Keri Renault

Transgender Celebrity: Good, Bad or Ugly?

Filed By Keri Renault | March 13, 2010 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Media, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: civil rights, CNN, documentary film, ENDA, Her Name Was Steven, identity crisis, LGBT, LGBT civil rights, Susan Stanton, transgender, transphobia, transsexual

This post began in response to a comment I received from an acquaintance in the Netherlands. Angela referenced a recent blog of mine about transsexual woman Susan Stanton, exploring her sudden rise to the national media's center stage in 2007.

Saturday evening CNN premiers the biographical documentary "Her Name Was Steven."

Angela voiced concern about the overnight celebrity of ex-Largo city manager, the former Steven Stanton, propelled to national prominence after being outed as transsexual by the St. Petersburg Times in 2007.

Stanton was shortly thereafter introduced to the world as Susan. Thus began the year-long media-manufactured journey of transsexual woman Susan Stanton, embarking into the Brave New World of "real life experience."

Regrettably, some of Ms. Stanton's most memorable quotes during her maiden voyage in 2007 were her most divisive, polarizing a transgender community already enduring a self-inflicted identity crisis, an internal struggle for hierarchal and social supremacy. Among her choice words, "not being like men in dresses"; her observation that "transgender people need to be able to prove they're still viable workers" to most Americans, and that the greatest hurdle to an inclusive ENDA was "politicians think the ladies' rooms will be invaded by guys in drag, instead of someone like me."

Angela commented:

Excuse me, but wouldn't holding her (Stanton) as an authority on transgender issues be the same as holding a 14 yr old girl as authority on women's issues?

Besides that can someone be an authority on transgender issues?

...That we as lesbian, gay, trans and other non gender binary conforming people should stand together in our quest to be accepted fully just as "normal" people in society, with all the same rights and protections, is a no-brainer for me.

Common sense and solidarity should prevail when it comes to a disenfranchised "community" struggling in the quest for civil rights equality. Equality is something to which every American is entitled. Yet the tenuous transgender coalition is often marginalized by itself.

The bitter irony is that the LGBT coalition tends to self-divide instead of conquering the real opposition. Prejudicial commentary perpetuates factionalism instead of promoting inclusion. It gives credence to the "disordered" argument of the opposition instead of presenting the credibility of a united front.

It's no wonder the transgender community fails to build consensus in many political arenas, local, state or federal.

Transgenderism and transsexuality continue to be a misunderstood constructs, often misrepresented and--not infrequently--continue to be sensationalized as hot button topics by the media, exploited in a desperate drive for ratings' revenues.

Stanton was accorded "authority" status by virtue of the media platform she was given in 2007. It was a de facto platform, courtesy of her relatively high-ranking public office as former city manager, Steven Stanton. Her credibility was implied, but certainly unearned by any measure of transgender "real life experience."

However, the media is far from the only guilty party in Stanton's premature rise to fame.

Leadership within the transgender community must also accept culpability for elevating Stanton to authority figure stature. She was invited to trans-conventions as a coveted keynote speaker, to Washington for advocacy and of course, CNN followed her with lights, cameras and microphones, documenting her words every step of the way.

Was Susan Stanton a role model? Her 2007 record would indicate otherwise in my opinion. But I suspect like many, over time, she's matured from her initial false-start into the media spotlight. Hopefully, her divisive rhetoric would change if she were granted a 2007 "do-over" today.

Hindsight's 20/20 to be sure. It's easy to be an arm-chair quarterback. Yet each of us should learn from this important exercise in free speech and community-building, and then decide for ourselves.

Processing the mixed media-messaging created by Ms. Stanton's overnight celebrity is a lesson in the "do's and "don'ts" of consensus-building, mutual respect and legitimate transgender advocacy. Informing ourselves is a good beginning. Success on the road ahead is paved with good intentions and by learning from the mistakes of the past.

Knowledge is power, an effective tool for building a united coalition from a diverse community of competing ideologies, identity politics and a plethora of personal expressions.

To paraphrase, do and say onto others as you'd have them do and say onto you.

It's the only sensible way to build bridges, safe harbors, and safe passages to transgender civil rights equality--and someday, societal legitimacy.


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In a nutshell, what HRC and the Dems tried to do was make Stanton a celebrity spokesperson for transgender people who espoused views they were comfortable with. What they discovered was that someone with Susan Stanton's views would not be accepted as a valid spokesperson by the trans community and that we would publicly call Stanton out for her public statements against our interests.

