One of the many rumors flying around the transgender blogosphere is that the next Human Rights Campaign (HRC) golden (or token, if you like) transgender person is Susan Stanton. If true, it's an sign of just how desperate the HRC is to "Win Back" the transgender community.
One of the most obvious reasons that she should not represent the transgender community is experience. This time last year, Susan was still Steve. Susan was still closeted. She transitioned from Steve to Susan in May of last year. The words "newbie" and "neophyte" ring loudly through my ears when the name Susan Stanton is spoken. A recent story in the St. Petersburg Times shows just how unprepared Stanton is to lead this community.
Susan has met hundreds of other people like her. She was among the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people lobbying for a law that would make it illegal for others to discriminate against them.But Susan has said all along that she's not like other transgender people. She feels uncomfortable even looking at some, 'like I'm seeing a bunch of men in dresses.'
On the face of it, that is one of the most transphobic statements I've ever heard spewed from the the mouth of another transgender woman. It's saying, 'I'm not like THOSE people, those MEN IN DRESSES!'
Eventually, she decided it was too early for transgender people to be federally protected. People need more time, more education, she says. "The transgender groups boo me, now, when I speak. Isn't that ironic?
"But I don't blame the human rights groups from separating the transgender people from the protected groups. Most Americans aren't ready for us yet," Susan says. Transgender people need to be able to prove they're still viable workers -- especially in the mainstream.
Gosh, how would Susan know the pulse of American's feelings on transgender people? The numbers from HRC's own polls done in 2002 and 2004 suggest something much different than her conclusions. Her words sound hauntingly familiar to Barney Frank's verbal assaults against gender identity inclusion in the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA).
Stanton wonders why she's getting booed? HRC is clearly not speaking for the "good" of the transgender community. They have been actively working against transgender inclusive legislation. They are hardly the people to be judging nor picking who should or shouldn't speak on our behalf. The booing isn't ironic, but inevitable when you are a shill for an organization that threw us under the ENDA bus.
The less obvious reason is that her life experience as a transperson is of one of privilege. She has little concept of the struggles of most trangender women.
'I'm still getting used to so many things about my new body,' Susan says. "It's intoxicatingly enjoyable and absolutely right." She loves the feel of soft sweaters on her hairless arms, the new curves of her hips, her smooth cheeks and chin. And there's still one leap to make.In May, Susan flies to Arizona for the $15,000 gender-reassignment surgery.
The majority of trangender women who want surgery, can't have it. The cost is just too much, most of us are barely getting by. Most transgender women who are unable to find work because of their transition don't have to means to have an apartment and support a family in another house, while unemployed. I don't know any women that can have electrolysis done while not working (do the math $70 to $150 a treatment X 52 weeks X 2 to 3 years) . For most of us, life is a constant struggle to survive. We can't jet off to another state and have surgery on the first anniversary of our real life test. Stanton is obviously a person of means, even in her unemployment. Such is not the state for the majority of the transgender community.
But the biggest reason of all, is the kind of rhetoric that she is spouting is dangerous to our movement. Her comments are nothing short of misogynistic, homophobic, and transphobic.
Six months ago, I would have said, 'No. Never. I'm not gay.' Now it feels nice, natural, when a man buys me a drink," Susan says. "It's nice to have someone order dinner for you, choose the wine.
Inherent in her message is that women are submissive, men are dominant. Note to Susan: this outdated rhetoric went out in the 1970's. Maybe she hasn't heard that "women are doing it for themselves."
Six months ago, I would have said, 'No. Never. I'm not gay.' Now it feels nice, natural, when a man buys me a drink.
Note to all gay men: If you take hormones, and wear a dress, you'll be heterosexual.
"I was a good city manager. I know I was. I had high expectations and held people responsible for achieving results," Susan says. "I could've made it work. I'm not some drag queen in a pink miniskirt with 6-inch heels. And I'm not Aunt Bee.
The divisive and patriarchal attitude Stanton is spewing will throw us back years. Instead of being the leader of the transgender community, she sounds like a better fit for the transsexual separatist movement.
Many of us are trying to find work, even if we don't pass so well. Many of us are a secure in our own sexuality. Many of us do not spew self hating homophobic and transphobic statements. Some of us do sex work because we can't find any other work. Some of us live in the streets because our families have abandoned us. Some of us look like Aunt Bee.
If she don't understand us, and in fact has contempt for us, she probably shouldn't speak for us. She isn't helping us.
I'm not like Susan Stanton, and I hope some day she isn't either.