Formal complaint filed against transgender mayor regarding attire


Stu Rasmussen, the first openly transgender mayor in the U.S., attended a youth leadership training put on by Silverton Together on a particularly hot day. According to the Statesman Journal, Brenda Sturdevant, Silverton Together’s director, filed a formal complaint about Rasmussen’s outfit with the city council president.

Sturdevant said Rasmussen’s attire, “high heels, a very short skirt and some sort of halter top revealing much of his bosom, shoulders and back,” was inappropriate.
“This puts Silverton Together in a position that will be difficult to defend when we have sent our youth home on various occasions to change into something more appropriate,” she said. “I expect our public leaders to follow the same guidelines that we have for our youth.”

I do not for a second believe Sturdevant’s stated reason for the filing the complaint. I do believe Sturdevant was trying to protect the youth in her program, but I think the bad example she felt Rasmussen was presenting was his (Rasmussen’s preferred pronoun) identity, not that particular outfit. Sturdevant sought out the city council dress code, I’m sure to find a legal avenue for attacking Rasmussen’s presentation. Just because transphobia fits within legally sanctioned procedures does not make it acceptable.
Any caring and compassionate person who recognizes Rasmussen’s humanity should give him extra understanding when it comes to clothing choices – the process of changing the gender of one’s wardrobe is challenging when you have been trained to put together outfits that fit a different presentation. Most if not all trans folk can probably point to a fashion faux pas or two during their transition process. I say this not at all to suggest that Rasmussen’s attire was inappropriate (or a fashion mistake – Rasmussen said he got compliments on the outfit) but to offer further evidence that Sturdevant’s complaint is transphobic. If she really had a problem with the outfit she could have approached Rasmussen personally rather than making this a public issue. Or better yet, just let it go – there must have been something more important for the director of a youth program to worry about.
Note: Rasmussen has said he is comfortable with the terms genderqueer and transgender, and has also self-identified himself as a cross-dresser and trans.

and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

42 Comments

  1. Danielle
    Posted July 24, 2009 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    I continue to be so, so impressed by Rasmussen. It takes a lot of courage to do what he does. He’s definitely one of my few political heroes.

  2. IamnotTheDudeness
    Posted July 24, 2009 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    Kinda looks like Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin.

  3. Maria
    Posted July 24, 2009 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    I read this article, which states that the “sort of halter top” was a bikini top. http://www.katu.com/news/local/51532412.html
    Honestly, I don’t know if the complaint was filed because of his identity or because of the outfit only. However, I am pretty sure the mayor was innappropriately dressed for that function. The article cited gives several quotes from him, one insinuating that a city dress code doesn’t apply to him. Also, most of the pictures of Rasmussen are of him wearing skimpier clothing than I have seen other elected officials wear. Maybe I’m too ‘pantsuit = politician’ but I would find that attire to be unprofessional in any office workplace. A teacher would never be allowed to wear that in front of 12-17 year olds, let alone any kids.
    I think calling Sturdevent transphobic is wildly unfair, because you are just assuming alternative motives (which there may be) rather than asking whether the dress itself was unprofessional (which it seems to have been). Other articles say that the Silverton Together president got 3 separate complaints from parents.
    It is not intolerant, as Rasmussen claimed, to expect elected officials to dress professionally for the job, especially when addressing a younger audience. His quote about “I’ll wear what I want” concerning this issue, is troubling to me because that wouldn’t fly in any professional setting.

