Largo, FL officials vote to dismiss trans city manager
“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. We have a choice to make: We can go back to intolerance, or we can be the city of progress.”
— Mayor Pat Gerard, one of only two Largo commissioners to vote against firing City Manager Steve Stanton because of his announcement that he will transition
“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, after the vote
[UPDATE: Below the fold, see how Largo may have violated its own anti-discrimination policies with this offensive move.]
This is one of the most incredible displays of overt official in-your-face cases of ignorance and bigotry against the T population, I’ve seen. I can’t even believe I’m reading this insanity. The commission in Largo, Florida has yet to explain its decision to fire its city commissioner in any way that makes sense.
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.
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.”
Commissioners voted 5-2, with Mayor Pat Gerard and Commissioner Rodney Woods in dissent, to place Stanton on paid leave while his departure is made final.
After the flip, read one of the flood of hateful and irrational emails received by the commission.
“As a resident of Largo for over 40 years, I’m very disturbed that our city manager is planning a sex change. In my view this would be disruptive to Steve Stanton’s ability to conduct city business.”
How, pray tell, does this disrupt his ability to do his job? If this man is talking about any time off for operations, medical appointments and such (though we know that this is not what it’s about), then that would be illegal discrimination. No, this is about fear and ignorance.
The sad truth, and the article states this, is that Stanton had to watch his his professional reputation disintegrate over a week while this drama unfolded — no one wanted to bother educating themselves about trans issues. They just wanted him g-o-n-e. Stanton had even written out an eight-page plan outlining how he planned to handle the matter, including relocating his son from Largo to shield him from the hailstorm of publicity. None of this mattered.
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.
According to the article, Stanton served in his position as City Manager for 14 years, and this is how they treat an otherwise well-regarded employee. Blogger Michael Hussey emailed me about the story, and noted that war against Stanton was waged by — surprise — a fundie:
The man behind the campaign to get Stanton fired is Pastor Charlie Martin of the First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks. Martin argues that the religious freedoms of Christians will be trampled if they have to call Steve by his future female name Susan.
“Do we want what’s controversial or do we want what’s best for Largo?” said Martin, whose church includes many members from Largo.
One of his flock (about 60 church members showed up at the meeting), said this about Stanton: “I don’t want that man in office,” she said. “I don’t think we should be paying him $150,000 a year when he’s not been truthful. We have to speak up. Of course, we don’t believe in sex changes or lesbianism. They have their rights, but we do, too.”
Howard Troxler, from Tampabay.com’s TroxBlog, commented on some of the citizens who showed up to blast Stanton:
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.
A reader who also emailed me about this story, Caitlin — she lives in St. Pete — said that:
Largo is lucky to have wise and tolerant leadership from Mayor Pat Gerard and Commissioner Rodney Wood (who happens to be the only black person on the commission – when he spoke last night he said he could never vote in favor of dismissal because he knows the pain of discrimination himself). However, if things go like they did last night, I think it’s safe to say that these two will probably lose their jobs over it.
People, this is unbelievable bible-thumpery at work — and they don’t even have passages to directly quote about transgender issues! Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which supports out LGBT elected officials, had this to say:
“The decision to fire Steve Stanton is discrimination in its purest form. The Largo City Commission is succumbing to the laziness of fear, bias and ignorance. Hundreds of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender elected and appointed officials serve their communities with the same distinction Steve has for years. These public servants deserve to be judged on their performance in office, not their gender identity or sexual orientation. The Largo City Commission could take lessons in courage and leadership from Steve Stanton.”
Litbrit also has something to say about this bush-league behavior by the Largo commissioners.
The new policy specifically prohibits bias, prejudice, intimidation, coercion and harassment by any City employee at the work place, during business trips, or at City functions. The new policy mandates treating all human beings with respect regardless of race, religion, national origin, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression. Any verbal, physical, or visual conduct that belittles, demeans, denigrates, or shows hostility toward an individual or group will disciplined up to and including discharge.
A reader over at Pandagon noted that the policy is for city employees — and not the members of the City Commission which fired Stanton.
UPDATE 2: Isaac Goldstein of the National Sexuality Resource Center (NSRC) @ San Francisco State University asked me to put up information about a petition effort in support of Stanton: Stand for Stanton (note that you are opting into future mailings from the Center if you sign).