Thursday, May 31, 2007

crossdresser has coming-out party at town meeting

By Fred Hanson, The Patriot Ledger

RANDOLPH, MA — You could call it Stephanie Edwards' first town meeting, even though she has attended the sessions for more than two decades.

Under a different name and persona.

“What better place to come out for the first time in the general public than at town meeting?” Edwards asked.

The decision to appear in her female persona at town meeting wasn't difficult.

Edwards, 53, has been attending events and going to social occasions as a woman for more than a decade.

“I go to the bank and the supermarket. Why should town meeting be any different? I dress (as a woman) as much as I can when I can. This is the other half of my identity,” she said.

Edwards has gone to government meetings as a woman, testifying before the Boston City Council on legislation that would prohibit discrimination based on gender identification.

She is also working on behalf of similar legislation at the state level. About the only place she dresses as a man is to work. Her male persona, Stuart Glass, works for the state, but does not want to identify the agency or position.

Her appearance in a long purple dress on the opening night of town meeting on May 15 created a buzz of conversation among other elected town meeting members and spectators.

Most smaller towns in Massachusetts have an open town meeting, with any registered voter allowed to take part in decision-making. But Randolph is among the communities run by a representative town meeting, with 200 members elected to conduct the town's business at annual and special town meetings.

A town meeting member since 1985, Glass rarely spoke on town meeting floor. Edwards did not go to the microphone once during the four nights of town meeting, which concluded Tuesday night.

Town Moderator Kevin Reilly, who presides over the sessions, said he didn't get any complaints about Edwards.

"Other than it was pointed out to me the first evening, I didn't hear about it," Reilly said. "It didn't become an issue."

Town Clerk Brian Howard said there were a couple of minor procedural questions. Edwards checked in as Glass, whose name appeared on the ballot and voters' list.

"Is it unique? Yes, it's unique," Howard said. "We're a tolerant community."

The town's population is racially, ethnically and religiously diverse. Its School Committee includes an openly gay member.

Edwards said the comments she's heard have been positive.

"It's been good so far. People have been polite," Edwards said. "People have complimented me on my appearance, mainly women."

Fashions at town meeting can vary widely, from town officials in jacket and tie to backbenchers in shorts and Red Sox T-shirts.

Edwards performs a couple of times a month at the Randolph Country Club, which caters to gay people. She's also starting a "drag queen entertainment" business, performing everything from Barbara Streisand songs to country music and current hits.

"I got loads of wigs, loads of outfits and loads of CDs," she said.

Glass has an image consulting business for transgendered people, men who identify themselves as women and women who identify themselves as men. Edwards has not undergone the treatments and surgery to change her gender, saying she has problems with the medical process.

Married for many years, Glass' divorce is about to become final.

Edwards believes her action has helped raise awareness of transgender individuals in the community.

"You don't become transgender; you're born that way," said Edwards. "I was just born the wrong sex. I feel better about myself as a woman."

This story appeared here in the online edition of The Patriot Ledger on June 31, 2007. This link is correct, but it looks like somebody hacked it. I contacted The Patriot Ledger about the problem and they are working on it. They did e-mail the whole story to me and I have posted it above.

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