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“You have to believe us, you have to trust us, it is not about transgenderism.”

— Quote from Gay Gentry, City Commission of Largo, Florida, on her vote to fire city manager Steve Stanton

The idea that “take my word for it” is sufficient explanation for a politician’s actions these days is laughable.  Particularly when that same politician admits in a newspaper interview two days later that the revelation of transgenderism made her give especially intense scrutiny to the city manager’s record, and making her decide that actions she previously gave a pass to are now grounds for termination.  But despite the assistance of bumbling politicians, the courts are not friendly territory for employee plaintiffs.I mean, duh – the Largo City Commission acted after he revealed his transsexuality. Post hoc ergo propter hoc.  This might seem to some like the end of the inquiry in regard to the question of whether a lawsuit by Stanton would succeed. But in law it’s not enough to suggest a discriminatory motive in an employment discrimination lawsuit. One has to prove that the employer actually acted based on this motive.

Just like the coin toss at the carnival, hitting the target on this one is harder than it seems. There are no employers dumb enough to admit to firing someone based on a category that is protected. If they feel the need to fire such an employee, they look carefully to find reasons not based on the protected category, like poor work performance. When and if the matter goes to a tribunal, they trot out all these facts that could have supported termination. If the decision-maker (jury, judge or human rights commission) isn’t convinced that the employer acted from the discriminatory motive, the employee loses the case.

I think Steve Stanton has a case, as discussed in my blog, but I also think it’s a serious question whether he’s going to bring a lawsuit, particularly at the time when he is undergoing gender transition.  It’s at this point that most of your support structure departs for points unknown. Families, friends, homes, careers, money – all go right out the window – whoosh. My ex took my son and moved 150 miles away, I couldn’t get my family and friends to return phone calls, my legal career ended, and I gave whatever money I had to my ex in exchange for my guilt at being who I am. That I’m still alive is a miracle. So I wish him luck and godspeed whatever his decision. But I’m sure he understands that its a tough road. We all do, when we open that door and step through. But there’s really no choice.

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