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It's official: Steve is Susan

Published June 8, 2007

[Times photo: Douglas R. Clifford]
Susan Stanton (left) standing with attorney Shelbi Day acknowledges Judge Cynthia Newton's declaration Thursday of her official name change to Susan Stanton from Steven Stanton at the Clearwater Courthouse.

CLEARWATER - Susan Stanton tapped her fingers nervously on the courtroom table, waiting for the hearing to change her name.

Her body shook as she approached the judge with her lawyer.

The former Largo city manager had spent years trying to convince others that Susan was real. Now a judge would make it official.

During the three-minute hearing, Stanton, 48, raised her hand and swore to tell the truth. Softly, she confirmed that she lived in Pinellas County and had no criminal history, pending bankruptcies or motives to invade others' property rights.

"It is now hereby ordered that the petitioner's present name, Steven Bruce Stanton, is changed to Susan Ashley Stanton," Circuit Judge Cynthia Newton said.

Stanton bowed her head and smiled broadly. Her eyes welled with tears.

"It's no longer make-believe," she later said she thought. "It's the real thing."

"Ms. Stanton, congratulations, and I wish you the very best going forward," Newton said.

Stanton said she had not anticipated being so emotional.

"It's been a long journey," she said.

She has known she was different since she was 6 or 7, when she slipped on her sister's clogs to walk to the candy store.

Largo's city manager for 14 years, Stanton was fired in March, a month after plans to become a woman became public.

Since May, Stanton has begun appearing in public as a woman, first on a lobbying trip to Washington, D.C., and then in an unsuccessful bid for the Sarasota city manager's job.

Stanton picked Susan because her late mother told her that would have been her name if she had been born a girl. She chose Ashley partly because she never met an Ashley she didn't like.

But changing her name doesn't mean she's shedding Steve, Stanton said. Instead, she said it symbolizes a union of both parts of herself.

After the hearing, Stanton, who is staying at a friend's condo in South Pasadena, went by her Largo home to dig up her Social Security card and other identification. She wanted to show who she was when she went to get a new driver's license.

It wasn't necessary. At the Largo office of the Department of Motor Vehicles, a receptionist told Stanton they were expecting her.

Then, Stanton visited with her wife, Donna, at their Largo home. Later, she planned to share a pizza with her 14-year-old son.

Stanton plans to move to Sarasota in about three weeks, look for a new job and undergo gender-reassignment surgery in 10 or 11 months.

She also hopes to find peace away from the media spotlight.

"At some point, I would like to become an anonymous, faceless person," she said.

[Last modified June 8, 2007, 07:05:46]

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