What this was really all about was the Queer elites and their allies in Congress trying to control the public discussion on transgender rights from both ends, and the trans community standing up and saying "We'll choose our own spokespeople and speak for ourselves, thank you very much.".

That about sums up the political exploitation of 2007, I agree. But my point is more ubiquitous in nature; that being the insidious harm of divisive gender politics within the transgender community.

Yesterday, today, tomorrow—the date doesn’t matter. History will be repeated as long as the trans-community continues to marginalize itself with disparaging words aired in pubic spaces. “Queer elites” to borrow your phrase, ultra-conservatives and any cis-gender who denies gender variant existences, these shrewd politicos let the trans-community do all the dirty work for them.

Time to toss the dirty laundry for good. Come together, find gender variant accord, put on a unified “game face” and serve notice as a bonafide coalition. An unequivocal line in the sand will earn respect, get attention, and ultimately gain affirmative, civil rights action.

But that's the problem Keri. This is hardly the first time they've done this kind of thing. You ask us to just toss out the dirty laundry, forget about the past, when both history and common sense tell us exactly the opposite, that these people cannot be trusted, that we must continue to track and analyze every little thing they do because we cannot take anything these people tell us at face value.

We've had our game faces on for years, ready to fight for our team. It's the Queer elites and their friends in Congress who are the ones who'd prefer to see us continuing to warm the bench unless and until they can use us to their own advantage.

It's not about us, Keri, and it hasn't been for a very long time. It's about a cowardly Congress and about a major civil rights organization that could prove itself a real community leader but instead apparently prefers to remain silent except when it's one of their own leadership's pet issues.

The media have always been about defining and identifying who our "leaders" are supposed to be. This isn't just someone like Susan or Chaz Bono, but it also applies to Mara Keisling. Yes, the trans community is highly complex and fragmented, often steered by LG power elites who don't want to be embarrassed by their "ragged, crazy cousins."

It's important to understand those gender conventions have always represented a very narrow range of the trans community in terms of race, income and identity (either white, middle class cds or binary trans people). That Susan Stanton or Christine Penner is picked to appear at them (even when they knew little about the community and were recent transitioners) isn't too surprising. What's more disgusting is how they got more media coverage (in straight and Queer outlets) and were taken more seriously than many in our community who've been in the trenches fighting for many years with little gratitude.

I have a blog where I've written about "imposed leadership/spokespeople": http://skipthemakeup.blogspot.com/2010/02/chosen-ones.html

Media coverage goes to the heart of the matter, doesn't it? Or perhaps it would be more appropriate to say media ignorance or indifference to the real, substantive core issues. Stuff like civil rights equality. Susan and Christine were both high profile professionals with very pubilc personas, pre-transition. They were ready made to exploit....."Shock value" draws more viewers, more readers, more revenue. What's another run-of-the-mill trans activist anyway, when the media can score big with the sensationalized story of not only giving up male privilege, but crossing the gender divide to do so. I'll check out your blog, thanks.

I don't have a problem with Mara being seen as a spokesperson for our community because even though I don't agree with her on every point of every single issue (and I don't know of anyone I can say that about in any case, trans or non), she presents herself and our community's issues well in the media. Mara knows her stuff, she's very good at making it accessible to non-transpeople, and she works about as hard as any activist I know. Mara talks the talk well to be sure, but she also walks the walks, and that, more than anything else, makes me comfortable with her speaking for us in the media.

That said, I also think we need a lot more credible media spokespeople than just Mara. We do have some (I've tried my best to be one of them), but a lot of us just don't have the necessary reach outside of our own trans-specific or LGBT-relevant community media to really have much of an impact in that regard.

Others who do have that kind of potential media reach either aren't qualified, or perhaps aren't interested in or ready to trade on that notoriety to advocate for transgender rights, or may be in situations where such public advocacy on a specific political issue could be seen as inappropriate or ill-advised.

I think we really have to make more of an effort as a community to get our message out there. For that, we need good media messengers. Look at how many the gay and lesbian community has and then compare the trans community. We really need to get on the ball and start fighting for our rights more effectively in the media because that's the playing field where we both win and lose the most political potency points as a movement.

Rebecca,

Mara wants trans people to come to DC to "lobby" (AKA fundraise for the NCTE) for ENDA when she admits how she herself doesn't even know the language currently contained in the version of ENDA to be voted on. That it may very well exclude large portions of the trans community and be not all that different from Barney's 2007 fiasco. How is that presenting a unified front?