  4. Logrus
    Posted July 24, 2009 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    I have very mixed feelings about this issue.
    On the one hand I absolutely believe Stu is right, it’s his (he uses the male pronoun personally) can dress any damn way he chooses. We should stop catering to the whims of the moron back-water body-shame jerks. People’s prejudices about the body and attire are infantile and not worth noting.
    On the other hand those people do exist, this was a charity function which could potentially suffer loss of donated funds due to unwanted association with something they do not feel represents their projected ideal image.
    I also think that Stu’s decision to try and befuddle the city council by stating he is “neither man nor woman and therefore the dress guidelines don’t apply to me” is a bit childish and could backfire.
    As to this: “Any caring and compassionate person who recognizes Rasmussen’s humanity should give him extra understanding when it comes to clothing choices – the process of changing the gender of one’s wardrobe is challenging when you have been trained to put together outfits that fit a different presentation.
    This sentiment indicates a pretty fundamental lack of awareness of Stu’s personality and the actual clothing under dispute. Not to mention it’s a damn patronizing statement, while finding clothes that fit is certainly an issue for transfolk (mostly MtF) any male with half a brain has a grasp on what kind of outfit women wear that is situationally appropriate and knows that evening gown cuts or bikini-tops and minis and kids daytime charity events don’t go over well in small-town Silverton. Also, Stu has a girlfriend so even if he didn’t know how to dress he has an adviser; but if you knew Stu you’d know he likes to dress “sexy” and likes to dress in a manner that shows off his figure(he’s said so in several interviews).
    Stu rocks, but he’s also kind of the type get really bullheaded over confrontation. He’s got an aggressive “type-a” personality (which is how he won over a very conservative voting populace) but it can cause him to say and do very impolitic things.

  5. Abby B.
    Posted July 24, 2009 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps the issue is indeed more subtle than it might appear at first glance, and I’m willing to concede his outfit might have been unprofessional. But I remain uncomfortable with the more bureaucratic aspect- I saw no evidence that anyone talked to Rasmussen about his apparel before lodging a formal complaint. Is this because the people complaining lacked the common courtesy to do so, or because they were uncomfortable talking to a trans person about his dress? Either way, it’s high time for a discussion about why people feel dress codes are important, and, in the case that they exist, how we can enforce them whilst respecting the rights and dignity of our peers.

  6. Estraven
    Posted July 24, 2009 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    If the Mayor were a cisman, would it be appropriate for him to show up at this function in a Speedo swimsuit and say that he can dress anyway he pleases? and if she were a busty ciswoman, to show up in that bikini top, saying that? I think even MORE parents would have complained.
    Part of being professional is that we subordinate a bit of ourselves to the demands of the job, for the good of the people we serve. There is a dress code where I work, and so I tone down my more flamboyant self and dress modestly at work. That is what a grown-up and a professional does, cis, trans, or genderqueer. To act like trans people don’t have to behave like professionals on the job is an insult to trans people, and will definitely perpetuate their difficulties in getting hired. It specifies that s/he was on duty when this happened. We can dress however we please when we are not at work, and NO ONE gets to tell us how to dress then. But trans people are judged by the same standards of professional conduct as everyone else at work, and his/her behavior was not professional.

  7. Destra
    Posted July 24, 2009 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    I saw the outfit that the Mayor wore to the function. It was an inappropriate outfit to wear to a function with kids where he was acting within his role as mayor. Not professional at all.

  8. Brandi
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    I would assume no one talked to him because it’s pretty obvious that bikini tops and miniskirts aren’t mayor-appropriate attire for an event for children. This outfit doesn’t appear to be something that was borderline acceptable.

  9. Abby B.
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Just because it seems to us like it was a really obviously bad choice doesn’t mean we get a pass on the talk-to-the-other-person-first rule. I don’t feel like my perception of someone acting stupidly entitles me to disrespect that person. Especially when, stupid actions or not, I know that the issue is one’s that’s very important to that other person.
    Even if it was a “Come on, Stu, seriously?”, I would hope that someone would have talked to him first.

  10. theology_nerd
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Agreed. No matter what a person’s gender identity is, they should be held to the same standards when it comes to professional attire. (Equality, remember?) It’s a bit of a stretch to call Sturdevant transphobic just because he believes that a bikini top and short skirt are inappropriate for a mayor to wear at a public function.

