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."
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.