This is our anointed spokesperson? No thank you. I fit into the group which would likely get covered under that kind of creepy ENDA and even I find that totally unacceptable and reprehensible. Just to remember, prior to 2007's disaster, we had a lot of spokespersons who allowed themselves to be led around by the HRC when many in our community warned them against doing that. The soothsayers were poo-poo'd and told they didn't play well with others. Then our anointed spokespersons got caught with their pants down. I tend to put more trust in the people who did the warning rather than those who did the conforming and smiled pretty for the media.

Kathleen of Norfolk | March 13, 2010 5:15 PM

You are so correct that we need messengers. As such, it was unfortunate that Stanton got off to a rough start with the various communities. Accessibility and status are part of the reason why the media go to high profile cases like Stanton, Bono, or Boylan on trans issues. The media (and our political system) normally does not care about the opinion of the average person on the street (be that trans or not) because such individuals have little relative impact. In our politics, your opinion counts more if you have access to politically relevant resouces. Unfortunately for trans people, we have little of that. Furthermore, many of the people that do rise up come across as rather unsympathetic to many folks because "they lived a lie", or have/had marriages or kids (giving rise to the old "how could you do such a thing to your family" question). Hopefully, that will change as trans people start dealing with these issues earlier in life.

Hmmm, interesting!

The only person who can speak for me is me. My transition was a highly personal and individual experience in which no one else could understand or explain.

Yes, there are similarities in every transpersons story, but they are never the same. No one can speak with any authenticity to my being trans or how it felt to go through the changes that I did.

I kind of missed out on the whole story about her except the part where she got fired for being trans. She was no more a spokesperson for me as I am for anyone else.

Angela Brightfeather | March 13, 2010 4:49 PM

Like Becky, I have been doing this Trans activist thing for some time now. Also like Becky I put a lot of faith in Mara for doing things the right way and on my behalf since I don't live in DC, or I would be right there with her, going through the same learning curve that she has been going through. So Diddlygirl, if Mara can't speak for you, then move to DC and do it for yourself or help her to do it by contributing to NCTE.

But the Susan Stanton exposure was the perfect storm. HRC had just decided upon their wonderful policy of incrementalsim. Meaning it was OK to go ahead with ENDA but without the Trans included, thereby incurring the wrath of every civilized GLBT person. Then HRC provokes Trans people furthefr by enlisting her in their dog and pony show and she bites the big apple, thining nievly that she is on the right side of things.

Susan got the spotlight by being foolish enough to think that she could just come out and handle the whole thing by herself, without anyone's help or guidance, when there was plenty of that available from many people who would and could have been excellent sources of advice.

The media keys in on the HRC and community controversy, then keys in on Stanton. Newsweek does a big spread on Transpeople (front page) and Susan walks into interviews with people like Larry King, totally talking of the cuff and with practically no comparable knowledge of what she is saying. Her story was about privelege and she didn't know that she didn't have anymore than any other Trans person, while at the same time seemingly parroting the HRC byline.

Then people are surprised that thunder and lightening follow close behind? Please, let's get a grip. Once again we have Trans people yelling "she doesn't represent me!!!!! In fact no one does."

The truth is, that if HRC had taken the offer of NTAC over 6 years before, to help provide Trans spokespersons for the GLBT community to listen to, then chances are, that Susan Stanton would not have been walking into a mine field and spokespeople would have stepped forward and by then would have been accepted and respected spokespeople for our community.

The show tonight will go down as another "Trans people are just like you and me human episode and lesson in life." The reality is that we are not just like them. We don't have equal rights, we live in fear for our lives, we still lose everything that was previously held dear to us, our jobs, our families and our friends, if we come out. It would be closer to compare our lives with that of a convicted murderer who was found not guilty after a year and a DNA test. Total condemnation and spectacularism in the media, followed by the lack of attrition, even after proving innocence. What's more, the spectre of still being sick and wrong, if we decide not to "go all the way". Tonight will show some of the pain that we go through with electric needles, community dissention and arguments and surgical scaples wielded by those who think that they can tell all of our stories by telling one of them. I predict that it will leave many behind as far as acceptance goes. I think that once again there will be the cries of "your not real women and men" that we so often hear in defense of a binary system with blinders on.

