Rebecca Juro

Why The Transgender Community Had To Take Out Susan Stanton

Filed By Rebecca Juro | March 18, 2010 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: ENDA, HRC, media, Susan Stanton, transgender

It's something you hope you'll never have to do, but you do it when you have to.

I watched "Her Name Was Steven" on CNN Saturday night, and it's taken me until now to decide how I want to discuss this documentary and revisit this story. I found myself somewhat closer to this story than most when it happened, in part because I'd actually met Susan Stanton at an event here in New Jersey, and because when she did an interview with the St. Petersburg Times she said some pretty awful and disparaging things about her transgender sisters and brothers and I'd blogged about it.

Not surprisingly, the reaction to the interview was swift and direct from myself, Marti Abernathey, and many others. What may have seemed to some like a "pile-on" or an aggressive attack against Susan Stanton was really, in essence, self-defense. Stanton, a transwoman, had just told the world that transgender people weren't worthy of being protected against discrimination in the workplace. Many of us felt compelled to say just as loudly that she was wrong, that Stanton's own story, not to mention so many others like it, is crystal-clear evidence of why transgender and gender-variant Americans need to be legally protected against discrimination.

Some knew or suspected what was going on right from the start, and many more figured it out as this story played out over time. The Human Rights Campaign and certain members of Congress wanted to see the passage of a non-inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2007 and they apparently felt that a celebrity transwoman like Susan Stanton could be persuasive in advocating for that bill, presumably demonstrating support for it among transgender people.

When I saw that interview, I knew I couldn't stay silent, even though I also knew that speaking out would entail directing some rather sharp words toward a fellow transwoman. When the choice is to either bash a fellow transperson or increase the chance of incalculable damage to the movement for transgender equality as whole by not doing so, there's only one reasonable choice I and so many others could make. When push comes to shove, I value the ongoing movement for transgender equality and its potential success far more than I value the personal comfort of any one individual, and I think that's true for a lot of us.

Citizen lobbyists from NCTE and Garden State Equality (yay, home team!) have been visiting offices of members of Congress this week to lobby for ENDA. Even now, two years later, we're still struggling to get this bill passed, even just for it to remain on the agenda. Now, just imagine if we'd simply allowed Susan Stanton disseminate her views in the media without challenge or comment. What might that have done to the chances of an inclusive ENDA ever seeing the light of day? On the other hand, what we did see was quick and direct public condemnation of Susan Stanton's political positions from the transgender community, coupled with the ongoing protests against HRC's support of the non-inclusive bill throughout that year. This freight train was already rolling down the tracks at full speed when Susan Stanton made the mistake of stepping in front of it...but perhaps she was pushed?

HRC, and surely the Dems as well, had to know that we'd never let Susan Stanton's public statements on transgender rights go unanswered. As much as we may not like some of the things they do, we also know that these people are just not that clueless. Therefore, it's fair to conclude that it was known going in at least by some that they were setting up Susan Stanton as a sacrificial lamb. The apparent plan seemed to be that they'd put her out there, use her statements as evidence that a significant portion of the transgender community supports the passage of a non-inclusive ENDA, and then hope that Stanton's notoriety and status as a transwoman would shield them from the brunt of the negative backlash from the trans community and the allied progressive left which they had to know was sure to follow.

The problem for these folks was that virtually none of the politically-conscious transgender and allied community bought it. We've been doing this for far too long not to recognize a cheap political parlor trick when we see one. Susan Stanton has no credibility as an activist leader in our community, yet she was being promoted as one by HRC and the straight media. We called her out and publicly discredited her because we had to, before her fifteen minutes of fame gave her words and opinions a veneer of credibility and of representing the viewpoints of a persecuted minority group with whom she apparently sees herself as sharing little in common with save the physical experience of transitioning.

Is there a better idea? Well yes, actually, and more than one in fact. First and foremost, there's what's going on right now, directly lobbying members of Congress. Second, there's the Internet and other trans-inclusive media. While there's often much success to be had by meeting with your member of Congress face-to face, there's even more potential success waiting for those who can extend their reach through the media outside their own circles. In order to accomplish that, we need good media messengers. What we don't need and can't tolerate is someone like Susan Stanton blundering in and shooting her mouth off without taking the time and effort to understand the players and playing field, particularly when there's so much at stake.

Celebrity, even "Z-list" celebrity, can go a long way toward opening doors that may be closed to others, but it can also paint a target when public opinion turns negative. Susan Stanton reveled in her minor celebrity status, but she didn't understand that simple notoriety can only get people to listen, it takes a lot more than just having been featured in the media a few times to get people to actually rally behind you. Just being well-known isn't enough, especially when you're speaking out against treating a minority group you ostensibly represent fairly and equally.

The transgender community rejected and disempowered Susan Stanton as a community spokesperson because Stanton herself left us with no other choice. She used her notoriety to promote the idea that transgender people are unworthy of equal rights and treatment under the law, that we aren't ready for equality, as she put it. Leaving aside the obvious question of how any persecuted minority group can not be ready to be treated fairly and equally under the law, Stanton's clear disdain for her fellow transpeople and her elitism in separating herself from the rest of the community, "men in dresses" as she sees us (I wonder what she thinks of FTMs? Is she even aware there is such a thing?), set the stage for both an angry personal response from many transpeople as well as a necessary public refutation of her statements in the media.

