Transgender people gaining acceptance across country

Posted on 24 May 2007 at 8:01pm
By Leslie Robinson General Gayety

Florida city manager, L.A. sportswriter, California prom queens score surprising victories

Lately there’s been a burst of transgender news. That’s unusual in itself, but what’s really surprising is the news has been good.

I have every confidence the other designer pump will drop, in the form of a firing or a murder which makes it all the more important to recognize and celebrate when a portion of our community goes on a hot streak.

I take you first to Florida, where a few months ago we all heard how the Largo City Commission voted to fire Steve Stanton as city manager after she revealed her plans to transition. It looked like another career had been shot down by ignorance and bigotry, or as I accidentally shorthand them, “bignorance.”

But hold the phone: Stanton is now in contention for the same job in Sarasota. The Associated Press reports that she was one of three applicants whom each city commissioner chose as top candidates.

Imagine if Susan Stanton the name under which she submitted her resume wins this “dream job.” Her path of coming out, then landing on the scrap heap, then achieving professional redemption, will be positively Ellen-like. And will have taken about 10 minutes.

Now to California, where Mike Penner, veteran sports writer for the Los Angeles Times, said in her column that when she returns from vacation she’ll be known as Christine Daniels.

Bet there was a lot of hot coffee spilled in L.A. laps that morning.

“I am a transsexual sports writer,” wrote Penner. “It has taken more than 40 years, a million tears and hundreds of hours of soul-wrenching therapy for me to work up the courage to type those words.”

It’ll be fascinating to see how this trailblazer’s career plays out now. Her editor, I’m pleased to say, released a supportive statement.

But Penner is in a very public position as a sports writer and columnist at one of the country’s biggest papers surely some readers will monitor the photo accompanying her column more carefully than the box scores.

Then there are the athletes; heaven knows American sports pros are just starting to deal with homosexuality, let alone transgender matters. I’d lay odds that some jock points and asks her, “So, what you got in there?”

The only appropriate response is “You’ll never know.”

Now on to Fresno, where last month Cinthia Covarrubias made history at the age of 17.

Biologically female but identifying as transgender, Covarrubias wanted to run for prom king of Fresno High School. The district’s policy had been only males could run for king, but that was changed on the advice of lawyers who cited state law protecting students’ ability to express gender identity.

So thanks to Sacramento lawmakers, Covarrubias cut a dash in a tux at the dance. He didn’t win prom king, but since advocates believe this was the first time in the U.S. an openly trans student had run for royalty, that’s a title that will always be his.

Like a social conservative’s worst nightmare, Covarrubias started something. On the other side of Fresno, a mainly Latino agricultural city, Johnny Vera was inspired.

Vera, who also goes by “Crystal,” ran for prom queen of Roosevelt High School. And by a 5-1 margin, she won.

Roosevelt chose itself a prom queen who’s openly transgender, and 6-feet, 4-inches to boot.

“This person is amazing,” career counselor Lupe Sosa told the Fresno Bee. “He lights up everybody around him; he always has a genuine compliment for everyone.”

Vera said, “There were all those statistics about transgender kids committing suicide. People would look at me and say I was going to do drugs or be a prostitute.”

But she told herself, “I’m not going to let anyone but me tell me what I’m going to be.”

She’s a walking Lifetime movie. And our future.

Leslie Robinson lives in Seattle. Read more of her columns at www.GeneralGayety.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, May 25, 2007.

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