Sunday, January 6, 2008

KOT in the Media: Travis Stanton

Susan Stanton made headlines in early 2007 when she lost her job as city manager of Largo, Florida after moving forward with her transition. She made further waves just last week over a profile by the Saint Petersberg Times in which she called some trans women 'men in dresses' and expressed support for the non-trans-inclusive version of ENDA. Needless to say, the transgender community is perturbed and disappointed that she would make these comments to the media.

The article also includes the words of Travis Stanton, Susan's 14-year old son, who is rolling with the punches of having such a high-profile transgender parent. Our parent's transitions impact the way in which we see the world.
"Everyone thinks my dad has hurt me and my life is ruined. But that's not how it is at all. I just think I get things more now.

"Like, I used to think gay people were kind of weird. Now I see how they feel," Travis says.

Hopefully, Travis will feel more comfortable around transgender people than his father does. It sounds like the experience has made him more open-minded. There is so much pressure on a family when a parent transitions, that it must be especially hard to deal with a parent who makes national news in the midst of so many other changes.

I still find it hard to answer questions about my relationship with my dad. While in Boston, I did an interview for a journalist with WBUR, Boston's NPR station. At one point, she asked me, "Do you have a good relationship with your dad now?" I told her we relate as adult child to parent, that the relationship is important to me, and that, we have our history, like any family. There is some really hard stuff in that history (I left that out) and most of it has nothing to do with her transgender identity. When our families get placed under a microscope, it's hard to figure out which parts to leave in the petri dish. That's why it's good to have trustworthy support, people with whom we can talk about the ugly stuff without worrying that they will pin it on our parent's trans identity. I am hoping that the email discussion list will create that space for KOTs.

At the end of the Stanton profile, the reporter included an essay by Travis. Interestingly, one of the comments on the article is from someone who knows Travis and says he didn't write it himself. In any case, here is the essay as printed:

Susan Stanton's only son, Travis, is 14. This fall, his middle school teacher asked the class to write about tolerance. With his parents' permission, and Travis' consent, here is the essay he wrote, edited for spelling and space.

Throughout my whole life, I thought my dad was a really tough guy. He went out with the cops and busted bad guys. He shot guns, fought fires. He was an aggressive driver. He liked football and lots of sports.

Then one day my thoughts changed about him when we had a family meeting and he told me how he felt about himself. He said he felt like a woman on the inside and was going to change into one. He said he tried his best to be a manly guy, but he couldn't stop his feelings to become a girl.

At first, I thought I was in a dream. I thought he was 100 percent manly man, more manly than most guys.

After a few days, I thought about it. I knew he was making the right choice to become a girl. Although I can't relate to his feelings, it must be really hard to hide something like that. It would be like having $1-million and not being able to spend it. After just so long, your feelings would take over and you would spend it. ...

I think that everyone should be who they are and not try to be the same as other people. If you ask me, this has got to be the most manliest thing he has done in his whole life. It takes a real man to come out of his shell and say, "Hey, I am who I am."

Now he is who he is meant to be. He is himself.

This seems to me like an essay written by a youth working through his father's transition. Adjusting to new pronouns takes time for family members. Is Travis being used as a 'poster child'? Hopefully, his father's recent comments will force her out of the spotlight and give the family a little privacy.

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