Susan Stanton will go down in our history as another experiment, where the rabbit that is pulled out of the hat, dissapears in front of your eyes to try and lead a life that is measured as close to normal as possible. Only to reappear in ten or twenty years a wiser and hopefully more accepting person of her own kind. Lets all hope that before she tries speaking for any of us again, she has learned that all of us need to accept gender diversity of all kinds as the basic argument against gender binary thinking.

she doesn't represent me!!
she doesn't represent me!!
oh boo hoo hoo.
do you think obama represents me?
do you think pelosi represents me?
If you want someone who does then do it your self.
I represent myself every time I walk out of the house, I've done it in the local city paper and I'll soon be doing it on local lgbt podcasts.
I don't have, nor do I want national attention.
Susan Stanton has it right now, let her do it for a bit. or if you prefer, do your own damn show.

You'll have to let me know how this turns out since I can't watch American TV!

You might be able to watch it, Alex, because it's on CNN. It's part of their on going documentary series "CNN Presents..."

A lot of territory has been covered here, mostly in the comments. I'm just going to jump around with my thoughts, rather than try to sort them out in order.

I think it's important to point out that Susan didn't put herself forward to be a spokesperson for the trans community. It was thrust upon her. In an interview on Larry King Live on Friday, she specifically said she was not an expert in trans issues when they trid to dub her as such.

Both the GLB & T communities attempt to take advantage of people who become newsworthy for whatever reason, which isn't completely unreasonable. It's hard for us to get coverage; so if someone is already getting it, we try to recruit them.

When Candace Gingrich came out while her brother was Speaker of the House, she was hired by HRC even though she had no activist experience, and was working as a UPS driver at the time. There were dozens - if not hundreds - of activists who had 20+ years of experience who would give their eye teeth to get a paying job in the movement who couldn't when she went sailing in. Same thing with Chaz Bono when he came out as a lesbian years ago.

Another issue is that as a community, we look with suspicion towards anyone who steps forward to be in a leadership position. Sometimes it's because we don't like self-promoters; but sometimes it's because we're envious that we aren't the spokesperson ourselves. Of course there can be many other reasons as well. But the upshot is that we savage our own leaders, and discourage others from stepping up to do the hard work and making themselves a target.

To say that NCTE is lying about asking people to come to DC to lobby, and is instead really just fundraising is grossly unfair. And to imply that Mara is unqualified to lead NCTE is patently absurd.

During Susan's interview on Friday, she was asked who went with her when she had surgery. She said no one; just the CNN crew who was following her. If that doesn't sum up her lonely journey which she bravely shared, hopefully for the enlightenment of others, I don't know what does. I suspect she would have rather had a friend.

"And to imply that Mara is unqualified to lead NCTE is patently absurd."


I never implied that. I agree she's totally qualified to lead a thoroughly useless organization.

My girlfriend and I watched about 15 min of the CNN show and then decided to watch a movie. It was a video version of a "YATA" - "Yet Another Transsexual Autobiography." Boring.

Firstly, YUCK!
I agree with Monica, it was another YATA.
The usual formula, makeup application, baby pictures, surgery. Same old, same old.
The MSM portrays trans people like we all do the same thing and do it the same way. But that is inaccurate, we all have different journeys.
Life is too complicated for everyone's life to be the same and then there is free will of course.

On the other hand, I feel for Susan.
She was thrust into the limelight.
She was outed. She had a plan she had to scrap.
She had to wing it, but then so did most of us.
The best laid plans of mice, and trans women.

I can not imagine having cameras following you around, revealing every major personal moment.
Transition is a personal journey.
I found the show voyeuristic in a way.
Especially the hair removal and surgery scenes.
By then I was on my fourth shot of Vodka.
I remembered the pain I experienced, but my story was different and I didn't have cameras following me around. I had my girlfriend with me. I didn't have the money to have surgery here in the US. I didn't have the access to power Ms. Stanton had. I didn't try to be the advocate for everybody. And I didn't and still do not trust the media.

I see a camera and I flee. The media is a bunch of liars and distorters of not only my truth, but all of our truths. The motivation is money, will this story sell? How much can we make of this poor pathetic sap? It's an ugly business. I run a business and know about the motive for profit, but some things are off limits to commerce. My life is not for sale.

I agree with earlier posts only we ourselves can tell our own story. Each of us has our own pain and loss. And our own triumphs. They can not be packaged for mass consumption, nor should they be.

I also agree that we are not like everybody else and there is not any way of conveying that to people. I am not like the straight mundane people I deal with everyday. I don't think I am better than the general public, but I have seen and experienced things other people can not imagine.
I am woman who sees the world differently than people who have not gender transitioned. My reality is not theirs.