  11. nikki#2
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    You do have a point. Normally it is polite to speak the person first and try to clear up the problem quickly and quietly. However there are limits to that too. If what he was wearing was so extraordinarily inappropriate I would think one of two things about him.
    1- He had done it on purpose. There would be no point to discussing the issue in this case.
    2-He was so stupid he was not aware of what he had done or did not see the problem. Again, no point in discussing it in this case. I shudder to think an elected of official could be this stupid.
    I have heard varied descriptions of what he was wearing. It was undeniably inappropriate. Now, we know he crossed the line in acceptable dress. Did he also cross the ‘second line’? I don’t know. With out seeing a picture of the now infamous outfit I can’t pass judgement. And something about needing to look at a picture to see if he was dressed indecently makes my skin crawl. This situation never should have happened.

  12. BackOfBusEleven
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think anyone is saying that trans people should be allowed to dress however they want in the workplace. When someone has a problem with a coworker, they talk to the person causing the problem at least once to try to resolve it. If that doesn’t work, then they file a complaint. I just don’t know if the complaint was filed the first time there was a problem because there’s a trans person involved. But I do know that if the complaint were filed against a cis person, there would be no question that the complaint was filed because of the person’s dress and not the person’s gender identity.

  13. Abby B.
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    See, I feel like it’s necessary to be respectful even when a person isn’t respectful of you. Part of that means voicing your concerns to a person even if you know they’re being stubborn and nothing will come of it (and then you can move on to complain above that person’s head) and another part of being respectful is assuming they’re at least as intelligent as you are. Whether something is a stupid choice or not is a highly subjective distinction, because someone else might have radically different priorities than you do. It might be the case that he put a lot of thought behind his clothing choices. He might have been making a statement we don’t understand. That doesn’t change the fact that certain dress choices are (by popular opinion) unacceptably inappropriate for that kind of venue, but it gives us a reason to talk to him rather than just simply speculate.

  14. Mama Mia
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Here is a link that has an interview with Rasmussen, and he is wearing the outfit in question. The story notes that halter tops are forbidden by city code, but that he wants to change the code. The top isn’t exactly a bikini. (I apologize that the story is from dListed, which is not the most tolerant place, but I couldn’t find it anywhere else): http://www.dlisted.com/node/33113
    It is an interesting interview.

  15. ginasf
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    1) It was, in fact not a bikini top, it was a halter top. It was not that revealing for a very hot day in a smallish town.
    2) This is how he usually dresses… the people who voted for him know that. Nothing new.
    3) Any remarks here about him ‘not knowing how to dress’ have, in my opinion, patronizing cis-sexist privilege built into them. You’re assuming you know how to dress the ‘right’ way and he doesn’t. Get over yourselves. If a woman mayor wore that outfit, there might be some complaining but not nearly the reaction it had.
    4) Estraven’s remark is inappropriate. He didn’t wear a speedo and what he wore was nothing like a speedo, bad analogy. Do I like his taste in dressing… no, I think his taste sucks. Do I think it was inappropriate for a hot day… no.
    5) This business about “addressing the kids” is so typical for societally controlling behavior. Evoking the delicate sensibilities of kids and their parents to justify any level of gender discomfort is a classic conservative maneuver. I say this as someone who’s both a transwoman and someone who’s taught elementary school (albeit in a very different outfits from Stu’s).

  16. ginasf
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    1) It was, in fact not a bikini top, it was a halter top. It was not that revealing for a very hot day in a smallish town.
    2) This is how he usually dresses… the people who voted for him know that. Nothing new.
    3) Any remarks here about him ‘not knowing how to dress’ have, in my opinion, patronizing cis-sexist privilege built into them. You’re assuming you know how to dress the ‘right’ way and he doesn’t. Get over yourselves. If a woman mayor wore that outfit, there might be some complaining but not nearly the reaction it had.
    4) Estraven’s remark is inappropriate. He didn’t wear a speedo and what he wore was nothing like a speedo, bad analogy. Do I like his taste in dressing… no, I think his taste sucks. Do I think it was inappropriate for a hot day… no.
    5) This business about “addressing the kids” is so typical for societally controlling behavior. Evoking the delicate sensibilities of kids and their parents to justify any level of gender discomfort is a classic conservative maneuver. I say this as someone who’s both a transwoman and someone who’s taught elementary school (albeit in a very different outfits from Stu’s).