I'm disappointed that we had to take down Susan Stanton, but not at all apologetic. We have nothing to be sorry for. Our movement was attacked and we defended it. The fact that the attacker came from within our community is irrelevant. We used the very same weapons she did, only ours were sharper and cut deeper. We did what had to be done to defend our movement and the progress we've made, what we will no doubt do again and again, when and as the need arises. The price of doing nothing is just too high.

The passage of an inclusive ENDA will hardly solve all of our problems, but with non-discrimination as the law of the land, things cannot help but get better immediately in the short term as workers who are unjustly discriminated against finally have recourse to the law, and over the long term, as the standards of the law become the cultural norm, much as has happened for racial and ethnic minorities. Failing to speak out against Susan Stanton could have potentially threatened transgender inclusion in ENDA by offering political cover, thin though it might have been, to skittish Democrats who hadn't yet worked up the political will to protect the basic civil rights of all American citizens to take the easy way out and vote for the non-inclusive bill.

The lesson to be learned here is that we can and should be speaking for ourselves. We can and should be choosing our own leaders and our own spokespeople. We can and should be promoting our own agenda, in our own way, and in our own voices. We can and should include among those voices not only military heroes and business leaders, but also parking lot attendants and grocery clerks. We can and should be doing a much better job of showing America and the rest of the world the true depth and diversity of who and what we are. We can and should be using the media, all forms of media, to tell our stories and present our perspectives much more effectively than we have been until now.

The rise and fall of Susan Stanton teaches us that you can't be accepted as a credible transgender spokesperson or leader unless you've actually got the goods, no matter how much media buzz you generate. The community just won't allow it. It also proves we've got some more slots we need to fill in that regard.

In a community where it's common to shun the spotlight, it seems we're running a bit short on people willing or able to step into it right now. Here's hoping that changes as time goes on. Mara Keisling and a relative handful of transgender activists and online mediamakers can't and shouldn't be doing it all.

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I feel sorry for Susan. She said early on that she had only ever met one or two other trans people (probably all trans women), so she obviously had no clue about the political forces at work around ENDA or the issues that were at stake. She could have spent the rest of 2007 after her firing educating herself, especially by following the ENDA debacle that fall, but she obviously didn't. So, she was naive, and, as you say, may simply have been set-up & used by those who oppose an inclusive ENDA. I'm sure it must have been painful for her to be called out as she was, but it was necessary. I know that, early on in my own transition, I never would have commented on political issues in public. Sadly, she didn't have a similar discretion, perhaps relying on her experience with the media as a city manager to give her false confidence, and she got burned for it. I wish her well and hope that she is learning now the things she should have learned years ago.

Stonewall Girl Stonewall Girl | March 19, 2010 1:16 AM

I've met Susan a few times and reached out to her when the original story broke. She appeared over her head being thrust into the limelight and "used" by HRC and others as a spokesperson with absolutely no real knowledge of the transgender "community" nor the history of our political and societal struggles.

I remember reaching out to my political friends on the area ... we soon determined she was not a registered Democrat, but a Republican. So why is anyone surprised that she didn't favor non-discrimination laws? Even Mara came down there to help her with PR, but she obviously did not take her advice. HRC must have appeared to a better and more comfortable fit! Whenever I spoke to her she seemed pretty much overwhelmed with everything and had no inclination to seek or heed advice. Take advice from a transperson who might have something positive to offer? Hell, what do we know?

For all her missteps and naivete, one thing about her did impress me, that was her positive and almost libertarian attitude! I honestly don't think she will ever feel comfortable as part of the community, nor should we look to her actions as a community role model for us as complete persons, but as far as a role model for individuals who have succeeded we should look at her positive attitude and persistence and emulate that!

Rebecca, I don't really disgree with anything you've said, but it doesn't speak to the documentary itself. Such as, was the story worth telling; was it done well and/or fairly; did it further the education of the public in a positive way about our issues; has Susan grown and learned since her original misstakes?

My own opinion is that the documentary is worth watching, and does fill in some of the gaps in her story which sheds light on how some of those things happened. And I do feel it is a net plus for our community that the documentary was presented to the public.

My sense is that she has grown, and now understands some of the missteps that she took. I also think that Donna Rose's contributions to the documentary were invaluable, and helped give voice to the trans community's concerns with Susan. That, too, added value to the documentary.

On Susan Stanton,honestly she was in Florida. Its not only Trans unfreindly, its Trans-phobic in those areas. I know, I lived in Jacksonville for the longest time and finally moved when it became apparent that there was no resources available.

Not because of her, but because of my own ignorance once I did come to grips of being 'ME' and attending support groups with other Trans people I knew that those who first come in to the community are ignorant about many things and do need to be educated on EVERYTHING! So, I stick myself out there for the new ones and show them the resources and educate them as needed.

