Her Name Is Steven: How One Woman Pissed Off Her Entire Community


When Steven Stanton came out as transgender, he was fired from his job. Her Name Was Steven is a CNN documentary following Steven’s MTF transition, and the controversy she caused with her own judgmental comments about gender and human rights.

Steven worked as a city manager in Florida when he decided to publicly begin making the transition into becoming a woman. When news of that hit the local papers it sparked a controversy and a public debate. Subsequently he was fired, and activist groups sort of turned Steven (who in the following months transitioned into Susan) in a trans-rights poster child. I thought the documentary would portray Susan Stanton as somewhat of a trans hero, but instead, as the two hours progressed, I liked her less and less. Initially, it was comments like this one (in the clip to the left): “It takes a real man to become a woman.” It’s in reference to the pain involved in women’s beauty maintenance. Susan meant it as a joke, but it rubbed me the wrong way and made me wonder if she was fully aware of her privilege being raised male. (I figured that after living as a woman for a while, she would realize a thing or two.) Viewers would soon learn, however, that Susan would go on to piss off nearly the entire trans community.

With her new fame as the brave face of trans people, Susan was invited to a conference on gender and identity. In an interview for the documentary, she said how uncomfortable she felt around the varied forms of gender expression there. Then she went on to make some pretty judgmental comments about other MTFs (in various stages of their own transitions) saying, “Some of the guys I see…seem so unable to be anything other than just an ugly man with lipstick.”

The shit really hit the fan for Susan after a speaking engagement at a Human Rights Campaign event. She endorsed the HRC’s endorsement of a bill making it illegal to fire people for being gay, but the bill excluded transgender people. Susan said that she believed that you “can’t legislate the acceptance of transgender people.” Soon after, in a newspaper article, she was quoted as saying that some transgendered people look like “men in dresses.” There was a huge backlash from the trans community who felt that Susan was only interested in the publicity of being trans for what it could do for her personally, rather than her previous statements of wanting to educate people.

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