You may have heard the news a few weeks ago that the first openly transgender mayor, Stu Rasmussen had a complaint filed against him (his chosen pronoun) for inappropriate attire.
I won’t repeat the whole story, the Statesmen Journal, and Feministing (with a counter point) do a good job describing it all. The short, short version is that Stu attended a youth event in high heels, a very short skirt and a revealing halter top. The director of the youth event filed a formal complaint about Stu’s outfit with the city council president. News ensues.
Oregon’s Transgender Mayor
I’ve been stewing on this (pardon the pun), for a while now, quite unsure how to comment on this. On one hand Stu has tremendous courage running for public office as a transgender person. His self expression doesn’t fit within the ‘norms’ of the transgender community. He has breast implants, presents as a woman, and chooses to be referred to as “he”. More genderqueer, and less “crossdresser” or “transsexual”. I’m tremendously proud of the self assurance he has shown to overcome not just the biases of society, but even the labels the transgender community tends to use.
There is not doubt that certain news organizations will jump on any opportunity to reinforce biases. It’s not fair, but it’s the world we live in. Stu showed a lack of judgment when he wore a skimpy outfit to a youth event. Worse, his lack of judgment reflects poorly on all those in the transgender community.
Do We Thwart Self Expression?
Yet for all I’ve said about, it’s a thin line that divides “self expression” from “responsibility to a group”. Society tells us we cannot wear dresses and makeup. Are we just as wrong to deny Stu his right to self expression? Perhaps in fighting so hard for our rights we treat the rights of other’s as expendable.
Tell me what you think. Where is the balance between self expression and group responsibility. Was Stu wrong to wear that outfit? Or are we wrong to get down on our first transgender mayor for his choice of clothes?