  17. rhowan
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    “I saw no evidence that anyone talked to Rasmussen about his apparel before lodging a formal complaint. Is this because the people complaining lacked the common courtesy to do so, or because they were uncomfortable talking to a trans person about his dress?”
    This interview states that Sturdevant tried to call Rasmussen to discuss the issue after the event, but that he never called her back.
    I also found a CNN video interview with Rasmussen which shows the outfit in question. It’s not as bad as some of the articles make it sound, but I wouldn’t call it “professional attire”.

  18. Destra
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    If a woman mayor wore that outfit, there might be some complaining but not nearly the reaction it had.
    If a mayor who was a woman wore that outfit, there would be the exact same response. I’d certainly complain. Now, I’ve never lived in a small town nor met any small town mayors. Maybe they do regularly go to functions in shorts and sandals and mini skirts. But if you are in a professional job, you need to act professionally. That includes dress. I would be very uncomfortable around my mayor dressed so informally at an official function.
    The only difference I see in this situation is that if it was a non-trans who wore such an inappropriate outfit, that it would not have made the national news.

  19. Kathleen6674
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    I think if any woman, cis or trans, wore that outfit to work at an office, people would comment and complain. I’ve worked with two ciswomen who were reprimanded by HR (two different workplaces, head of HR was female both places, as were the majority of staff) for provocative attire. And by ‘reprimanded’ I mean sent home to change and the incident came up during the next employee review.
    Both workplaces were nonprofits, did fundraisers with kids, etc. Pretty much the same scenario as this one with Stu.
    And ANY female politician who wore that outfit to work would get negative media attention. It might not be on a national level (that’s the transphobic element here), but there would be tongues wagging and photos posted.

  20. Kathleen6674
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    And re: the weather. Has anyone here had an office job that suddenly allowed miniskirts and tank tops simply because it was 90 degrees out?
    I sure haven’t. It’s pretty common to see office workers walking down the street in hot weather sans blazers, but they typically put them on once they get to work. Even if we sit at our desks with our jackets off, for something like a big meeting or in a setting where we’d be interacting with the public or someone from another office, the jackets are on.
    Except for three months at a corporate law firm, I’ve always worked in left-leaning workplaces, too. This is not a case of ‘Look at all the conservative stuffed shirts.’ It’s about standard business manners.

  21. Flowers
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    It was a bikini top. Stu stated such at the beginning of his interview. It was halter-like, but (unless you think he doesn’t know what he’s wearing), it was a bikini top.

  22. kendraj
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    Nowhere in that article does the word ‘bikini’ appear. What it says is ‘bathing suit top’. Quote carefully.

  23. lackadaisical
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    I’d say I was deeply disappointed with Feministing commenters, but I’m not. I’ve come to expect this kind of cis-privileged reaction, a sort of knee jerk attempt to relate to trans people’s experiences on your own terms without any critical evaluation of how trans people are treated in society, or even a complete denial that those experiences are influenced by transphobia.
    I mean, we certainly never question provocative attire and inappropriate standards of dress as they pertain to cis women, right? There’s absolutely no history of patriarchal control there (eyeroll).
    You know what? This is a stupid comparison, but take the film Erin Brockovich for example. Small town setting, professional occupation. The titular character dresses in “provocative attire” but we’re supposed to root for her, to know that the way she dresses isn’t a reflection of low intelligence, of unprofessionalism (and most importantly, of being somehow dangerous and morally corruptive to children). Why, exactly, is it ok for us to see this woman as sassy and strong and anti-patriarchal establishment, but when it’s a transgendered person doing the same thing suddenly it’s all “Think of the children! Won’t somebody please think of the children!”
    I know that many people have been responding that they’d feel the same if Stu was a cis woman, or that they’ve seen instances of the same treatment happening to coworkers. My question is, why aren’t we examining that treatment in the first place instead of unflinchingly accepting these (to me anyway) sexist ideas about what women (or trans people) can wear? Because the whole idea behind “appropriateness” of dress really comes down to the levels of sexuality and self-comfort that can be expressed within an environment. And while in a non-sexist society we might be perfectly ok with setting those levels, are we really going to sit here and condemn someone for being happy enough and brave enough to dress they way they want even though patriarchy and cissupremacy tells them not to? Someone who is already condemned for having a “perverse” identity? Someone who is, I think I can say with 100% certainty (and isn’t that depressing), condemned by at least a handful of people in that town for being a pedophile?
    I really want to say something about how all this fits into the Madonna/Whore complex, that patriarchy approves of sexuality when it’s convenient and disapproves when it doesn’t want to be “confronted” like in the workplace (because the guys can’t focus when those silly women wear revealing clothes!), or when it believes some people aren’t allowed to be sexual (trans people, fat people, people with disabilities), but I’m not sure that I’m eloquent enough to get my thoughts across.