As for the Documentary, if you ever read Pam's House Blend they do have the rules to the Transgender Documentary Drinking Game. As I watched the documentary I was giving support and care to a friend who was recovering from FFS and telling her about the game. We figured that before the first commerical break an Austrailian would have been falling down drunk.

The documentary hit nearly every stereotype that cis-gender people have of Transgender people. The only way I can equate it is if a member of the Ku Klux Klan made a documentary about a African American...and used every negative stereotype in thier arsenal. You may think that is a bit harsh but I don't.

In the end, the documentary wasn't so much a documentary of a person having a difficult transition but was a parody of a documentary of a Transgender person with high lites of Susan Stanton's personal life and as a 'Transgender Activist'.

...besides some well needed laughs for my friend (lucky for her she didn't pop any stitches) I didn't like it at all. Total crap.

I disagree, but with conditions.

Of course Susan was mistaken in her initial comments about other trans persons. I think we all would recognize that. But being transgender is a journey, and many of us on the journey say things and do things that we regret later. I think that to attack her is our community shooting its wounded. Of course those of us who are asked by media or other public venues and we have to speak up for us all. But there is a way to do that and not BASH another trans-woman. I think we all need to forgive her and move on, and not keep bringing it up as though she has committed the unpardonable sin.

This trans journey is tough enough without being outed in public in the national news. When that happens it brings much pressure to bear upon the person, and every word and action becomes public fodder. Even the wise among us have encountered situations that have been difficult,

So I for one give Susan my love and forgiveness, not my judgment. Our community has had quite enough judgment to last a lifetime.

Excellent points, Virginia. I concur.

Very well said, Virginia, and quite compassionate.

Unfortunately, as in any group, it is the militia of that group that gets the press and the attention; it is that self-same militia that then demands everyone within that group conform to their beliefs. Very few militias show compassion.

Or sanity.

I agree all transitioners need compassion. But let's not kid ourselves Susan's journey was somehow harder than other transitions... some of it was just televised. As I mentioned on another thread, compare her transition to thousands of young trans people of color who are tossed out of their families and communities, have little or no money, have been marginalized from their schools, deal with lethal violence and tell me Susan had it worse. It's not the victim Olympics but neither do I appreciate her getting extra empathy that trans people from poor communities who are truly struggling are regularly denied.

She made some bad decisions about her ability to speak intelligently about issues of which she was really quite ignorant. She did it in a highly public way the media needed to know this woman was NOT our spokesperson. Hopefully she's learned and hopefully we've all learned from this experience.

Kathleen of Norfolk | March 18, 2010 10:35 PM

In all seriousness, this article undercuts what you want. At the end, you almost beg people to get involved. At the same time, people who want to get involved are required buy into the tactics selected by what you describe as a limited number of activists. If not, you will be attacked.

Susan Stanton was attacked because she spoke out against treating transgender people fairly under the law at a time when transgender inclusion in ENDA was being debated in Congress.

Susan Stanton has the right to say or believe whatever she wants, but she doesn't have the right to do it as a spokesperson of the trans community. That's what we attacked, not her right to speak, but her right to speak for us.

Kathleen of Norfolk | March 18, 2010 10:58 PM

I recognize that Stanton was being trotted out in the media. However, where do you draw the line? There are so few people really involved with transgender activism that was are all leaders to some extent. It is all a matter of degree. In my case, I don't have anything to do with the organized trans movement but have made real policy changes in my own governmental and academic circles. Personally, I don't buy into some of things that the trans movement currently supports (Note: I don't go out of my way to speak out against them...just for the record). Is that worthy of being attacked?

Kathleen, I disagree about the lack of trans activists. There are lots of trans activists who have done incredible work with limited resources. The issue is more does the HRC and certain other well funded LGBT orgs recognize them as legitimate activists? For a long time most trans activists have been demonized as "unreasonable" or "unprofessional" which is basically a code word for... they won't do what we want, speak the party line and follow our direction. Susan Stanton was viewed as being more malleable and she was self-absorbed/privileged enough to actually believe she knew what she was talking about.

As far as I can see from Susan Stanton's comments, I can only observe she has done those of us who fall under the Transgender umbrella a huge dis-service. Now I have to ask, is this the line to get into which might help pull the knife the HRC and Susan seems to have lodged in the backs the Transgendered?

Eric Payne | March 19, 2010 6:32 AM

Susan Stanton is entitled to her personal opinion.

From all I've seen and read, she did not seek out some sort of "public spokesperson" or "transgender leader" role - it was thrust upon her via duplicity on the HRC's part.

It really does seem the HRC has become just another political entity whose primary role is no longer to serve the community via advocacy and lobbying, but to prolong issues, simply to ensure their fund-raising and existence continue.

Did the entire transgender community "take out" Susan Stanton, like some parody of the short story "The Lottery," or was it, rather, a number of trans-activists objected to her message and vieewpoint and decried her, with greater or lesser effect?

