Stu Rasmussen, of Silverton, Oregon, is an avid metalworker, woodworker, and electrician - and in 2008 became our country's first transgendered mayor. News of his election swept the country, but what was it like at home?
A huge "like" for the people of Silverton, Oregon and a "you go girl" for Stu!! Thanks for sharing the story, I really enjoyed it. The world would be a better place if we had more towns/cities like Silverton.
Story came out of left field for me. Never heard about it when it happened. Would have liked it just as well had it taken place somewhere else, but it's a pleasant surprise that it transpired so close to home. Could have happened anywhere - or could it? It so bucks our concept of small town life - I would have loved this story anyway. Love how what must have been a headline-grabbing story is slowly revealed, beginning with early background, building tension, and that we listeners don't really know where it's going. Clever and engrossing storytelling - it's the opposite of what our stereotypes would allow us to expect - small town as progressive community, familiarity breeds respect. Great angle. First rate delivery!
What a wonderful and moving story. It really got me thinking. Thank you to make this public and visible.
Loved this story.
I really enjoyed this show last night on NPR but found one subtle reference to be terribly offensive to the point that it was either tremendously ignorant or an outrageous slur.
In the story you described the Westboro Baptist Church, a radical hate group run by Fred Phelps and not affiliated with any US Christian organization other than his own inbred family of haters, as a Christian Evangelical Church from Kentucky.
This implicit association between Phelps and Christians is wholly outrageous and a huge slur to the many millions of Christian Evangelicals in this country.
Maybe this is a case of simple confirmation bias but as a quality influential national media program I would hope that you would correct this blurring of the lines between a radical hate group and millions of caring Christians in America who know very well that a group that posts signs saying 'God Hates Fags' and 'Pray for More dead Soldiers' is an abomination and blight upon our country.
When this group showed up in Nashville last time to protest the funeral of a young man who was killed in action the streets were lined with counter-protesters from churches all around Nashville, plus atheists and agnostics alike combined with about 200 bikers who rightly took offense... all holding flags and shouting down the vicious and horrible hate this handful inbred bigots was spouting.
Intentional or not this slur by association against Christians is inaccurate, offensive and should be corrected.
Jad - Please do not conflate the extremist Westboro "Baptist Church" with evangelicals in general. It is clear from the nature of your oratory that you are not a follwer of Christ, but to smear all of us with that twisted family's label is disgraceful, inaccurate, distasteful, inappropriate, and akin to someone like me equating all Muslims with Hamas. Blanket statements like this are unappreciated and really lower the quality of an otherwise good program.
This story misses one strong point: It assumes that women dress like women. Women dressing like women- dresses, short shirts nylons, heels, plunging necklines, just where exactly do you find that? Even "streetwalkers don't dress that way. Men, if you want to dress like a woman, just wear what you normally wear.: sweat shirt , blue jeans, and athletic shoes. And women, if you want to dress like men, you're already there.
This story was one of the most beautiful I have heard yet and like everyone else I was moved to tears. I winced when Kansas was mentioned. I feel compelled to say that not all Kansans hold hate in their hearts. Many of us hope for a more peaceful and beautiful tomorrow.
A sad update: Stu's theater burned today: http://www.kgw.com/news/2-alarm-fire-at-historic-Silverton-theater-146980485.html?c=n
This is one of the most uplifting and heartfelt stories I have ever heard, it just proves that people stick up for their own, and to think all those people came out dressed as woman is just fantastic. A real feel good story, I have tried to make as many people in London listen to it as possible. Bloody brilliant. Love to Stu.xxxxxxxxx
Thank you for this inspiring story, showing humanity at its best (and worst). Silverton is a sweet little town with a very big heart.
Andra - It's up to Stu to decide which pronouns are appropriate. What I took away from the story is that he identifies as a man, he just likes looking and dressing like a woman. So masculine pronouns are appropriate.
Please, everyone. Stu is a woman. We (and Radiolab) should be talking about her election, her flannel shirt, her press on nails, and what a fantastic role model SHE is.
When I go running I listen to podcasts. I listened to this episode on my run this morning. It is a good thing this story started on the second half of my run, because by the time it ended I was back on my porch and I had tears streaming down my face. This entire episode of Radio Lab is fanatastic, but this story is outstanding. Stu is my new hero, along with the entire town of Silverton.
This story had me in tears. And it really did reignite my hope towards and for people. It's amazing how that many towns people were willing to drop their own personal beliefs of how a man/woman "should be" just for that momentary instance of defending the right of someone they love and respect. Sure at first they were shaky about the idea of Stu's self-identity, to the point where parents wouldn't even let their kids go to his theater, but it is even more amazing that they progressed to the point where they realized he is still the same boy they loved and cherished, despite the fact that they still did not agree with his self-image. It is unfortunate that they do not completely accept that type of image and lifestyle, but in a way they still end up, in some form, accepting it because he is their friend. Great story again, thank you for this new found hope. I can only wish that this type of love and knowledge spreads on to encourage tolerance for those that have a hard time finding it.
Hey guys!I listen to you while I exercise, people think I'm crazy because I'm always laughing and smiling, but today after listening to this section I was all teary! (yeah, I'm sure they're not thinking I'm getting saner here!)
This was indeed a fascinating and moving segment.
My only qualm: Jad referred to the infamous "God hates fags" group as "a group of evangelicals." As an evangelical myself, I can guarantee that 99% of true evangelicals (those committed to the gospel of Jesus) would want to distance themselves as far as possible from the nut jobs from Kansas who carry on such a distorted "ministry." To use a broad term like "evangelicals" for such a fringe, extremist group is as irresponsible as calling a group of Muslim suicide bombers "a group of Muslims" without qualification.