  24. BackOfBusEleven
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    The top he wore on the date in question is no more revealing than the one he’s wearing in the above picture. His shoulders are exposed in the halter top, but his hair covers them. In the picture above, he’s wearing a scoop neck, but the necklace fills in the void. It seems like he dresses this way all the time. He’s the mayor, for crying out loud. He should be allowed to dress how he wants. Whoever complained needs to get a life, as does anyone else who is offended by his clothing choices. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the person who filed the complaint actively worked against Rasmussen when he ran for mayor.

  25. BackOfBusEleven
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    Not everyone knows the terminology for their own clothes. People use the term “bikini” for any two-piece swimsuit, and that’s not correct. It wasn’t a bikini top. It was a halter. I don’t know if it was part of a swim suit, but that doesn’t make it a bikini top.

  26. BackOfBusEleven
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    I think your Erin Brockavich comparison is fair and reflects my feelings on this story exactly. I do think there are appropriate and inappropriate ways to dress in the workplace. But Rasmussen is the boss, and the boss tends to set the standard of attire for the rest of the employees.

  27. Maria
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    I use bikini as interchangeable for ‘two-piece’, but it does imply skimpiness now that I think about it.
    You’re right and I’m sorry to anyone that was misled.

  28. Maria
    Posted July 25, 2009 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    I do have a problem with people being overtly sexual in a work environment. Someone had commented that the ‘children’ argument is a classic way of supression, but I think it is wrong to bring sexuality into a space centered around children. Why is that being done? Why is it necessary?
    Stu has said that he likes to dress sexy, that is his intent…to be sexually desired by way of his clothing. How is that an acceptable judgement call when going to a function like this? When choosing clothing there are obviously many factors involved, but Stu seems to focus on being ‘sexy’ -which is not an acceptable trump all factor when choosing an outfit for speaking to youth.
    And yes, in work environments I am offended when people bring sex into them. Whether it’s having sex on the copy machine, a blowjob in your office, a top that exposes breasts, pants that give a distinct bulge, or a hidden vibrator in your underwear. People have a right to go to work without being confronted by things that ought to be on your own time. If it was a mistake, fine, talk to the person and make them aware. Sexual under/overtones lead to an environment that is not focused on work and is a form of harrassment.

  29. lackadaisical
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 1:34 am | Permalink

    Actually I agree with you, bringing sex into a work environment is totally inappropriate. Why do you think that’s what Stu has done? Just because he’s wearing clothes deemed sexy, and that he enjoys feeling sexy because of them, in no way does this mean he’s engaging in sexual activity or behaviour. I mean, there’s a difference between dressing up for your own pleasure, feeling sexy and beautiful and proud of your appearance, and dressing up for the purpose of having sex.
    And the children thing: this was supposed to be some kind of youth leadership training, which leads me to believe that they’re probably in the adolescent age range. Do you really think that these kids aren’t aware of sexuality and clothing choices? Even if they were younger, I honestly can’t see why they’d be adversely affected. Children aren’t born with an innate sense of revealing clothes=inherently sexual, if anything they’d be more likely to think “that’s a pretty top” than “those clothes are too sexy”. Adults who use children as a scare tactic are speaking to their own discomfort, not their children’s. How many times have we heard the argument that gay, lesbian and bisexual people are too sexual for children to understand, that merely knowing they exist will somehow confuse children. Is it that Stu is bringing sexuality into this situation, or that he’s just being himself and other people are interpreting that as a sexualized action?