Doesn't seem to me as if she has been taken anywhere except to the status of media figure, and one whose name is widely known. To much of the public, Susan Standon will come to mind when people see the word "transsexual" or "transgender"

janice josephine carney | March 19, 2010 8:31 AM

Steve Stanton was a right wing conservative Republican, being OUTED as a active cross dresser did not change her view on politics. Steve was not active in the fight with Winn-Dixie, over the firing of the cross dresser truck driver, Peter oiler. The first thing Susan Stanton did when she had her first press conference was lie, and she kept that up through her last interview. One big lie was that she did not sue the city of GULFPORT over discrimination because she loved the city. The reality was that the city had protections for “transgender” employees in the city Charter, and they are in the cities employee s hand book. The problem is she had no honest case; she was fired for abusing her position by being paid to attend conferences as Steve Stanton, Gulfport’s city manager. She would use the town funds to go to the cities of these conferences as Susan Stanton and cross dress for the weekend and not participate in the conference. As for the lies; I lived in Gulfport as an active transgender resident. I presented her with the proposal for a inclusive HRO, introducing her to Karen Doering (who would become her person attorney). We lost the HRO by one vote. When I was speaking Steve Stanton and her good friend Mayor Jackson were whispering in each other’s ears and laughing. In my book “Purple Hearts and Silver Stars” I have a poem called “Ministers of Hate” about that night’s meeting. I had the last laugh a year and a half later after working to vote out the mayor and two city commissioners that voted against the HRO. So Susan Stanton knew an out transgender woman that lived in Largo and was very active in the cities politics. When she was outed to a close friend of mine that works for the St Petersburg Times ,I was in Boston with my brother and niece, both were dying from cancer. I have lobbied in DC many times with SLDN to end “Do not ask Do not tell, and with Mara Keisling and NCTE for transgender inclusion. I was intensely hurt when I saw Mara standing next to S S and praising her. When SS was telling reporters that no other Trans person from Florida had ever come to Washington before; Mara cheered and went along, an insult to all Florida Transgender Activist.

As President Obama says, Janice, you're entitled to your own opinion, not your own "facts".

Stanton was outed as a transsexual, not a cross-dresser. I'm not sure why you're trying to make that differentiation, as if it's any more acceptable to discriminate against one or the other.

Stanton was city manager of Largo, not Gulfport. As such, she wouldn't have any cause to sue Gulfport.

Her critics claimed she had bullied employees and wasn't trustworthy because she "lied" about who she was as their reasons for firing her. There weren't accusations of her failing to do her job or misappropriating funds.

The mayor agreed that Stanton's firing was clearly discrimination based on her gender identity, as if that wasn't patently obvious.

The mayor was and is Pat Gerard, not Jackson. And according to the St. Petersburg Times, Jackson was Stanton's critic, not her friend.

Karen Doering was the lawyer from the National Center for Lesbian Rights, not her personal attorney.

Further, it wouldn't have been possible for Mara to undermine Stanton by correcting her in front of the press about whether or not trans activists had been to DC from FL. It was a minor point not germane to Stanton's story, and it would be unprofessional for Mara to point that out and embarrass her. That's not a personal affront by Mara to FL. activists. She wasn't the one who made the statement.

"When she was outed to a close friend of mine that works for the St Petersburg Times... "

Are you the one who outed her? Very few people knew about her prior to her outing. In your post, you state that you did know about her, and say that your close friend works for the publication that outed her. It's never been discovered who outed her to the St. Petersburg Times. Care to make some news?

Sorry, but living in Tampa, I cannot think of one person anywhere in the gender spectrum who does not feel anything but contempt and revulsion toward Ms. Stanton. She used the pulpit at the 2007 Rememberence service to attack all the leaders and programs helping transpeople in our area as "useless" without actually knowing what they do. She called the Salvation Army a "leftist" organization and they had just finally agreed to shelter transwomen without making them stay with the men. Personally, I wish her the best in her new job and hope she goes about the business there and stays out of transgender issues.

Rev Donna Tara Lee | March 19, 2010 9:36 AM

I have been involved in a few civil right campaigns involving Trans persons and I must say that anyone who speaks against trans rights is my enemy. I am M_F and am soon to be 62 years old. I am a good citizen, a retired federal employee of 35 years, am a substitute teacher where I live and active in civic affairs. For Ms. Stanton to refer to us as " men in dresses " is using the same quote our opponents use. And I must say I am only 5:4, certainly no man in a dress there.

Her comments are traitorous to the community that so supported her when she lost her job. Is she some kind of a trans elitist that when it happened to her it was discrimination but to the rest of us it's because we are not ready for equality yet? I have heard that arguement used against women, Afro-Americans and now GLBTQ persons but never by one of our own till now, against us. Shame on you, Susan, for letting HRC take advantage of you. You should have known better.

Allison Sinclair | March 19, 2010 9:48 AM

I think the blame lies in some of our Community so called leaders. You just do not put someone like Susan Stanton out on a public platform to speak on what should or should not be good for the Trans Community. She had no knowledge of anything Trans and at that time was just coming to grips and realization about herself.

