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Transgender Issues Threaten Jobs

The cases aren't related, but the issues are: a Florida city manager fighting to keep his job while undergoing a sex change, and a dean at a Christian university in Michigan, fired after a legal name change from John to Julie.

In Largo, Florida, late Tuesday, the City Commission voted to begin the process of firing the city's top official - less than a week after he announced plans to pursue a sex change operation.

The 5-to-2 vote begins a three-step process to remove Largo City Manager Steve Stanton, 48, the city's top official for 14 years. He confirmed rumors last week that he is a transsexual.

Stanton, who built a solid reputation as a forceful and energetic leader, hoped to keep his $140,000-a-year job as he underwent the gender reassignment process.

"It's just painful to know seven days ago I was a good guy and now ... I have no integrity," Stanton told the commission Tuesday. "My challenge here has always been that someday I was going to leave this organization. So I am going to do it with a smile on my face."

The mixed feelings expressed by Stanton might easily be recognizable thousands of miles away in Spring Arbor, Mich., where a veteran faculty member now living as a woman has been fired by a private Christian university.

"I think they decided to terminate me rather than call me Julie," the former John Nemecek told the Jackson Citizen Patriot, as he collected a pink slip from Spring Arbor University, after 16 years on the job – ten as an associate dean.

Nemecek, 55, said he was told Monday, three days after legally changing his name, that he had been fired and will be paid through May.

"A primary reason for this is John's decision to not honor the contract we had agreed on," the school said in a statement confirming the firing. "We will honor our end of the contract financially and pay John through the end of the academic year."

Nemecek wears a blond wig and dresses as a woman but has no plans to undergo sex change surgery.

Nemecek, who is married and an ordained Baptist minister, has filed a gender discrimination complaint against the school and the two sides are scheduled to meet March 6 in mediation.

Largo's city manager also has a chance to appeal the decision on his job.

He will be placed on paid leave while the city begins the legal process to end his contract. The council must vote again to formally fire him.

Largo Mayor Patricia Gerard and Commissioner Rodney Woods cast the dissenting votes Tuesday.

"He's done a great job for us," Gerard said. "He's done what we asked him to do and taken the heat over and over and over again and now we're going to turn on him."

Largo Commissioner Mary Gray Black said Stanton's surprise announcement last week confirming that he is a transsexual "caused stress, turmoil, distraction and work disruption" in the city. His contract says he can be fired without cause at any time.

"I do not feel he has the integrity, nor the trust, nor the respect, nor the confidence to continue as the city manager of the city of Largo," said Black, who introduced a resolution to fire Stanton on Monday.

About 500 people attended the 3½ hour special meeting at Largo City Hall on Tuesday to debate Stanton's fate. Dozens of people signed up to speak to the council, some praising Stanton and others saying the exposure of his secret life undermined his ability to lead the city.

City officials have received hundreds of e-mails about Stanton's announcement, most calling for his removal.

Commissioner Gay Gentry praised Stanton, but supported his firing.

"I sense that he has lost his standing as a leader among the employees of the city," Gentry said. "We have need of an organizational leader that employees will follow."

Largo is a city of about 76,000 about 22 miles west of Tampa.

Stanton, who is married, said he has not yet scheduled the surgery, but is undergoing counseling and hormone replacement therapy in preparation for the operation.

The city council had given Stanton generally good reviews for his management of the city's $130-million budget and roughly 1,200 employees. The council gave him an $11,000 annual pay raise in September, with Black casting the lone dissenting vote.