Steve Stanton loved this city he ran for 14 years. This week, he asked the city to love him back - to accept his plans to pursue sex-change operation and let him keep his $140,000 job as city manager.Ah me. What to say. The Shakespearean "What Fools These Mortals Be"? Another case of "Father Forgive them, for they know not what they do".
Almost 500 people packed into City Hall Tuesday night for a special meeting to decide if they would accept Susan instead of Steve as their top official.
And while many spoke eloquently in his defense, more called for his ouster.
"If Jesus was here tonight, I can guarantee you he'd want him terminated," said Pastor Ron Saunders of Largo's Lighthouse Baptist Church. "Make no mistake about it."
Stanton, who is married, said he struggled with his secret desire to be a woman since childhood and hoped to "outrun it." In 2003, he began counseling to deal with his feelings and ultimately decided to pursue a sex-change operation.Regular readers will recognise the medical protocol involved here, the SOC - Standards of Care. At least 3 months of psychiatric assesment and monitoring before Hormones are OK'd, then somewhere down the track, at least a year of the Real Life Test. Living in the target gender, and doing so successfully, one of the criteria being able to successfully hold down a job.
In a memo to city employees last week, Stanton said he intended to "live as a woman for one year" as part of a process to prove he is ready for a sex change. He said he has only gone out in public as a woman a few times in cities far from Largo.
For Susan, well, maybe she can be a waitress. Or do volunteer work, that counts too. Or even be a fulltime student, many decide to get academic qualifications at this time, like PhDs.
At Tuesday's meeting, there was nothing womanly about his appearance as he faced the crowd at City Hall in a dark suit and tie.I know the seven kinds of hell Susan's going through from the initial HRT roller-coaster (it takes 3 months for things to settle down - then they change your dose again, so te first 9 months of ramp-up are difficilt), from the stresses in her family... and then for them to do this to her... It's inhuman.
Stanton has not yet scheduled the surgery, but is undergoing counseling and hormone replacement therapy in preparation for the operation.
"I'm going to be embarrassed if we throw this man out on the trash heap after he's worked so hard for the city," said Mayor Patricia Gerard, one of a few Stanton chose to share his secret with before last week. "We have a choice to make: We can go back to intolerance, or we can be the city of progress."
Commissioner Gay Gentry praised Stanton, but supported his firing.
"I sense that he has lost his standing as a leader among the employees of the city," Gentry said. "We have need of an organizational leader that employees will follow."
Stanton left the room before the votes were cast, head down.
Gerard and Commissioner Rodney J. Woods - the first black commissioner in the city's 102-year history - cast the only votes in his favor.
Now it could be that Susan is unable to handle her job under these conditions, that she'd have to take sick leave or even resign. There's provisions for such things in her contract. But she hasn't even started yet. Her being fired is nothing to do with what she's done, it's for what she is.
Then there's this little tidbit, from the St Peterberg Times :
But, he said, commissioners voted before getting a full understanding of what a transsexual must confront when this kind of secret is disclosed."Outed". And before she had done more than start her Transition.
During the meeting, Stanton described the dismay of watching his professional reputation disintegrate in just seven days.
Until last week, he had served 14 years as the city manager, generally to good reviews. Last fall, commissioners raised his salary nearly 9 percent to $140,234 a year.
But on Feb. 21, the Times reported that Stanton was undergoing hormone therapy in preparation for gender-reassignment surgery - a plan known only to a small circle of people, including his wife, medical team and a few top officials at City Hall.
Stanton and his friends had written an eight-page plan to help make his decision known in June, when he said his 13-year-old son could be out of town and shielded from the publicity.
Instead, the news came out before he told his son. Outraged residents swarmed commissioners, demanding he be ousted.
"It's just real painful to know that seven days ago I was a good guy and now I have no integrity, I have no trust and most painful, I have no followers," Stanton said.
But he also indicated he does not plan to sue the city.
"In so many ways I am Largo," Stanton told commissioners. "It's like suing my mother."