Allison Sinclair | March 19, 2010 9:51 AM

I think the blame lies in some of our Community so called leaders. You just do not put someone like Susan Stanton out on a public platform to speak on what should or should not be good for the Trans Community. She had no knowledge of anything Trans and at that time was just coming to grips and realization about herself.

Angela Brightfeather | March 19, 2010 10:10 AM

Susan Stanton made her choices to deal the way that she wanted to and in politics or in life, if you make bad choices, you pay the piper. In this case her choices alligned her with a major opponent of "our" basic issue for equality when it comes to ENDA. Ask someone like Peter Oiler or Sylvia Rivera how they felt about what Stanton said at the time.

Is it still a coincidence that this new update of Stanton comes out at a time when ENDA is being held in committee like a bad stepchild and still being questioned by polticians on the basis of what comes first, ENDA, DADT or repeal of DOMA? It is the activists of our community that raise the questions and confront them directly as to the timing of such a story and how it plays into the hands of incrementalists who want to act like the Republicans of health reform legislation and "stall the game" or "stop the momentum" of ENDA.

As to the leaders in our community..... Most Trans people would not know a Trans leader if they got hit in the head by one.. Susan Stanton proved that point herself when true, working and experienced leaders of the Trans community rushed to her side to advise her about HRC and what she was getting into and to cool her jets. But no, she got all defensive and having been in a leadership position as Steven, she thought the same principals could work as Susan, the first of which politically is aline yourself with a large and well funded organization that might even have a job for you.

Trans leaders have been carrying this community forward since Compton and Stonewall. Some have been out front, but the vast, vast majority of them have done it in the shadows, the support group level, the community centers and by working with GLB organizations who backed them by signing a pledge when the real issue of inclusiveness came up about ENDA. That was their reward for their years of service. Seeing other GLB organizations recognize their right to work after they had worked together on so many levels at the grassroots and after so many Trans leaders had led their little groups of Trans people on adventures in lobbying, picketing HRC dinners about inclusion and simply walking proudly by their side in Pride Parades across the country to prove that as Trans people they can be out and proud also.

For the people like Susan Stanton and others who think that they know the shortcuts to understanding Transgender issues and that they can bop right in and start talking about them without experiencing any of the hard work that it takes to learn about them first hand.... that's a bad choice to make. Most of these activists and leaders in the Trans community over the years are not that ego driven that they have to stand in front of a microphone and claim that they must be followed or advised in all things. They hang back and take a lead only when it is necessary and are openly vocal only when it calls for defending our community. They know exactly what to expect when they claim to lead the Transgender Community about any issue. When they speak they make sure that people know that it is them speaking for themselves because they have learned the lesson of the "safe space" the hard way when trying to speak for others, they understand about diversity and respect it.

Susan Stanton made more mistakes about Trans people and how to represent their issues than anyone I have seen in some time. Why and how that happened is immaterial really. The damage that it did and the lessons we learn from it are very important.

Unlike Becky, I disagree with her on the need for more spokespeople out there for our community right now. I think that people like herself, Marti and others are just now discovering thru blogging and other media sources, shooting interviews and using well selected public news sources like on line radio, that there is a whole new and developing culture out there for teaching about Trans issues. They are leading in that area, but hardly any one of them would claim to be Trans leaders because they know that they might as well paint a target on their back. Susan Stanton thought that would not happen to her and she was very wrong.

I believe that one of the most important things about ENDA is that it will provide the basis for more open discussion about Trans issues on all levels, and from that will come the spokespersons for our community in the future. More open than ever before, because they will finally be able to emerge from the shadows and speak openly without losing their livlihood or endangering their lives or having to confront the many individuals that are the Transgender Community.

They will be able to seek funding within the community more openly and run for positions of leadership within their general communities and within the next ten years or less, they will be working in Congress and really changing things by being in a position to lead.

And make no mistakes about it, when that happens they will be oweing their success to all of those activists who for years have had the vision to work hard, contribute greatly and to defend our community so that they could be the first Transgender person to be in that position, just as much as Barney Frank owe's a share of his success to people like Harvey Milk.

Personally, I think that when that happens, the Susan Stanton Story will be archived in a deep vault in the CNN library and will have played a very minor role. Like all Trans people everywhere, we hope the best for her and that she can find her feet enough in the coming years to play some role of leadership. Only time will tell. In the meantime we will listen and heed the words of people like Jillian Wiese, and organizations like NCTE, IFGE, TAVA and others who are walking the walk and have our community and it's losses, deeply engrained in their hearts, while they use their minds and experience to help guide our actions as we choose to move ahead as individuals.

Allison Sinclair | March 19, 2010 10:10 AM

Some people will go to great lengths to sensationalize their stories for their own personal gain. Janice you have the facts down so I would not have any reason to doubt what you said. It is truly sad that someone would be so hypocritical when telling their story especially on a nationwide aired documentary.

"Some people will go to great lengths to sensationalize their stories for their own personal gain. Janice you have the facts down so I would not have any reason to doubt what you said."

