and tried to invite her on my show as a guest to talk about these issues and clear the air. She thanked me for calling and then hung up on me. In my opinion, this public statement does little, if anything, to put these issues to rest. Personally, I'd like to hear her tell me and my listeners herself, in her own voice and with her own words, exactly what she really thinks about transgender people and advocating for our equality under the law. I'd like her to personally respond to the questions I and other transgender community members have about what she was quoted as saying in the story, what was accurate and what was not, and what she wants the community to know about her views about us and our lives.
In addition, I'm more than a bit puzzled by her reaction. Susan Stanton worked in government and the political arena for almost a decade and a half at minimum. Did she really expect acclaim or acceptance of the views attributed to her in this article from members of a community as violently persecuted as Transgender-Americans? Did she really expect support and sympathy from a community of people who have been being legally denied employment, housing, basic social services, contact with children and other loved ones, and even simple human respect for who we are and how live our lives as a matter of course throughout history in most areas of this country? If she did, then it's clear to me that while she may understand how to live and function on a daily basis as a woman, she still doesn't have any real understanding of what it means to be a transgender person, and particularly a transwoman, in the United States of America in 2008.
Susan, if you're reading this, the invitation to appear on my show is still open, and will remain so. Come on my show, answer the questions we have. Talk to us, become a part of our community, and let us help you understand what it really means to be one of us. Make yourself part of the solution. Get to know and understand us, our history, and why we react as strongly and forcefully as we do when we hear statements about us such as those we read in that article, especially when they're seen as coming from one of our own.
One thing I can promise you, Susan, at least on behalf of myself and my radio show anyway, is that you are being offered the opportunity to speak for yourself here, with no intermediary between your own words and the public, about how you feel and what you really want the community to know and understand about you and your views. It is, of course, up to you to take advantage of it. I'm easy to find and get in touch with. You can contact me through the site where you are reading this, or just Google me. My contact information is all over the net, and easy to locate.
I hope you'll take advantage of this open door, Susan. It's not too late to set the record straight, but it will be soon. Speak out now, while there's still time, before attention fades and current opinion ages into firmly-held belief. Show us who and what you really are, before others decide it for themselves.