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Stanton lobbies Congress Tuesday

By LORRI HELFAND
Published May 13, 2007


Weeks before she plans to live full time as a woman, Susan Ashley Stanton will lobby Congress.

The former Largo city manager is scheduled to meet with legislators Tuesday.

She wants to convince lawmakers to support federal legislation that protects gay and transgender people.

She won't start living as Susan until the end of this month. She could have lobbied as Steven Stanton, but she said she wanted to be authentic.

"I want to go as who I am," Stanton said. "It would almost be insulting to the legislators to go as someone else and expect them to be honest with you if you can't be honest with them."

On Monday night, Stanton also is scheduled to make a public appearance as Susan at a Washington, D.C., reception honoring transgender advocates.

Party guests are expected to include transgender author Jennifer Finney Boylan and actor Jeffrey Carlson, who played a transgender character on All My Children.

Then, on Tuesday, Stanton will join about 120 people from the National Center for Transgender Equality, a nonprofit advocacy group, which is lobbying lawmakers to support two proposed federal laws.

Event organizers say this is the biggest transgender lobbying effort ever.

One reason is that transgender people are increasingly open about their transgender status, said Mara Keisling, executive director of the advocacy group.

Also, "there's very critical legislation that looks like it has an opportunity to pass," she said.

That includes the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, introduced last month by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which the House of Representatives approved on May 3.

The antidiscrimination bill, which has more than 100 bipartisan co-sponsors, would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The other bill would expand federal hate crimes legislation to cover gay and transgender people who are targets of violent attacks. It also would make it easier for federal officials to become involved in state and local hate-crime investigations.

Supporters are optimistic partly because Democrats now control Congress, said Simon Aronoff, deputy director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

"This time we're very confident about our chances," Aronoff said.

Over the next couple of weeks, Stanton has several more speaking engagements. She also is preparing to interview for a job as Sarasota city manager and plans to move out of her Largo home.

Despite her busy schedule, Stanton feels a responsibility to educate lawmakers about people like her.

"This is such a stigmatized condition that people don't understand it," she said. "They need to see that someone who was a city manager -- and someone who will hopefully be a city manager soon -- can also be a transsexual."