Overall, I think Susan was brave to come out and transition. I think she was trying save her life like most of us are or have done. All trans people express that kind of bravery. But, I think she ate up the attention too much and she made her journey as Donna Rose said" more lonely that it had to be." There are lessons for all of us in her story. Some good. some bad.

Mais, c'est la vie. N'est pas?
(But, that's life. Isn't it?)

Other than when she was fired and immediately after, she wasn't forced to have cameras follow her. As she herself has said, involving her child in a film like this was a poor parenting choice. I feel she did this because she thought she was different from other trans people... more successful, with more power, a real adult not like the other losers in our community. A better kind of woman who would make a better spokesperson.

I have compassion for her as I do for any other transitioner (or person needing to transition). But I have no more compassion for her than any other transitioner in her age/social status group. Her story isn't one 1/10th as bad as many trans people of color who've been kicked out of their families and communities at a young age and left to fend for themselves on the streets.

If we honestly think the only people we can have representing us are white, upper middle class executives or academics then we're going nowhere. If we think those persons are the inherently more effective activists/spokespeople when we're just as blinded by our racist, classist societies indoctrination as the people who oppress us.

^correction: THEN we're just as blinded...

She does have an aire of being priveledged.
But a lot of us get a taste of being de-priveledged when we start to transition.

I had to start my business all over again as someone else. That was hard.

I don't relish this happening to someone, but one of the lessons I learned in transitioning from male to female is that I used to have a lot of priveledge being white and male. I know have still have certain amount of priveldge being causcasian, but being female is definateley a step down on the priveldge ladder. I learned not to take things for granted. The wife dying did help with that too. Life is precious and short.

You're right about the difference between POC and caucasians transitioning experience. It's way different. I've spoken to a few people of color and I was agast at the inequities. My transition was not easy for me, but after speaking with some black and hispanic women. I got off easy. I still have my house, I'm rebuilding my career and I am not alone. I feel very fortunate that I'm not dead or the living dead.

There does seem to be a bias of white college educated people (that would be me, but I don't consider myself a leader in any capacity) as far as trans leadership goes.
I am not saying there are not POC as leaders, but the numbers seem to be skewed in favor of being white and educated. I think this sets back the trans community (if there is such a thing) because those most desperately in need do not get heard.

I don't think that any of the celebs in question or the ones that are out there on the talking trail have a lot of knowledge about trans issues. I think we all have our own lives that we can associate with and maybe some knowledge of others which makes them more knowledgable than others. Yes, the stories are the same because that is what the media has made it. I have my life and to say that my life is a model for trans issues would be a lie. Yet, I have had some of the same that the media has portrayed over the years.
What the media does, is they try to make sense of who we are in terms that the general public can understand. I was at a forum a few years ago and they had some pretty smart kids on the panal. People asked questions and they would answer in a very medical way that most people didn't understand. This is why the newspaper writes for a 6th grader or younger. They want most people to understand what they are saying. So, to keep doing what most of us have seen a thousand times, is to make the general public understand. It needs to be done over and over again and again. We need the celebs who have been in the papers who can talk in front of people, who can get the point across that this is normal.
As far as Susan Stanton goes, she is as normal as they go. We have all heard her story, and it is different than some and the same to others. We are different, diversity is among us.
I write here sometimes and I'm not a writer nor have I ever took a class in writing. I'm High School grad who got D's. I had some college, but I was a good meatcutter and I feel a good bus driver. So, if you want to down me, go ahead.

Kathy Padilla | March 14, 2010 1:17 PM

"When Candace Gingrich came out while her brother was Speaker of the House, she was hired by HRC even though she had no activist experience, and was working as a UPS driver at the time."

Something to consider is that Ms. Stanton, with extremely credible government & policy experience at high levels .....was not hired by any of these large national lgbt groups. Even in a posotion below her experience level while she went through years of unemployment. If her politics didn't match those of the org. she certainly could have filled a business or administartive function.

Yes - it's problematic when someone going through all of the difficulties of transition, what that means for our relationships, employment, familes and personal well being is placed and/or places themselves in a position as spokeperson when they haven't yet worked through their transitions, learned our history & issues or had much direct experience with the T & lgb communities. It's almost impossible when going through such change and without that experience to avoid making mistakes that others will strongly criticise as they often are ones that are large political tactical blunders or undermine others in the community as this persons search for their place means eliminating other identies from the one they resonate with. This can often come out in ways the person later regrets. It's unfair to place someone in that position while they're figuring their lives out and are worrying if they can ever be employed again at the very same time.