Allison, I don't think that's a fair assessment of the situation. She didn't go to the press; they came to her. And whether or not you like how she handled the press, her story was accurately portrayed.

However, Janice does not have her facts down. I've addressed that above.

Apologize if this double posts. Technical stupidity this morning.

I've been trying to articulate a point of view about this CNN special for a few days now. Not being familiar with Susan Stanton's story, I was really hopeful that CNN's piece would be a more positive and informative human interest story about the emotional, physical and political issues facing Trans individuals.

Unfortunately, I found Susan to be fundamentally unlikeable. Smarmy even. It ended up feeling like a story about a cheap politician embroiled in a professional scandal (could have been infidelity) and as far as I'm concerned the fact that the "scandal" involved her transition is just really unfortunate.

I felt the way I typically feel when lesbians are portrayed on television--oh look, a lesbian! oh wait, she's a murdering psychopath stalking a straight woman. sigh.

I'm sorry to say that I got more out of MTVs True Life: I'm Transgendered and found it's subjects far more compelling and sympathetic.

But I will say that after reading Bilerico and watching that special, I'm going to be very wary about donating my money to HRC. Which some here might consider a minor victory.

You’re dreaming on this “take out concept”. Not exactly an effective take-out considering she just got two hours on CNN, and nearly every blog, T-group, and organization is lit-up with a majority of transgirls fawning over the story and asking for more.

Will you people stop looking for the Silver Bullet spokesperson, it continues to end badly. Oh yes, you left out the part about HRC and the secret Swiss bank accounts.

I find the title of this posting, particularly troubling and sad.

I had not read the St. Pete post, thanks for the link. It was sad, but not surprising. It reminded me of how when I first came out, I was one of those, "oh I'm so straight-acting" gay boys. We all internalize bullshit and then hopefully, some of us work through it. I got this sense that Susan was in an early stage of her coming out as well.

Regardless, purity tests only create a circular firing squad that slowly purge everyone from a movement to the point that the movement can't sustain itself. I've seen it in a lot of the leftist circles I've run it- around anti-racism, anti-capitalist, and the old trot movements in the 60's.

I see it now within the LGBT movement- are you pro Dan Choi or pro HRC? What about realizing there are a million different routes to equality and we all need to be traveling as many as possible.

Whether Susan should be a spokesperson or not is rather irrelevant, her unique circumstance made her a spokesperson, whether we like it or not. I actually ended up watching the CNN documentary at a hotel bar on work travel- and one of the bar mates and I struck up a conversation and talked about it. He was a straight guy- and it was all eye-opening to him. But he learned some stuff and came away a little bit more understanding. Which to me is a plus.

People like Susan need a place in the movement and the movement can benefit from the unique circumstances that Susan has encountered. The last thing Susan needs to be is "taken out" by her own community.

Yes, she has said some very hurtful things, she might be a crazy right-wing republican (I don't know) - but she still deserves the same opportunity to learn / grow / develop that I know I have had and so many of us have had during our coming out processes.

I wish we would all spend a little less time taking out people and more a little bit more time taking them in.

janice josephine carney | March 19, 2010 3:57 PM

I was a little brain dead I meant Largo, I moved to Gufport from Largo. For some reason Gulfport came out. Eveything else is just the truth, I do not care if you quetion reality . if you go back and read my whole piece you will see that I know the new mayor and the old mayor of Largo.

I did read your whole post, Janice, and you didn't mention Mayor Gerard. And you misstated several other things which I specified, but you haven't refuted. Additionally, you didn't respond to my question of you.

Angela Brightfeather | March 19, 2010 4:00 PM

"I wish we would all spend a little less time taking out people and more a little bit more time taking them in."

I agree and without any reservation I can say that there have been literally hundreds, if not thousands of Trans people doing just that for many years.

However, I believe that the only way that Susan Stanton can come out of this on a positive note is to take all those finely tuned leadership abilities of hers and to start and led a Trans support group where she lives. She needs to sit and listen month after month to the people who share the same space telling their stories.

If that happens for a few years, I will recognize her as someone who is willing to go through the "stuff" before smelling the roses. I have no doubt that if she begins to help others in her own town that she is the City Manager in as well as herself, that she will learn real fast what some people have been trying to tell her. All she has to do is follow one person who comes in to her group as a first timer CD who has not been out, through their path to SRS and she will understand that her uniqueness is shared by many others. When you take the time to help others from beginning to the end of their dream and they become your dearest friends as you help them along that path, you understand very quickly how important it is to be inclusive from the start to the finish line. You also become real appreciative of how everyone expresses themselves because you find out it's all part of the same big picture when it comes to acceptance. And if you can't be that way, why would you ever expect anyone else to be that way?

So does anyone know what she is doing right now for Trans people in the town she is managing? I bet she wouldn't have to much trouble finding and reserving a safe meeting place for a support group to start up since she manages her towns property agreements.

janice josephine carney | March 19, 2010 4:05 PM

Susen Stanton had the choice to leave the city hall by the back door and go home to her wife and son. She shocked every one in city Hall by not doing that. It was her decision to have that press conferance.

