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Largo official preparing for sex change

Times Exclusive: City Manager Steve Stanton told the Times this morning he is undergoing counseling and treatments.  He plans to remain in his city position.

Published February 21, 2007

Steve Stanton, married with a teenaged son, said he has thought of becoming a woman since childhood.

  • Read letters from Stanton and police Chief Lester Aradi
  • photo
    [Times photo: Douglas R. Clifford]

    LARGO — The mayor at his side, longtime Largo City Manager Steve Stanton disclosed to the St. Petersburg Times on Wednesday he is undergoing hormone therapy and counseling in preparation for a sex-change operation.

    Through the process, which could take well over a year, Stanton plans to remain as the chief executive of this city of 76,000. He has the support of Mayor Pat Gerard, who was elected last March.

    “He’s a dedicated city manager and puts his job first,” she said.

    Stanton, 48, said he eventually will change his name to Susan, the name his late mother would have given him if he had been a girl.

    Married with a teenaged son, Stanton said he has thought of becoming a woman since childhood. In recent years, he said he has gone to clubs, the symphony and the grocery store as a woman, but only in places like Orlando, Jacksonville and Atlanta.

    Stanton, with Gerard’s support, had planned to go public in June so his son could be out of town when the news broke. But that changed this week after the Times heard of possible changes in Stanton’s life and approached him.

    He and Gerard met a reporter at a private city office Wednesday morning and described in detail his decision and plans. After the interview, he began telling department managers, secretaries and others at the city.

    Stanton has not scheduled surgery. He would be one of the few public officials anywhere to change his gender while in office.

    Stanton has been Largo’s city manager 14 years. He and Gerard both said they believe he can continue as the city manager during and after the change.

    “I’m good at my job,” said Stanton, who makes $140,234 annually for supervising about 1,200 employees and a budget of $130-million. “My gender has nothing to do with my capabilities.”

    Stanton and Gerard acknowledged that some people in Largo probably won’t accept his choice. But they have been working on a plan to educate people inside and outside City Hall about the process.

    “It’s not in my nature to flee a challenge,” Stanton said. “I can’t. I won’t. It’s not in my repertoire of experience.”

    The mayor agreed.

    “I don’t believe he should have to go away and hide out and have to re-emerge,” said Gerard, who is chief operating officer of Family Resources Inc., a nonprofit social service agency. “The fact that we do that as a society is pitiful.”

    Stanton decided to seriously consider gender-reassignment surgery after Largo city commissioners refused in 2003 to approve a proposed human rights ordinance that would have protected transgendered people. Stanton had supported passage of the ordinance, but did not take on a leading role in the contentious debate that led up to the vote.

    He began discussing his private life with a therapist who spoke at City Hall in support of the ordinance, and that led to his decision, he said.

    Around Largo, Stanton is known for his forceful management style, a willingness to take on controversy and a zest for participating in rugged activities.

    In recent years, for example, he has donned a bulletproof vest to go along on a police raid of a nightclub and broke his nose participating in SWAT training. Within the last week, he rappelled inside the dome at Tropicana Field during a fire department training exercise and dug up a median near a fire station as part of a public works project.

    But he said the process of changing his gender, which includes hormone therapy and electrolysis to remove body and facial hair, is the bravest thing he’s ever done.

    “I want to do this with a sense of dignity and worth,” Stanton said. “It’s going to take more courage than anything I’ve ever done.”

    Lorri Helfand can be reached at or (727) 445-4155.

    [Last modified February 21, 2007, 14:43:56]

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