Hopefully any evangelical that has been truly transformed by the grace of Christ would approach Stu with that same grace, not with the uninformed vitriol of the KS group.
Thanks for the show, guys!
A hero... I'm looking down and seeing comments from folks like "he's dressed innapropriately for things with kids".... Unless his junk's hanging out, you got no argument...
And I am moved to tears that a small town could rally together and make such a progressive statement and go against thier own norms.... A-MA-ZING!
Go Stu, Go Silverton, and Eff the Kansas hate church making money off lawsuits to fund thier hate tour, giving god a bad name
Loved this story!
I loved this story! I live in a small town in the North Country of New York (near Lake Placid)and have a transgender friend here. I hope our town responds as well as Silverton!
transgendered is not the PC term.Stu is a person of transgender experience.-ed is something done to Stu.thought you'd like to know.
Always a big fan of Radio Lab, but I loved the segment about Stu. There are too few stories about people acting positively.
loved this episode. thanks!one correction I’d like to propose: when Stu’s girlfriend Victoria is referring to a movie about a boy who is beat to death for being gay, she starts to say “Boys Don’t…” and Jad(?) interjects “Matthew Shepard.” I’d like to point out that Boys Don’t Cry is about Brandon Teena, who was a transgender boy — while both stories are incredibly tragic, I think Brandon Teena’s story is more directly relevant to the story about Stu, since it is in fact not so much about sexual identity as it is about gender identity (and people’s persistent confusion about the difference between the two, and ignorance and hatred of what they don’t understand). Just thought I’d put it out there, in the interest of transgender visibility.
(sorry for the double-post -- not sure why there are two places to post comments for the episode?)
Jad and Robert... Thanks so much for such a touching piece. As a gay science nerd myself in a time when we're constantly bombarded with attacks on my community, this was such a touching story of humanity's ability to stand up and protect those who are different. Even though I've heard so much about Stu... this is a side of the story that is yet to have been told by the media. Thanks for bringing us this side of the story!
Wonderful piece - the whole hour was great. I just loved how this Stu piece unfolded so unexpectedly into the show's theme - and how it ended!
Silverton's counter-protest moved me beyond words, thank you so much for sharing this story.
Well done, RadioLab. This will make it into my Nov. 8 sermon on who is in, who is out, and the consequences (along with remembering Kristallnacht and Jesus' encounter with the Syrophonecian woman.) Much appreciation for the inspiration.
Dagnabbit this is a great story, exceptionally well told!
Prior to this podcast, only recorded collection calls from CITIFinancial could choke me up.
Bravo and thank you.
For some reason, this story reminded me of the village of LeChambon (France) where Protestant residents hid their Jewish neighbors away from the Nazis, demonstrating that even in the dark era of the Holocaust, there were people who chose to do the right thing. What a lovely idea to think that as a people we might be getting better at caring for each other.
I couldn't believe I hadn't heard this story before. It made me proud to be an Oregonian and hopeful for the future. Thank you.
Great episode. You guys could (should) do ten more of these.
Question: What time scale are we talking about when considering "human self-domestication"? A race between human evolution and the destruction of our resource base, it seems...
What a fascinating story, and well done! I teared up.
One point, though, that whole "I'm not against it for my own reasons, but because I'm afraid the rest of the world will be harsh!" is a terrible argument, and bigoted to boot. Dozens of GLBTT people I know, and many many more I don't, have been rejected from their families, denied marriage, sent to ex-gay camps, beaten, raped, etc, in order to reform them so that they ostensibly wouldn't suffer harsher treatment from the rest of the world. It's the same argument as "I'm not against gay marriage, but think of all the hardships their children will go through! Therefore, we should deny gay marriage and gay adoption." No, the real solution is to not be the one to impose those hardships and work towards everyone else being a little nicer, then the kids will be ok. Anyway, just a minor point that stuck in my craw.
Not that I had any objections to the story, but it left wondering something.
Is there some kind of requirement written into your contracts which requires public radio reporters to do at least one LGBT-related story before you can get a raise/promotion/new pair of fuzzy dice for your rear view mirror?
Oh, I couldn't help but notice how you glossed over the issue of him dressing inappropriately at events where children were present. Nice. Way to portray the subject scientifically.
What a moving story! I feel very proud of Silverton in opening themselves up to Stu. If only the rest of the world could take this example to heart, the world would be a much more loving and pleasant place. Go Stu!!
I'm listening to this piece right now on KNOW-91.1FM (Minnesota Public Radio) and I am amazed. What an impressive and moving story.
Stu is a hero!!! Nothing like making Queer History!
Having been born in Silverton and a fellow geek (though I never knew Stu), my congratulations to Stu and all of present day Silverton. Given the policies he outlines and his years of service to the community, Silverton did well in choosing him as mayor. Jerry Gaffke, SUHS '73
The first time I saw Stu was at his theater in Silverton. He had long, cherry red press-on nails and large "falsies" under his masculine flannel shirt. I was there with my youth group to see "The Prince of Egypt." Aside from a few high eyebrows no one said anything. Not the kids, not the adults, and not the pastor. Why would anyone? He is our brother. I support Silverton and I support Stu.
What a moving episode! I live nearby and didn't know the whole story at all. Really happy to learn in.
Register for your own account so you can vote on comments, save your favorites, and more.
Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.
Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm
your comments. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the
right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the
Comment Guidelines before
By leaving a comment, you agree to New York Public Radio's
Radiolab is supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation
and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public
understanding of science and technology in the modern world. More information about Sloan at