The discriminatory animus shown certainly deserves scrutiny, but there have been other stories equally deserving of interest from this point of view. For example, just last month, there was the story about John Nemecek (now Julie), a professor who was fired for much the same reason as Steve Stanton. That garnered a lot of media interest, more than I've seen in a while. Instead of a few articles filed under the category of "Bizarre News" in scattered papers around the world, as there usually is when these stories break, a Michigan daily newspaper, the Jackson Citizen Patriot, did a series of thoughtful articles, which went to the major US papers. The media interest in the Stanton story, however, is even larger. A Google search done this morning shows four times the number of English web pages ("John Nemecek" AND "Spring Arbor" = 9,000 "Steve Stanton AND Largo = 38,000). Since the Nemecek story has had a month to germinate, one would think it would be ahead of the Stanton story in terms of the number of web pages.
Google News this morning showed over 200 news sources carrying the Stanton story. It was one of Yahoo's most popular news stories on March 1. Google Blog Search shows over 300 blog posts on the issue (There are now 80 listed for the Nemecek story)
The Miami Herald published this story yesterday:
Largo sex change case draws media attention
Transgender activists say there's only one thing unusual about the case of Largo, Fla., City Manager Steve Stanton: Not that he's being fired for planning to become a woman, but the deluge of publicity he's gotten as a result.
Here's Newsweek's story. And People magazine. Wikipedia now has a page for "Steve Stanton" detailing his life history. It's a fairly interesting read, though one must sometimes take Wikipedia with a grain of salt.
And here's a graph of this blog's page views from SiteMeter:
Why is this story so big?
"Other people have been fired, but not in such a public way and not at the behest of a screaming mob,'' said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "Yes, people have lost their jobs because they've transitioned. But this is the most public case involving a hearing.'' This quote is in the Miami Herald story. Because the interest in the story began before the firing, I think attributing all of it to being publicly fired at the behest of irate citizens is missing part of the force of this story. I think part of the interest is that this involves an upstanding public official who breaks the prejudices that people have about transsexuals.
I have encountered three major prejudices about transsexuals. 1. They are mentally ill people with shattered lives. 2. They are promiscuous deviants obsessed with sex. 3. They have anti-social tendencies, including unethical or criminal conduct. Here, to the contrary, we have a public official responsible for running a large US city. He has explained his situation, when confronted by the St Petersburg Times, with dignity and aplomb. He is married with children. He has done an excellent job running a large US city for the past 14 years, and not been suspected of criminal or ethical wrongdoing. This is not a person living a shattered life, nor a sexual predator, nor a criminal. While the public may be slightly interested in the story of radiologist, ferry worker, cook, manager or professor (all of whom recently had stories in the news) fired because of transgender identity, I think the idea that an upstanding public official can also be a transsexual is non sequitur for most of the public. I think the idea that an upstanding person of any sort can also be a transsexual is non sequitur for most people.
Most people have never heard of a successful transsexual, though there are certainly plenty of recent descriptions if you look, including biographic books such as "She's Not There," from college professor Jennifer Finney Boylan, "Branded T," by psychotherapist Rosalyne Blumenstein, Jamison Green's "Becoming a Visible Man" Mark Rees "Dear Sir or Madam" and websites such as Lynn Conway's "Transsexual Women's Successes" and "Successful TransMen." Amy Bloom's "Normal," while not written by a transsexual, also shows successful trans lives.
In addition to this being a story of unusual publicity, I think it is also an unusual chance to educate journalists and the public about diversity.