I just had a NPR moment, one of those times when you end up sitting in your car in the garage listening to the radio. I was on my way back from pole class when this week’s RadioLab episode came on – The New Normal. The first story was about what can happen to small troops of baboons when all the alpha males disappear (hint: they become better at grooming), but the second chapter was about the small town of Silverton in Oregon with a population just under 10,000. It is about how one man, Stu, changed his identity over about 20 years and was slowly accepted by the community. Stu has lived in Silverton all his life as the resident electrician, computer expert, and theater owner. I pretty much guessed where this story was going even before the first mention of Rocky Horror playing at his theater. It was still hard not to get a little teary, not just because Stu was elected the first transgender mayor in US of A, but how the community came out to support him in the end.
Radio Lab – “New Stu”
Back home, I found out that this story first aired back in 2009 right after his election, but it is worth listening to again. Everyone (including Stu’s girlfriend) kept emphasizing how he was still the same person they had known all their life – which is true. I have always lived in the big city where most people walking down the street won’t give you more than a glance. I’ve never lived in a small town where everyone knows your name but I imagine it would be rude not to offer some sort of greeting. I have noticed a difference between coming out to someone who has known you whole life and someone who is meeting you for the first time. The later is always easy, while it can be harder for the long acquaintance who has a long established image of you that has to adapt as well. I’ve never had a bad experience, just an occasional screwed up pronoun. I wonder if anything would have been harder for Stu if he had switched names and pronouns, partly erasing the long history he had in the town. However in the end all you are asking for is a little respect. If you have that everything will be fine and it sounds like there is plenty of that to go around up north.
You can read more about Stu Rasmussen on his campaign website HERE.