One would hope that these orgs would have had such a persons interests at heart & helped through this period rather than going for the perceived immediate benefit to their organisation. It would also be in the orgs longer term interests.

Keri,

Many has been the time I've wished to thank you for your thoughtful commentary on issues involving the transgendered community, so this is long overdue. But here it is: thank you, because this was a welcome exploration of what's at stake.

As a lurker here on Bilerico for a while now, I should extend that thanks to a lot of everyone here, columnists and the commentariat alike. Whatever my own thoughts and the caution I've exercised over time in collecting them, I'm gratified to find so many of my own convictions reflected here. In particular, ginasf, my thanks to you for hitting the nail on the head. The demographics of who leads and who gets represented in our community must change.

My own two cents is that our leaders, our role models are already here, having become our heroes and our leaders through their brand of everyday heroism, the people who do so much good for the community, not those who catch the passing fancy of the news cycle. I take my inspiration from so many of the trans men and women I've gotten to see at work or get to know, in DC and Chicago, folks like Earline Budd, Casey Schwartz, Lois Bates, and Kate Sosin, to name a very few of many. To be a leader is something earned through more than mere ambition or transient media fascination.

Great topic!

All transgender and gay persons are alike when it is looked at from our need for basic human rights protections.

We are all part of a minority of people who can be fired, not hired, denied services and are often murdered.

This is why we transgendered persons need to be out of the closet. It is why we need to forget about what divides us and start thinking of the lack of protections in society that group us.

Jessie Jackson spoke in my community on Martin Luther King day. He said, no group has ever been granted their rights without demanding them.

When we look at human rights protections, we are all the same, GLBTQ!

In my humble opinion, it is all about respect... every variation of that word applied to us each trans person respecting their self, our community, acting respectable and requesting repect from society.

We will never get 100% participation of our community.

Those openly transgendered; not those in the closets of never being out or those stealth living 24/7 denying TG, will make the difference.

I just hope we trans aren't the last group on earth to demand and be granted the respect and equal protections that we are owed.

What happened to Susan Stanton was not what should have happened to anyone! Susan during her time in need was abused by HRC and other's. She did not know whom to trust! Rebecca Juro offered to post whatever Susan had wanted to post here on BILERICO! She refused. Susan there are friends and there users! The people here could have been your best friends!I hope that you still Read BILERICO! Regina

Actually Regina, what I promised Susan Stanton was that if she was willing to come on my Internet radio show and answer our questions, I'd give her the opportunity to state her case and tell her story directly to my audience, with no filter between her and the community. She'd complained that the St. Petersburg Times reporter misrepresented what she said, so I offered her the chance to set the record straight.

When I called her to try to set up the interview, she thanked me for calling and then hung up on me. In all honesty, if she wanted to do it, I'd still have her on as a guest when my show returns from hiatus in a few weeks (really! pods coming too!).

What I think really happened here was Susan was grossly naive in her dealings with HRC and they took full advantage of that. Certainly, as someone who'd worked in the political arena for as long as she had, Susan should have been smarter about shooting her mouth off before she really understood exactly who and what she was dealing with.

Worst of all, she put us in a position where we really had no choice but to speak out against her as sharply and directly as possible. There was just no way we could ignore her statements to the press that were so completely at odds with what our activists have been saying for decades. To do otherwise, to have allowed her and her words to stand unchallenged in the media, would have been to allow the possibility of significant damage to the fight for our equality, maybe even the passage of a non-inclusive ENDA. To me and to many others, that was simply unacceptable, and so we did what had to be done, we disempowered Stanton as a credible spokesperson for the transgender community.

I didn't enjoy bashing her, but I did feel it was necessary. My hope is that by now she's finally learned her lesson.

By all means, let's hope she's learned her lesson....
Never trust a TG activist not to stab you in the back, never never never speak the truth that a boatload of so called TGs are in fact men in dresses. That there is an essential difference between transvestites and women of transsexual history.

Even with Donna Rose's attempts at spin doctoring, the psychological and political rape of actual transsexuals by those who have, wish to keep male bodies while playing dressup has now escaped into the wider world......finally.

I watched this show last night with a non trans woman friend, she saw what I saw.

Oh, well if a cissexual woman said so, then it's obviously right.

Gina, I socialize with women, not trannys and consider myself cis...