I can half way understand where she was coming from. In ways I think the same way and let me tell you why. I transitioned to be the person I was and am. I'm female and that is why I needed the surgery to make myself feel comfortable. I do get that not everyone needs the surgery, just like I didn't go out and get my face done and other surgeries, so it wasn't about any on no surgery it was about what I saw in the community. I saw that most of the GLBTQ etc. were into sex and that was all they talked about. I know sex is nice but there is more to being who you are than just having the best sex. I remember going to a community meeting at the GLBT center and what I saw was dildo and pornographic literature and pictures hanging all out in the open. Someone said yes, we have sex. I know that but I was in a community center and not a porn shop. Whenever I go to a gay pride show or parade, what is it that is most prominate. Well, it's the fake breasts and the dildos in the pants and everything to turn middle America against our community. We want to have the same rights and we want our honor to be like everyone elses. Why can't we do that? OR, maybe I'm just older and think different. That is why I don't get along with some of the people.

I was working in St.Pete conducting a transgender support group, doing HIV/AIDS outreach in our community, and doing education on the State and County levels. I helped start the first trans-inclusive shelter. I trained police officers in Florida on how to work with our demos. Ms. Stanton called me an angry radical and bad for the community to my face and publically. Janice is absolutely correct in everything . I think Ms. Stanton needs to go about running Lake Worth and try being a serious thoughtful person. She used the bully pulpit given to her to express opinions that were based on nothing at all------- not knowledge nor experience.

Kathleen of Norfolk | March 20, 2010 2:53 AM

The best thing that Stanton can do for trans people is to do a good job in managing that city. Showing that trans people are competent and capable in high profile jobs helps all of us.

I will bet that many of you will either attack or want to attack me for what I am going to say about this issue. I don't mind but please at least read it carefully before you call for my blood.

I disagreed with some of the things Susan said in her early exposure to the media as an "outed" transsexual. I told her so and gave her my reasoning. She told me at that time that she was not seeking to be a "spokesperson" on Trans issues and was shocked at the vehement attacks from people within the "community". But let's take an overview of the actual events.

Susan criticized "us" for not taking a more active stance with Congress. She said we needed to do a better job of educating both Congress and the public. Howls erupted but guess what? We seem to have followed that exact advice for the last 2 years and I have seen many efforts rewarded including the presentations to congressional committees during ENDA hearings.

In the meantime Susan sought to rebuild her career and applied for many city manager jobs. She worked tirelessly to be accepted for her abilities as a city manager in spite of no protections and finally secured a job in Florida of all places. I have to admire that. Does that mean ENDA is superfluous? Absolutely not but it does show that Susan overcame a huge amount of obstacles because she not only has skills but also believes in herself.

I look at it this way. Susan really helped us by becoming (inadvertently) a galvanizing force. She ignited a bonfire. She got a bit torched in the process but she has survived. And don't forget that while going through all this crud she also survived the surgeries that corrected a very basic anatomical anomaly.

So, I applaud Susan even as I take issue with some of her opinions. She has not been "taken out". She has succeeded where many have failed. Now let's get on with the massive effort we all need to pass ENDA and thank Susan for her catalytic role.

I think you make a good point, Deena. That merely being visible, competent, and proud, is a service to our community. It is the lesson of the earlier GLB movement that being out is the single most powerful act any individual can take; and by putting a human face on the issue, and showing that we are someone's spouse/child/parent/co-worker, we aren't the scary and anonymous "other". Once upon a time, anti-gay bigots would say things like, 'we don't have any people like that in my district (or family)'. Well, no one says that anymore, except the president of Iran, who was openly and derisively laughed at for being absurd.

By surviving and thriving, Stanton has shown the world that trans people are valuable members of the general community.

Kathleen of Norfolk | March 20, 2010 4:19 PM

With respect to Stanton's analysis, she was correct that we still have a lot of work to do. We are a very young movement. One that still needs to do a good bit of education. I'm always amazed that many highly educated people in the academic social sciences and humanaties still don't even know what the term transgender really means. I strongly suspect that the problem is far worse in the greater public. That said, we have made tremendous strides. Much of that is due to the work of activists that you describe. They really are doing a lot with little. Kudos to them...particularly to those who read this blog.

What I mean by few activists is a relative thing. There are relatively few out trans people relative to the size of the public. Of those who are out, only a small percentage is actively engaged in activism. There are also certainly fewer trans activists than there are gay/lesbian activists.

Kathleen, those weren't the comments Stanton made that got her in trouble with other trans activists. Her problematic comments were about the legitimacy of many trans people's identities and whether they deserve legal protection through bills like ENDA.

The trans movement is no younger than the gay movement... it's just been treated very differently, had less money and it, perhaps, is trying to communicate more complex issues. Contemporary gay activism started in the 1950s at almost the same time Christine Jorgensen was a worldwide celebrity and doing much to communicate about trans issues.

Could someone help me out here? I don't see where Stanton was "taken out" or suffered a "rise and fall". I see that she expressed opinions and then some people took exception to her statements and rebutted her.

