Thursday, March 01, 2007

Largo, FL, City Of "Progress", Votes To Dismiss Transgender City Manager

[Times photo: Jim Damaske]

Largo City Manager Steve Stanton served his community for 14 years, doing his job well and receiving both praise and a 9% pay raise from his city's commissioners last December. But when Stanton's plans to undergo a sex-change operation became public, the same commission voted to fire him (my bolds):
LARGO - City commissioners ended one of the most tumultuous weeks in Largo history Tuesday night by moving to fire City Manager Steve Stanton following his disclosure that he will have a sex-change operation.

A total of 480 people packed City Hall for a four-hour meeting during which one activist was arrested after police told her not to hand out fliers.

After listening to about 60 speakers, mostly from Largo, a majority of commissioners said they had lost confidence in Stanton's ability to lead.

"His brain is the same today as it was last week," Commissioner Gay Gentry said. "He may be even able to be a better city manager. But I sense that he's lost his standing as a leader among the employees of the city.

That's it right there, lawyers and gentlemen: a clear admission of wrongdoing. Which is to say, the City of Largo regards a person of equal or better capabilities as being inferior--as having "lost his standing as a leader"--based solely on his gender identity and the private medical procedures related thereto. And this admission was made on record by an agent of the City of Largo--a commissioner, in fact.

To his credit, Mayor Mayor Pat Gerard, voting in dissent along with Commissioner Rodney Woods, stood firm with Stanton:

"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," Gerard said before the vote. "We have a choice to make: We can go back to intolerance, or we can be the city of progress."

Woods chastised fellow commissioners, saying he had a hard time accepting that they didn't consider Stanton's recent choice to become a woman when they decided he was unfit to lead.

After the vote, Stanton, 48, left the meeting without comment. Later, he told the St. Petersburg Times that the "commission did what they felt was best for the community."

But, he said, commissioners voted before getting a full understanding of what a transsexual must confront when this kind of secret is disclosed.

As if this spectacle of ignorance and bigotry were not shameful enough, it looks like the local media outed Stanton, and did so before he was able to inform his teenage son and work through matters privately, as a family, before telling the world.

Here's what two of the community's spiritual leaders had to say:

"Mr. Stanton is not a role model. He's proven that. I think for the sake of our young people today, you need to do what's right, and that's terminate him. ... If Jesus was here tonight, I can guarantee you he'd want him terminated. Make no mistake about it."

- Ron Sanders, pastor, Lighthouse Baptist Church of Largo

"Do not give in to extreme pressure, because there is such a thing as the tyranny of the majority. ... Make this judgment based on sound ethics, compassion, humanity, and truly show commitment to diversity."

- the Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, senior minister, Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater

St. Petersburg Times columnist Howard Troxler, writing in his blog, asks:

If Steve Stanton had announced last week that he was "merely" gay, instead of a man intending to become a woman named Susan, would he still have been fired as city manager last night by the Largo City Commission?

I am guessing not, but then, I didn't think Largo was going to fire him so quickly even for this. The guy was there for 14 years and was rock-solid in his job, with excellent evaluations.

The lesson is just how strongly mainstream society still feels about the transsexual issue -- strongly enough, in Stanton's case, to override every other factor.

Other points:

* It seems odd to accuse the guy of being "deceitful," as several speakers did, since he stood up in front of the whole world to announce his intentions.

* One quote from one preacher...

If Jesus was here tonight, I can guarantee you he'd want him terminated. Make no mistake about it.

.. does not make him a spokesman for the entire Christian religion. I could produce a whole page of quotes from the New Testament suggesting just the opposite, but decided it wouldn't settle anything.

Stanton says he holds no ill will toward the City of Largo, and considering the unimaginable stress he has endured this past week--througout his entire life, really--speaks of the incident with near-superhuman dignity and decency:
Stanton said he did not know what his next step will be. For the past week, he said he has not slept more than two hours a night.

Tuesday morning, for example, Stanton said he woke up about 2 a.m., wrote in his journal for about 2 1/2 hours and went for a two-hour run.

After that, he took his son, Travis, 13, to school and talked to him about courage.


Stanton spoke with the mayor and kept a previously scheduled appointment with Commissioner Rodney Woods, but he didn't lobby commissioners for his job.

"They're in extremely difficult position. These folks are my friends," Stanton said before the meeting.

"No matter what happens tonight they'll each be my friends afterward."

(Also at Shakes' place.)

UPDATE: Pam has excellent and comprehensive coverage of this story.

UPDATE 2: Go to Equality Florida to send an e-mail to the Largo city commission. You may also email them directly at: and phone City Hall at 727 . 587 . 6700.

You may write to Ron Sanders, Pastor, at: Lighthouse Baptist Church, 10539 122nd Ave., Largo, FL 34643 727 . 585 . 3099

(H/T to alex and

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