Angela Brightfeather | March 15, 2010 12:30 PM

Here is the danger and the reality. As she said herself, if it wasn't working out there was always plan #3, which was to end it all. Anyone who is Trans understands what she was saying because it occurs to all of us. I have always stated that to stand in a room of 100 Transexuals is the only time in your life that you could bet that you are in a room of that many people who have come close to comitting suicide at some time in their life. I don't know of any other group of people that I can say that about, and it has happended many times in my years in this community. Perhaps a support group for severe depression might come close. The fact that those who consider themselves long term members of this community also consider themselves proudly as survivors goes without saying.

After all of what Susan went through with the media, HRC and the "misspeaks" about our community and the backlash from that, what if she had taken choice #3? How fast do you think that the Pat Robertson's and his ilk would be pressing for legislation to stop SRS? How much damage would it have done to our community in general, not only from the loss of one of us, but in such a public way and then to be attaked by the media and the religious right after it. That may still happen and it's a real lesson to learn about putting Trans people out there in the media without any controls over it. Susan could say a miloion times that this is only heer story. But the results is that to everyone else out there, this is our story.

Transition is a private club, and each of us who have questioned it for ourselves, are going though it or who have gone through it understand that the one thing that is most important is that it is the person going through it that has to make up their own mind about how they are going to do it and seek advice and help from a support system that is created to help with that process. To me, that means that the best time to have SRS is, when it makes very little difference in your everyday living and that you have fiends that you have around you to support you.

The fact that Susan had no one going to the hospital with her not only wrenched at my heart, but made me realize just how dangerous she made this whole thing for herself. I lost the time line while watching the show, but I know that there wasn't a lot of time between the coming out and the operation, so I could not but feel that she may have felt forced into hurring up the process, just to put an end to the filming and the intrusion in her life.

Susan said that she wanted to do the film to educate people. In the end, I am not so sure that from seeing the film I would ever advise anyone to do what she did and the way she did it. She had options in the beginning that would have allowed her to speak with others who could have helped her a lot more than HRC did. So I'm not sure about the educational worth of it from a Trans point of view. From a public point of view, I think the moment that she implied option #3, people were reaching for the tuner to go to another station. If I had a child who was Trans, that would have been a channel changer for me, and I would have had to answer a lot of questions that I had no good answers for.

I appreciated the moments of doubt, looking in the mirror and self examination, but I also think that type of thing is hard on yourself if you insist on putting the premier importance on there being only two ways to express gender diversity.

I did not appreciate the constant leg and shoe shots and think that they are a constant and irritating reminder of anti-feminist issues, as well as trying to over-spectacle the moment. If you cut out those shots, you might have had a chance to say somethng in their place that might have been more educational. I fault a lot of our own people for not having the sense to review this documentary beforehand and Susan for not insisting on it. Had they some input on it, I am sure that there are many places where the "typical Tranny" shots would have been cut immediately and replaced with more worthy comments and insights.

While Donna Rose made great points, I wish that other people in our community had also been highlighted when it came to noting the issues. Donna is a great spokesperson, but I think that by showing her commenting all the time, the diversity of our community is expressed less and it does not show the unity expressed by different people in our community. while we are always showing the diversity, we also need to show that at the upper escelons of our community, the differences fade out with the common intent to achieve equality among our spokespeople. They may still be problems at local levels, but at the national levels of our community, we accept everyone who is gender diverse because we all know how important it is to everyone. This was a chance to show some unity and they blew it, especially when they took it to the conference level and only expressed the fears and doubts in our community instead of noting the diversity, acceptance and freindships that are made at such gatherings. My ears were burning off when I heard the statement "men wearing lipstick". It was like beng cast back to the many moments that we as a community are so much more in pain and disunity and was not balanced at all by the times that we fight together.

I am waiting for some water cooler talk about this show, but see no signs of it coming back in discussions. Although I am pretty sure that all the talk at the GLBT Community Center will be about cutting of penises and such and more Oh-Humm moments. I am pretty sure that this documentary will copied and will be filed in support group libraries for members to look at when they don't hav a busy agenda on meeting nights, but I'm not sure that I would show it to a lot of first timers without someone there to answer a lot of questions and make some insightful comments about it. It's not the same trip that I think that many of them would like to make.

