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.