  30. Maria
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    Yes, the argument about gay people being too sexual for children to understand is ridiculous, but I don’t think it’s ‘sexual’ per se. Knowing your teacher is heterosexual does not mean that you consider your teacher sexual, which is where that argument falls through. Sex, gender, sexual preference, etc, is not ‘sexual’. Orientation does not equal sexual and it’s insulting that people try to make it so in order to condemn it for reasonable purposes.
    I guess why I think Stu has brought sex into a work environment is because he deems his outfits to be sexy. If he didn’t consider his own clothing to be sexual in nature then I would understand, but he admittedly does. Then you have to disect the whole idea of him feeling sexy in his clothing. What is it to feel sexy? I consider it, at the base, to be that he feels desired, sexually. Engaging in sexual behavior can be in dress alone. Premeditatively dressing in a manner where your goal is to get a sexual response is inherently innappropriate in a work environment. In this case his primary audience was youth, but let’s assume he didn’t want their desire at all, then the parents? the sponsers? who? Even if it’s no one in particular and it’s simply an exercise in feeling sexually confident…that should be done on his own time.

  31. Destra
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    I’ve come to expect this kind of cis-privileged reaction, a sort of knee jerk attempt to relate to trans people’s experiences on your own terms without any critical evaluation of how trans people are treated in society, or even a complete denial that those experiences are influenced by transphobia.
    And we’ve all come to expect knee jerk calls of privilege and discrimination whenever a trans person is involved (or women, or homosexuals, or racial minorities, or non-christians…)
    are we really going to sit here and condemn someone for being happy enough and brave enough to dress they way they want even though patriarchy and cissupremacy tells them not to? Someone who is already condemned for having a “perverse” identity?
    A trans person does not get to be held to different standards than do non-trans people. You say that we are trampling the mayor’s bravery to wear what he feels comfortable in despite what “normal” society would deem. The mayor can wear whatever he wants, ultimately, but there are consequences for doing so. If you work a professional job, you wear professional clothes or you’ll get complaints.
    that patriarchy approves of sexuality when it’s convenient and disapproves when it doesn’t want to be “confronted” like in the workplace (because the guys can’t focus when those silly women wear revealing clothes!)
    Again, you’re crying discrimination when it comes to standards of dress for women. But if the same applies for men, then it’s not sexist, and I don’t understand how patriarchy has anything to do with it. If a male lawyer came into our law firm with a v-neck top on under his jacket, he’d be sent home for a dress shirt. If he came in with a pair of shorts on, he’d be sent home. I’d say the professional standard of dress for women is more flexible than that of men. Men must be in suit and dress shirt with pants. Women can wear suits with or with out dress shirts, dresses, or suits with skirts. Again, if the standards are equal in the workplace, then they are not sexist.
    American society has rules about standards of dress. You don’t go out in public with your genitals showing. You cannot enter food places barefoot. And certain professional jobs have dress codes– those codes are conservative and non-skin bearing. If you want to talk about changing the code of dress for professionals, we can certainly talk all about how you dress not bearing on your ability. But as a professional, I’ve seen two very good reasons to wear the suit: you inspire confidence in your clients, and judges are not inclined to rule against your motions because they feel that you are being disrespectful to them and the court.

  32. SaltyLilKipper
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    When I watched Erin Brockovich with my mother she shook her head and said she didn’t understand why Erin thought she could be taken seriously as a professional when she dressed the way she did (skirts well above the knee, spaghetti straps, plunging necklines).
    Maybe that’s wrong. Maybe people should be able to get ahead in life no matter what they wear. I’m not arguing against that. I’ve gotten plenty of crap from people for ‘dressing like a whore’ in my time. I was humiliated by a teacher in junior high for wearing a pair of jean shorts that showed too much leg.
    I’m not condoning slut-shaming, but I do think a ciswoman would have also been condemned for dressing the way Stu Rasmussen did at that function.

