MICHELE NORRIS, host:
In Florida, the City Commission of Largo has voted to fire the city manager for his decision to undergo a sex change operation.
Steve Stanton has worked for 14 years as manager of the City of Largo. A week ago, the St. Petersburg Times broke the story that Stanton had been undergoing hormone therapy to prepare for surgery to become a woman. Some of Stanton's opponents say their concern is less the sex change and more the fact that he kept his plans secret. Mr. Stanton joins me now from St. Petersburg. And Mr. Stanton, do you actually believe that, that your opponents are more concerned about the secret or, perhaps, about the operation itself?
Mr. STEVE STANTON (Former City Manager, Largo, Florida): No. I think there was certainly a substantial misunderstanding of what it means to be a transsexual in the closeted nature of the condition, and the reasons why people typically do not share that information - sometimes with people as important as their wives and their parents.
NORRIS: There was, I understand, a very large crowd at the city commission meeting last night where this vote took place. I wondered what it must have been like for you to actually sit through that meeting.
Mr. STANTON: It was extremely difficult. We had two very strong groups who felt just being a transsexual was against God's will, that it was a lot of discussion about that. There was a lot of discussion about the deception and the lack of integrity to have a secret and to keep it from your employer.
NORRIS: As you sat and listened to people testify last night before that vote, did you wonder whether or not you should've actually taken control of the situation and make the news public yourself? Were you, at some point, planning to make the sex-change operation public?
Mr. STANTON: Oh, absolutely. I met with our mayor in January - the 1st of January - to discuss preparing not only my own family, but the elected members of the city commission and to develop a transition plan. I knew this is going to be an extremely awkward situation for our city organization, and something that most people were very much unprepared to have to address.
NORRIS: You have been city manager for 14 years. How - you know, what is the best way to share this kind of information, to tell your constituents - to tell your family about this decision?
Mr. STANTON: Yeah. I think the best way is as be very deliberative in who you tell, how you tell, when to tell, and give them proper resources to deal with the trauma that is created.
NORRIS: If I may ask, when did you decide to have an operation to become a woman?
Mr. STANTON: Well, that the - everybody's sort of been focusing on the operation. I have not specifically ever came up with a date for the actual gender reassignment.
NORRIS: And at what point did you decide to travel down that path?
Mr. STANTON: Approximately 2003 - began very painful, extensive therapy to see if I could be fixed, and ultimately realize the only time I'm never going to have true peace of my life was to sort of join both the body and the spirit as one, which essentially will require, at some point, no longer living as a man and living as a woman.
NORRIS: At that point, when you made the decision, did you make that decision along with your wife?
Mr. STANTON: Yeah. I did. Of course, this is the wife's worst nightmare. She was very much aware as well that there is no employment protection for transgender people in this country. And she had always worried about the fact that they're going to fire you when they find out.
NORRIS: Mr. Stanton, thank you very much for speaking with us.
Mr. STANTON: Thank you.
NORRIS: Steve Stanton was the city manager of Largo, Florida, until last night. The city commission voted to fire him after news leaked that he was planning to undergo a sex change from man to woman. Stanton says he hasn't decided yet whether he will appeal the firing or file suit.
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