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Update: New Stu

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Reporter Aaron Scott brings us the story of Stu Rasmussen, of Silverton, Oregon, an avid metalworker, woodworker, and electrician - and in 2008 our country's first transgendered mayor. News of his election swept the country, but what was it like at home?

Produced by:

Aaron Scott

Comments [16]

Tee from Oregon

I wish there had been more commentary within this podcast around terminology. Does Stu identify as transgender or as a cross-dresser? Does Stu CHOOSE to use he/him pronouns? Does Stu actually have a different name? All of these questions are absolutely necessary -- and even if the answers are as used in the podcast, it should be acknowledged that you took the time to ask because of how many news pieces about transgender pieces fail to ask and fail to comply even when they do. This reads as if you are misgendering Stu consistently through the podcast, at least in the context of so many articles that do similarly to transgender people with their correct pronouns. And if you are doing Stu's wish, I want this to be even a brief statement so I was not pulled out of the podcast every time you referred to Stu.

Nov. 23 2017 06:04 PM

given the rampant insensitivity in the media to calling people by the pronoun or gender they identify with, and the fact that the need for respect and clarity on such things is one way to help increase understanding and compassion for folks-- your story should have addressed this better:

Jul. 30 2017 04:38 PM
Elizabeth Kerns from North Bend, Oregon

We always LOVE the story of Stu Rasmussen in Silverton, Oregon. As a life long Oregonian l find our state to be open minded and welcoming to all people and there are many similar communities throughout our state.
I've travelled a bit in my 60 plus years and have realized our state is not as uptight and over-populated as many on the east coast. Please come visit us but in the words of former Gov. McCall do not move here! Thank you Radio lab for your WONDERFULLY educational stories

Jul. 29 2017 03:05 PM

I love this story, not for what it teaches about gender and transgender, but for what it teaches about open-heartedness, understanding, empathy, compassion and acceptance. On the one hand, it is wonderful that the community accepted Stu. They knew him, and this made all the difference But at the same time, it is sad to know the response would have been harsh and hateful if Stu had been new to town, as if a person's very humanity is questionable simply when they are unknown. It's so sad that our default attitude to difference is contempt and hatred when we don't know people. I have a lifetime of experience with stigma, shame, being closeted, too. My situation has nothing to do with gender. But I am ever so grateful to hear any news of people rising above fear, hatred and cruelty to be kind to others who are different. I'm happy for Stu and hope listeners will be more kind and gracious to everyone, stranger or not. We are all human beings trying to be happy, trying to avoid suffering.

Aug. 26 2016 05:33 PM

This made me cry tears of happiness.

Dec. 27 2015 11:38 PM
Kaitlin from NYC

This story is an incredibly liberating shot in the arm of hope. Thank you, Radiolab. Thank you, Stu Rasmussen. Thank you, Silverton, Oregon.

Dec. 14 2015 08:44 PM
helen from Nevada

As the transgender umbrella expands, it has come to include crossdressers, but, since there have already been several crossdressing mayors, the term "first transgender mayor" looks like an attempt to exploit the situation.

I should add that alpha males are way more likely to crossdress then the average male, so it's likely that quite a lot of our nations leaders are crossdressers.

Dec. 14 2015 01:53 AM
Amber from Arizona

I was glad to hear an update on how Stu is doing. I like the he and Victoria are regular people. Not rich and fancy and flashy like Kate Jennings. Most of the "trans" people I know are just regular people too. As Felice said in her comments, transgender is an umbrella term. I know several people who are transexual (taking hormones), and a few who are somewhere in between--they are non-gender, or third gender. One thing, my friends make my life very out-of-the-box.

My friend and former partner made the transition from female to male. In the beginning, when he was finally diagnosed with gender dysphoria (rather than a bunch of alphabetic psych labels) and began taking hormones, he was like a new person (not gender changes yet) but was obviously happier and more relaxed and comfortable and confident.

We were not partners then, but very close anyway. I remember the first time he shaved his chin (hardly any whiskers), now 8 or 9 years out, he hates having to shave daily. One of my challenges was him having "top surgery." I wasn't sure how I'd respond and I was scared for him. But this physical change turned out to be ok. The biggest challenge is he thinks differently than he used to. More logical and analytical, and even after years can be a problem, because we get frustrated. He's frustrated with for not being logical and vice versa.

I am grateful that more and more people are "coming-out" I am proud of my friend and tell him often that he is very brave. It takes a lot of courage!

God bless our "trans" people! And anybody with trans friends: go the extra mile in supporting and affirming them!