Lastly, I feel very badly that Susan did not seek more advice on coming out. It proves that our community needs to reach out better at the grassroots/support group level and that we need to de-emphasize SRS until people first accept he concepts of who and what they are and how it will affect others. Susan's comments about if she had known how much this would have affected everyone, she probably would not hav gone through it, then at the end wondering why she did not do it years ago is something that I understand, since I chose not to not change earlier in my life for the same reasons she noted. But I am sure it left a few questions unanswered in the minds of many when it comes to making choices in one's life and what people should do as opposed to what they must do to survive, and that is a big difference that I am sure will be harped on by those who decry our right to live as we do.

I am very appreciative of Susan's attempt in making this movie and the courage it took to do so, to say nothing of the courage and rsolve it took to get to the end of it and a new beginning. I am very happy that she got a good job close to her family and especially her son. Perhaps the unconcditional love between them was the best example in this movie of the way it should be. I wish her happiness and sincerely hope that she has and is still learning about Trans people and that she won't get up at any more HRC dinners, accept any more invites to be Pride Parade Marshals or start bragging at Trans conventions about how everyone should follow their dream. I do hope that some day she will be humble enough and grown thick enough skin to be able to work as an activist and leader in our community and to appreciate the shoulders of those she has been fortunate enough to stand on and who sacrificed much on her behalf in the past.
If she can get past the idea of "men in dresses" she might just become the kind of role model this community can use.

Get over yourself....

Transsexuals need to run as fast as they can from people like you to maximize survival. You socialize with trannys, you get socialized as a tranny should be the first thing any therapist should tell anyone born with transsexuality.

The majority of your "community" is men in dresses...ie crossdressers, drag queens, never never ops etc. That is reality, you know it, I know it and it's time the general public knows it.

Susan was abused by your community...not as badly as I was, but still abused. Juro just stated it clear as a bell.

Trannys have no claim on a moral high ground, transgenders have no business telling anyone about the absolute need for body correction of people born transsexual.

You are the problem, not the solution. And for what it's worth, my reaction to the one and only crossdresser convention (Southern Discomfort) I attended was exactly the same as Susan's.......jeeze look at all the men in dresses. That's why I would not wear the "badge".

After watching......I heard her say she was attending "support groups" some distance from home just prior to being outted to the press and the total destruction of her transition plan.

I'd give more than 100 to 1 odds it was some TG "everyone needs to be out and proud, you owe the community to destroy your own life" activist that outted her. I base that on my own personal experience of having something similar done to me on my first decent post-transition job.

The lowest depths of hell are reserved for TGs who do this.

Angela Brightfeather | March 15, 2010 8:01 PM

"Susan was abused by your community...not as badly as I was, but still abused. Juro just stated it clear as a bell."

Get over it? Thats like the pot calling the kettle black in your case.

It's time that you stop shooting holes in the statements of others because of your failure to be attractive enough to express yourself in any way other than throwing venom around.

When you make yourself the opposite of attractive, you can only expect others to attach that quality to you. Don't blame people for reacting to that by being repelled by you and treating you as the discriminating person that you profess to be by insisting on binary thinking. Your preaching about not being a part of the Transgender Community, yet discriminating and insulting people who choose to support it, justifiably gives you the respect you deserve among them. The alarming problem with that is you seem to like being in that position. Which puts it all in the correct perspective.

Discrimnination, elitism and pretentiousness is just as ugly when it comes from within or without the Transgender community. You seem to want to enforce that to some new and higher level. Believe me, you and Ron Gold appear to be on the same page and I think that everyone understands that.

You attack me on appearance? You go personal because you cannot handle the truth? I'm sixty years old, some people find me attractive, even you wanted to sleep with me ten years ago.....or is that what this is really about, that I wouldn't.

I repel people personally? It's ok to physically assault me, rape me, try to leave me homeless because I am not pretty enough? Seriously?

Someone please explain how this is not a major TOS violation not to mention a stereotypical (and embarrassing) example of pure patriarchal dismissal of a woman's viewpoint with the tried and true....she isn't pretty enough to be paid attention to.

Wow.....just wow.

People write about a fractured transgender community as if it were a bad thing. As if all transgender people have the same interests, the same struggles, the same taste in clothes.

We have a community that believes, to keep the community whole some must be recruited, explicitly against their will, to support the struggles of others.

Maybe that's how leaders of this community get to be leaders.

Maybe there would actually be a chance of achieving some of the goals many share if the fractured community were recognized and political terms were made with this reality.

But then, I suppose it is much more rewarding to claim to be leaders of a fractured transgender community than actually to achieve the goals one advocates.