Did something else happen or is that the extent of it?

Like many in the community, I was deeply troubled by some of Susan's public statements in 2007. However, Susan remains my sister in the transcommunity, one who has paid terrible dues enduring vicious attacks in national media that I'm not sure I could have survived at the most vulnerable time of my coming-out.

I will honor and respect her as a sister, as family in the community, regardless of how strongly I might agree or disagree with her opinions.

"Take her out?" Have we finally reduced ourselves to Tony Soprano and Uncle Junior? As a community and a civil justice movement, we must learn to express disagreement by talking about the issues, rather than attacking each other personally. When we vilify each other, we marginalize ourselves; we diminish every one of us.

Kelly, as I wrote above, when I said we took out Susan Stanton, I meant we discredited her as a spokesperson for the trans community. She was using her notoriety to promote the idea that a non-inclusive ENDA was acceptable to transpeople at a time when ENDA was being actively debated in Congress. It was necessary to publicly discredit her as a transgender community spokesperson because she was actively working against the interests of our community.

It was the right thing to do, I'll do it again in a heartbeat when and if required.

I don't see anything in what Rebecca said (nor to the responses to Susan's statement several years ago) which denies her "sisterhood" or membership in the trans community. There's a wide gulf between refusing to allow to someone to be presented as a spokesperson for your community and a position of denigrating their identity.

The issue is only marginally about Susan and more about large LGBT organizations (and mainstream media) trying to exploit someone's temporary celeb status as a method of forwarding their own agenda.

Moreover, I strongly disagree with the "say no evil" approach to social justice. Opponents (or people trying to block/reshape our freedoms) will exploit selected trans people's identities as a way of creating a shield against criticism. Examples of this were used in an attempt to legitimize Blanchard's and Bailey's views. This tactic must be called out whenever it occurs. It doesn't mean the figurehead's very identities need to be attacked, but their representations as spokespeople or exemplars of specific issues must be called out.

I can acknowledge compassion for Susan without trying to make her the Transgender Jesus. Let's remember there are many people in the trans community who've had it much, much harder than she did.

For 6 years before Ms. Stanton was "outed", I and others struggled to found a program to help the local transcommunity like GLB ASO's helped their communities. My oranization was the first with an HIV/AIDS testing program that recognized transgender identities. We struggled for 5 years on a CSAT and SAMHSA grant to make this work. The local Gay press ignored all trans-issues until they became star struck by Ms. Stanton. We needed to be attacked as "radical" by someone in our community like we needed a hole in the head. Going into bars at night to test people and then being called a dangerous leftist organization was like all we needed. I coulda worked for Acorn. I hope she succeeds where she is cause she is a "role model" now fur reel. Lottsa luck and I like Tony Soprano.

As Rachel Maddow says: One More Thing. Talking to Ms. Stanton was like talking to Michelle Bachmann. Her opinions about social activism and community service could have been taken from the RNC playbook. I'm done

Ms Stanton is an unhappy person. She was unhappy in a mans body and now she is unhappy as a woman. Her statements about "it's nice for someone else to order diner" and "the softness of the sweaters on her hairless arms" are totally superficial and stereo types of what a woman is. Her feelings toward other tran-people is just a reflection of the way she fells about her self. I hope she can come to terms with were she is in life and find some kind of honest emotional support.

Rene' Andre' | February 2, 2011 4:24 PM

I found the Susan Stanton transition story self aggrandizing, and very needy for a validation she seemly couldn't find in either a man's hide or female's skin. I found that her constant self improvements via electrolysis, and cosmetic surgeries a bit hard to watch, since it was painfully obvious her teen aged son needed serious orthodontic intervention. It came off as very selfish on her part. Susan herself had poor looking teeth as well. YUK!

Susan walks like a hulking Neanderthal, runs like frozen lug, and is very un-natural as a female in both demeanor and comportment.

I was very offended by her constant complaining that she deserved to respected and hired as a city manager, bar none. I wasn't impressed by her at all.

Sorry ladies, but that's my take on it. I'm a transgendered post op MtF as well...therefore I feel I have the credentials to offer an opinion.

Who the fuck do you think you are, passing judgement on ANYBODY? You must be a seriously unhappy, bitter, and insecure person to have to go back nearly a year into the archives to dig up this article for you to spew your venom. I don't know where you get off criticizing a transwoman for being true to herself and doing what she needed to do to transition.

I don't give two shits about whether you're an MTF or not. That doesn't give you license to be a prick. And why bring her poor teenage son into it for ridicule? My suspicion is that you're only saying you're MTF to deflect criticism against yourself for your transphobic remarks; but as I said, it's irrelevant either way. If you are, you certainly should know better. But I'm pretty sure you would be devastated if someone was that cruel to you about transition.

Even if what you said was completely true, there's no reason in the world to publicly belittle and dehumanize Susan Stanton by attacking her gender expression. It doesn't add to the public discourse, and you don't get a friggin' vote! Now go back to your hobbit hole.