  33. ginasf
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    Are you aware the temperature was over 100 degrees when this ‘incident’ occurred? That the meeting was in a non-air-conditioned room? This is a small town informal event, not a large law office. Have you seen how most people dress in this country? There aren’t a lot of people wearing suits in small town America. And Bernie Madoff wore business suits… what the h*ll does that have to do with professionalism or believability?
    What is ‘sexy’ is highly subjective. A man wearing shorts might be sexy. A man wearing a form fitting Armani suit might be sexy. Why do you get to say what’s sexy and what isn’t. For some men, women wearing open-toed shoes are highly sexy. I’m still waiting to see the official decree as to what is sexy or not.
    But those are both irrelevant issues, because this is not really how Stu dresses. As I said, everyone in town knew exactly how he dressed when he ran for mayor, and I’m talking about his sense of style, not just his gender expression. This entire situation is largely being put together by people who didn’t support Stu’s election in the first place. They’re desperately trying to prove he’s an ‘inappropriate’ mayor. They lost at the ballot box, and now they’re trying the ‘ruining the children’ bs conservatives always fall back on. Again, I don’t defend his sense of style in the least, but I know he’s right in saying what this disagreement is all about.

  34. lackadaisical
    Posted July 26, 2009 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    This is precisely what I mean when I say that discussions about trans people always derail into cis-privileged reactions. Transphobia? UNLIKELY. It was totally unprofessional! That’s the key issue at stake here! The fact that trans people are routinely hypersexualized has no bearing on the situation. The fact that trans people are seen as dangerous to children is unimportant. The fact that trans people’s clothing choices are scrutinized endlessly is irrelevant.
    Maybe you do see Stu’s dress sense as inappropriate for his position. Whatever. Is that where the discussion stops?
    And I don’t want trans people to be treated differently. But if the main concern here is when trans people are being treated more leniently than cis people, as opposed to when they’re treated more harshly as above, well then I can see why some trans people find this place to be hostile.

  35. lyndorr
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 2:07 am | Permalink

    I watched the video posted and thought what he was wearing didn’t look as inappropriate or unprofessional as I was expecting it to. I also thought if a woman wore the same thing, people might react, especially if it was an attractive woman. I think people interpret something that seems sexual as not professional.

  36. Former Jose
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    I’m not terribly interested in commenting on Mayor Rasmussen’s outfit or whether it was inappropriate or not–to do so kind of feel voyeuristic and icky to me. But I am interested that a good portion of the comments here are of the “But cis women get treated like this too, so Stu should just STFU!” variety.
    I mean, it’s true. Cis women get judged on their appearances all the time and, unlike with men in the business world, there’s not nearly as standard a dress code for women in the business world.
    But. This story isn’t about a cis woman, and THAT IS IMPORTANT.
    For example, several years ago, a family member raked me over the coals about my appearance and how it would affect me in the business world. “You make people uncomfortable,” I was told, very directly. What was my heinous crime? I wear men’s khaki slacks and a tucked-in button-up dress shirt, sometimes with a necktie and sports coat.
    Not at all revealing. Not at all inappropriate for the office. But my relative was correct–I often DO make people uncomfortable. Not because I’m dressed inappropriately, by any standard, but because I am read as female and dressed in ways seen as male. In a nutshell, because I’m transgender.
    So I am very aware that there is an answer to the question, “Why were people uncomfortable?” that isn’t “Duh! Because he was dressed inappropriately.” I don’t know the answer, mind you–but neither does anyone else who is commenting on this story.
    Maybe Sturdevant’s complaint wasn’t based on transphobia–I don’t know, and I don’t personally care, as this isn’t my town we’re talking about–but frankly, I would err on the side of assuming it was. Because the world proves itself transphobic over and over and over again, and assuming good-will and good intents from those who are privileged is, itself, a luxury of the privileged.