Dec. 13 2015 05:08 PM

I was most touched by the townspeople---in a small town!---who embraced and defended their mayor in such a loving and risk-taking way. I too had an opportunity to stand up to the "evangelicals" of Kansas and it felt so good. I love the people of Silverton and salute them for their courage and exuberance and tender care-taking of their mayor. You all are an example to the rest of us to share a little tenderness when the going gets tough!

Dec. 12 2015 11:29 PM
Shain from Washington State

The only thing I have to find fault in this story, is the assumption that to "dress like a woman" means to put on a dress. Visit reality once in awhile and take a census the next time you go out in public and note that women do not "dress like women" the majority of the time. For a man to dress like a woman, all he needs to do is wear jeans, a sweatshirt and a pair of tennis shoes (in other words, dress normally). The comment about the demonstration where women dressed like men is actually could you tell?

Dec. 12 2015 09:55 PM
Barry from Colorado

If you will read The Book of Matt, you will learn that Matthew Shepard was not killed for being gay.

Dec. 12 2015 04:48 PM

Just a quick note: the description says 'first transgendered mayor'. It should actually be 'transgender'. 'Transgendered' isn't really a word that's used.

Dec. 11 2015 03:03 PM
Anonymous from U.S.

Not surprised that Stu gets such thank you letters every time his story airs. I've been thinking of writing my own thank you letter for a long time now.

I heard this radio piece quite some time ago. I told my spouse about it, how it had touched me, and also how awesome I thought Victoria's response was in the the question about 'was it hard for her, having to change her image of her partner's body?' We're all trying to even imagine how someone can *cope* and *make peace* with such a situation, and she turns that expectation, that storyline about how it is so alien and *not* attractive for your partner's presentation and body to change in such a way; she turns it right on it's head, shattering my assumptions I didn't even really know I had, and had certainly not taken out and examined. She's like, "my partner's body is pretty dang sexy, why expect me to have a problem with it?" And I'm like, YES, that is BEAUTIFUL! I've never had that modeled as an option, never occurred to think of it that way, and why the hell not? I remember thinking, I would never likely be in such a situation, seeing I was very happily married to someone who was not remotely trans (I assumed), but in the theoretical arena of my mind, that is what I would want to be like if I was in that position.

Little did I know, that a week or so later, my spouse would (just barely) work up the courage to share something with me they had never shared with anyone else before...that they had experienced struggles with gender and body dysphoria all their life. I mean, think of the closest person to you who you would be most shocked to hear them tell you this tomorrow...that was how unexpected this was for me.

Yet, I was prepared, by hearing this radio piece, not to have some poisonous assumptions, in a way that saved me and my family so much heart-ache.

Stu and Victoria, you have had such a profound effect on my life, and my family's life...the ways that simple change in perspective from listening to this radio piece, has helped us, I don't have space to tell. But I hope you each get a chance to read this, and know that here are some more people who you have made a profound difference for.

Nov. 10 2015 02:04 PM
Felice from Washington

I second Ronny's comment!

@Combee: At least according to what I am familiar with in the transgender communities I am involved in (and in professional circles), the usages of the terms transgender and transsexual in this story were correct. Stu would correctly be called transgender, but not transsexual, based on what he has told us. Transgender is an umbrella term meant to be inclusive (which is badly needed because strict black and white lines can exclude real people who happen to not fit neatly in one construct or the other, which is what gender-nonconforming people already are dealing with enough of: the invalidation and exclusion of not fitting rigid constructs), and includes people with widely different experiences, needs, and feelings.

Transsexual is widely used in a more narrow, specific definition (people that identify "fully" as the "opposite" gender from the gender they were assigned at birth, and desire to transition and be recognized as that "opposite" gender; though even that can get more messy when applied to real people, when confronted with how to categorize people who *mostly* fit the definition, but don't fit neatly within all the lines); perhaps you were confusing the two terms?

Nov. 09 2015 03:05 PM
Ronny from Utah

I liked this story because it shows that there's more than one way to be transgender. Not everyone is Catlin Jenner. You do you.

Oct. 30 2015 11:49 PM

I don't know how I feel about Stu being given the title "first transgender mayor" considering he doesn't seem to disagree with the gender nor the pronouns he was assigned at birth, and has even written this:

"In my case, I didn't feel that hormones were appropriate... I'm a crossdresser, not a transsexual."

Gender nonconforming =/= transgender.

Hopefully I'm misunderstanding his relationship with his gender, but if not, I find it kind of awful that this kind of historic title is being given to him.

Oct. 23 2015 10:06 PM

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