Wednesday, January 02, 2008
A year after Steve Stanton became Susan, the physical and emotional changes are surprising sources of wonder and pain.
By LANE DeGREGORY, Times Staff Writer
December 31, 2007
SARASOTA -- Every morning, Susan Stanton wakes early and takes three pills. They help her suppress who she was and become the person she believes she should be.
At 9 a.m., still in her pajamas, she climbs the stairs in her Sarasota bungalow, clicks on her computer and goes to work. Looking for a job.
"I miss the 16-hour days, working with so many bright people, leading the city. I still love Largo," she says.
"I think I'm suffering from 'Pretty girl syndrome': People assume I'm making tons of money, traveling around speaking. But the truth is: I need help. I'm starting to approach people I know in the area, which I never thought I'd be doing.
"Maybe that's the last part of the transition: Losing my male ego."
* * *
This time last year, Susan was Steve Stanton, husband and father, a 48-year-old conservative man who oversaw 1,000 employees as Largo city manager. He had led the town of 76,000 for 14 years. City commissioners had consistently given him raises and rave reviews.
This time last year, Steve was making plans to tell city leaders that he had always wanted to be a woman.
The truth came out when a St. Petersburg Times reporter heard a rumor and asked if it was true. Steve said yes. A month later, on March 23, commissioners fired him.
So after years of fear and secrecy, Steve became his second self. Susan testified before Congress, appeared on TV with Larry King and Montel Williams and became the somewhat reluctant face of the transgender-equality movement. A CNN documentary crew followed her and still does.
Nine months later, she finds herself waking up alone in a new city, her year's severance pay running out, with no friends -- except the woman who does her electrolysis.
"I was totally unprepared for the reaction and rejection of almost everyone who'd been close to me," Susan says. "People I'd known for 20 years won't even talk to me."
Recently, over a long lunch in Sarasota, Susan opened up about surgery, family, dating -- and her greatest fear.
And for the first time since Susan appeared in public, her wife Donna and 14-year-old son Travis talked in a separate interview about what it has been like to watch their husband and dad turn into a woman. . . .
I was recently alerted to a news release that reminded me that, in spite of all the pain and struggle, all the fighting over ENDA and other bills, and all the times it feels like there is no forward motion no transgender issues, there really are some changes going on.
The release, a call by Dr. Kate O’Hanlan, pushing for other doctors in the field to perform total laparoscopic hysterectomies for those female-to-male patients in need was certainly interesting enough on the surface. I’m not a doctor and cannot attest in any way to the validity of this, of course, but the release indicated this could provide a greater likelihood of a less complicated and potentially less painful surgery for FTMs.
Consider this, however: that there would be a press release on this at all may well be more notable than the text of the release.
Transgender surgical options has long been looked at by the medical establishment with some derision. Many do not view any surgical procedures related to genital reassignment – or any other surgery or treatment related to transsexuality – to be “real medicine.” It’s treated as the lowest of surgeries, somewhere above sub-dermal implants and lower than penile extension.
Doctors who perform this type of surgery are viewed – at best – as some sort of “niche” specialist, and not seen as “real” as surgeons working on any other malady or need of the human body. Most, I suspect, are viewed as Dr. Stanley Biber once was – likable, but eccentric, the sort of guy who gets a lot of “news of the weird” style coverage that earned Trinidad, Colo., the nickname of “sex change capital of the world.”
It’s been that way for more than a century, with Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld and his contemporaries in turn-of-the-previous-century Germany being viewed positively, but nevertheless offbeat. It was Dr. Hirschfeld who helped pioneer a lot of what we know today under the umbrella of transgender.
Likewise, Dr. Harry Benjamin, who bridged the gap from Hirschfeld and the modern era, or Dr. Christian Hamburger, the practitioner who worked on Christine Jorgensen, or scores of others who practice today, have all been viewed as somewhat outside the medical establishment, performing surgeries seen as radical, even unethical, by their contemporaries. . . .
Gay, lesbian and bisexual people seldom appear physically different from straight people. Transgender people must go through a process of transition where they might have difficulty “passing” as their correct gender. They can opt for surgery and/or hormone therapy to better align their physical bodies with their correct gender; changes can be made to names and identifying documents. This can eventually provide them with a way to pass as a biological male or female.
The following websites are resources for transgender youth:
Created by and for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (GLBTQ) young people 13 to 24 years old, takes a holistic approach to sexual health by offering support, community, resources, and peer-to-peer education about issues of concern to GLBTQ young people. YouthResource has four focus areas: health, advocacy, community, and issues in our lives.
OutProud's website for transgender youth. Headline news, links to other transgender sites for trans youth, loads of resources and information, stories of other transgender teens, message boards, as well as resources for parents of transgender children.
www.transproud.com . . .
“Depending on which part of Berlin I go to, in one I get punched in the mouth because I’m a foreigner and in the other because I’m a queen,” said Fatma Souad, the event’s organizer and master of ceremonies. Ms. Souad, 43, a transgender performer born in Ankara as a boy named Ali, has put on the party for over a decade. . . .
So, recently some people have linked to me in blog posts while under the impression that i was female-identified... which has led me to try to work out why...
I tend to assume that it's obvious to people that i'm (physically) male, because, well, if you can see and/or hear me "in the flesh" then it is obvious; i'm about 5'11", with a body consisting almost entirely of straight lines and right angles, no breasts, big feet, a bass voice (albeit one that goes up or down a couple of octaves somewhat randomly, but still a clearly male-sounding voice), and prominent facial hair. (I can't find a decent picture of myself to put here, but you can see me in the photos on this post; i'm the one with long dark hair and a beard, in the general style of Aragorn or Faramir in the Lord of the Rings films, or a typical 16th/17th century English Catholic style, such as Guy Fawkes or King Charles I.) . . .
…Susan has said all along that she’s not like other transgender people. She feels uncomfortable even looking at some, “like I’m seeing a bunch of men in dresses.” . . .
See responses same page.