  37. ruth
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    I think what he was wearing was inappropriate. I manage a small non-profit and have sent people home to change their clothes when they are inappropriately dressed. If staff are working in the office all day and not seeing members of the public I don’t really care what they wear.
    However if staff are at events or meeting with the public they need to dress appropriately. Not to do so makes it much harder for us to achieve what we want to. So if staff dress casually and inappropriately at particular events they and by association the organisation would be dismissed as unprofessional.
    If on the otherhand a staff member dressed in a 3 piece suit when they were going to be running a playscheme for kids, this would be inappropriate
    It may be mayors in small towns in America routinely dress like this. I can tell you though that this dress would be very unacceptable where I live.
    I remember one female mayor a few years ago who I was friends with complaining that she had to spend money buying clothes for public events that she would normally never wear.
    By the way I am left wing and a lesbian.

  38. Vexing
    Posted July 28, 2009 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    That’s right folks, when you transition, the Mystical Tranny Fairy sprinkles pixie dust on your boy clothes and [i]magically[/i] transforms them into a tasteful and (most importantly) free wardrobe for you to use immediately!
    Because of this, there is no need to purchase an entire wardrobe (most often on your own, while dressed as a man) out of your own pocket and you don’t have to learn the do’s and don’ts of wearing female clothing in different settings.
    Bless you, Mystical Tranny Fairy.
    Where would I be without you?

  39. Cosmosis
    Posted July 28, 2009 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    It wasn’t ignorance, just disregard for a policy that he doesn’t believe in. I respect his right to protest the city government’s dress code but until he manages to change it, he’s subject to the same consequences as everyone else.

  40. Cosmosis
    Posted July 28, 2009 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    It wasn’t ignorance, just disregard for a policy that he doesn’t believe in. I respect his right to protest the city government’s dress code but until he manages to change it, he’s subject to the same consequences as everyone else.

  41. ginasf
    Posted July 28, 2009 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    @Comosis: Before we assume he’s gone out on a limb for the ‘raciness’ of his dressing, perhaps we should first know how well this policy has been enforced in the past? Have women who work for the city previously been criticized/penalized for wearing short skirts? Is wearing a halter top something which other city employees never do especially on a hot day? If they have, then what was the reaction/consequences? It has to be seen within the context of the culture of the town.
    Until I really know that (and not just some outsiders’ assumptions about it), I’m going to continue to assume this is an attempt by people who didn’t support his election to smear his reputation and they wouldn’t be comfortable with Stu no matter what woman-ID’d clothing he wore. And I very much agree with what Former Jose wrote which goes to the heart of the matter.

  42. FrumiousB
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    It has to be seen within the context of the culture of the town.
    This. I absolutely agree that to determine whether Stu is being judged more or less harshly than cis gendered people, we need to examine how other workers in his office are treated when they violate the dress code. That someone at my office might be sent home in such an outfit really has no bearing on whether Stu should be criticized or not.
    I’m going to continue to assume this is an attempt by people who didn’t support his election to smear his reputation and they wouldn’t be comfortable with Stu no matter what woman-ID’d clothing he wore.
    This, too. If the complainer had been raised on a desert island by wolves, we could assume that she was motivated only by concerns about proper attire. Given that in this culture, gender non-conforming people are judged more harshly than gender conforming people, it is most likely that his gender presentation played a large part in the complaintant’s discomfort.
    The discomfort at Stu’s presentation is not necessarily overt. I think that’s important to remember. I doubt that the complaintant was thinking “It’s so much more wrong for a gender queer/trans woman to show shoulders than for a cis woman!” She might have. But it’s more likely that she was made uncomfortable and did not examine whether she was using a harsher standard due to Stu’s presentation.

Feministing In Your Inbox

Sign up for our Newsletter to stay in touch with Feministing
and receive regular updates and exclusive content.

224 queries. 1.201 seconds