By Marian O’Connor

With a bowed head and a disgraceful exit, Steve Stanton was forced to step down from her 14-year position as city manager because she decided to have a sex change.

Over 500 residents of Largo, FL watched on Feb. 27 as city officials voted 5-2 to dismiss Steve Stanton from her job as city manager. Stanton made her decision to have a male-to-female sex change public after discovering that the press was about to uncover it.

“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 in an Associated Press report.

However, Chris Daley, director of the Transgender Law Center in San Francisco, believes that Stanton has maintained her followers. According to Daley, a survey taken in Largo and the surrounding area suggested that most residents believe the decision to dismiss Stanton was a mistake.

Daley also believes that the publicity surrounding this case alone proves that right now is a coming-of-age period for the transgender community.

“The message coming out of this case is that transgender people have come a long way,” Daley said.

Daley also said that the decision to dismiss Stanton was based solely on gender discrimination rather than merit. Mike Rotkin, Santa Cruz city councilmember, agrees.

“It’s a pure form of discrimination,” Rotkin said. “Its not like the person couldn’t do the job.”

Rotkin went on to suggest that it would be possible to amend Stanton’s dismissal through a legal route (a discrimination lawsuit or amending state law) or by recalling the city council and electing one that would re-hire Stanton. Florida and the town of Largo do not currently have any discrimination laws based on gender identity. Because of this, Rotkin believes there isn’t much ground for a lawsuit.

“It would be easier to recall the city council than to change state law,” Rotkin said.

Stanton recently started hormone treatment, and was not planning on having the operation for at least another year. She has made few public appearences since starting the hormone treatment, but only in cities far from Largo. The 48-year-old married transgender has struggled with the secret desire to be a woman her entire life, and began counselling in 2003. Two weeks ago, after nearly four years of counselling, Stanton announced her desire to be a woman, and her plan to start work as a woman in May.

Lulu, a transgender female and director of the male-to-female discussion group that meets at the Diversity Center in Santa Cruz every other Tuesday night, believes that Stanton’s case illustrates a need for more research into gender identity discrimination in the workplace.

“It’s an important case that could have far-reaching implications,” Lulu said. “It’s about trans-inclusion, non-discrimination, and civil rights for all transpeople.”

Lulu also shed light onto Stanton’s hormone treatment through her own experience. She originally started hormone treatment with a sex change operation in mind, but realized that altering her genitalia would have make her uncomfortable.

Lulu says, “Now I feel right.”