Posted by: katedaphne | January 3, 2008

Unlikely allies

Or, “What I Have In Common With a Pre-Surgical Transexual Unemployed Former City Manager Who Likes to Go Fishing With His Son”

At first glance, the answer would appear to be that I have absolutely nothing in common with this person. But the truth is, I do, and I can’t get her out of my mind.

Her name is Susan Stanton. Her name used to be Steve Stanton, and back then she was the city manager for a town near my own. She lost her job when it was discovered she was getting ready to undergo a pretty major transformation, into the person she was always meant to be.

Our local newspaper has followed her story pretty closely, and it never interested me that much except in a boy-they-treated-her-shabbily kind of way. But last weekend a great reporter wrote one of those year-end stories about her, different in that it was more a look ahead into Susan’s future instead of at the past — and my reaction was much different. I suddenly was overtaken with an incredible amount of empathy.

Please take a moment to check out these links, even if you just glance over them, to learn a little about Susan, then come back and I’ll explain what I mean. The first link is to the recent story, the second is to a special report that details as much of the history as you care to read.



My first reaction to the story was sadness at her isolation. I wanted to cry just thinking about her down there with no friends, feeling all alone. I wanted to be her friend — but what do I have to offer her? Different jobs, different backgrounds, different interests, differenet families… What common ground could there possibly be?

Then I realized how much. Perhaps I empathized with her loneliness because I too am isolated. I am luckier in that I have a wonderful and nurturing relationship with my mate. I have friends, family and colleagues too — but the truth is that I am separated from them by my infertility and my sorrow at losing two pregnancies and failing repeatedly at IVF. Most of the time I have a facade up, a barrier, to protect me from other people, from their thoughtlessness and from their kindness — and to protect them from me too, from my grief and from my inscrutibility.

But it’s more than that. Both of us are following a drive that comes from deep within us, to lead a life that others don’t understand and that doesn’t even necessarily bring us happiness. Nevertheless, we know it is the right — the only — thing to do.

She can’t explain to others who don’t get it or don’t support her why she has chosen to do what she has. To her — it isn’t even a choice. It isn’t easy, it isn’t fun, it has the capacity to hurt those she cares about. It hurts her. But yet she knows in her soul it is what she is meant to do.

Same thing with me. I can’t explain to others why I want a baby so badly. It isn’t something that exists in words. It’s a knowledge that comes from my core that living any other way is not a choice for me, and so I am driven to reach my goal. It torments me, but not as much as it would if I weren’t reaching.

Another thing we have in common is a sense that our bodies are betraying us. We both know in our hearts what kind of lives we are supposed to be living. But our bodies are standing in our way, and so we are taking drastic, expensive, sometimes painful steps to fix this. How odd to think we are both pumping our bodies full of hormones, and dealing with unwanted side effects, in order to heal ourselves.

She was born with the “wrong” type of body, and I was born with a “broken” one. Many other people think we should suck it up and just deal with the bodies we’ve got. But — why should we give up? Why shouldn’t we do all in our power to be who we really are?

Obviously, there are huge differences between us. I’m a quiet, rather shy newspaper copy editor. She’s used to a powerful, and public, position. I don’t have gender issues. She has a child. Her transformation into her true self requires crossing into territory even less socially acceptable, or at least less socially understood, and she’s had to give up more or less her whole previous life in the faith that her new one will someday be better. I still have my job, and while I would trade my whole life to have a baby, I haven’t had to yet.

I don’t minimize our differences, but I see so much that we share. Susan, I am pulling for you. I wish you every success and happiness. I hope you find a job soon, one that suits your talents and isn’t beneath you. And I hope you find peace. Happy new year.



  1. I loved this post. I don’t know that I would have made the connection, but you spell it out beautifully and in doing so highlight so much of the core struggle of infertility.

  2. Oh, another beautiful post, Kate. You are so right. There are so many of us isolating ourselves from the world because their comments and lack of understanding hurt us, and because they don’t understand our drive (and right) to live the lives we always wanted for ourselves. Very thought-provoking.

  3. I’d have never made the connection, but you have some very good points.


  4. You never cease to amaze. Great connection – great post. Hugs.

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