Badpuppy Gay Today

Tuesday 22 July, 1997


Prominent Florida Officials Harassing Transgenders Again
Ocala-Area Congressman Blasts Transvestite in Government Health Office

By Jack Nichols


Florida officials, from Versace's Miami Beach to Representative Sterns' Ocala, are hyping anti-transvestite/ transgender prejudices. It isn't the first time transvestites have suffered such unwarranted public harassment.

Bob Kunst, who led opposition to Anita Bryant in 1977, and founded the pioneering CURE AIDS NOW, is highly critical of Miami area officials' statements warning of a Cunanan who is now supposedly disguised in female garb. Kunst thumbed through Edward Alwood's Straight News: Gays Lesbians and the News Media (Columbia University, 1996) and exclaimed:

"Its right there in the pages of the Herald, in 1953, the police stirred up public passions against feminine males on Miami Beach then, like today--in 1997-- they're suggesting that lousy killer Cunanan's going in drag? Come on! What will they think up next to smear other segments of the gay community? They've already done it to the AIDS communities by hyping the possibility that Cunanan has AIDS, and nobody knows whether he's positive or not. Dateline on NBC reported that Cunanan's two Minneapolis murders were HIV- negative. Now they're pushing this drag queen theory. They're playing a divide and conquer strategy, trying to smear each gay community segment they can. Cunanan's S&M angle was hyped on Dateline too! Where's it going to stop?"

Kunst, among many other gay and lesbian Dade County residents, is angry that a recent vote of the area's Metro Commission (7-6) refused an ordinance assuring those who bond with their own gender equal protection under the law. "Scarcely a week had passed between their refusal to protect us and Versace's murder," said the veteran gay activist.

In another part of Florida fear of transvestites, ridicule, and multi-city front-page notoriety have greeted Sabrina Robb because of a U.S. Congressman's objections to her being a government worker at a Florida state health facility in Ocala. Robb's immediate supervisor says Sabrina's attire has distracted a few, but that on the whole it hasn't worsened his job performance.

For U.S. Representative Cliff Stearns, a Republican, Sabrina's attire is an affront to the Congressman's particular concept of dignity. The health facility's supervisor, however, insists Sabrina is "an excellent employee and a great asset to the MediPass program."

Monday's Orlando Sentinel headlined its account of this confrontation between a Republican congressman and a transvestite as a "Gender Bender." But Congressman Stearns is not amused. Unfortunately for his argument, there seem to be no specific rules in the health facility's handbook that refuse a person the right to crossdress. The Congressman intends to drive Sabrina from her workplace, however.

At noon on Monday, Bob Kunst spoke to three Miami-area TV stations and to FOX Network, CBS Network, RTL German TV, Time magazine, the New York Post, the New York Daily News and the Associated Press, explaining how Cunanan's knowledge of the art of female impersonation would, of necessity, have to be expert in an area where Cubans, African-Americans and children are among the most capable when it comes to "clocking" men in drag. "He's 5-10," said the activist, "and a woman of that stature would be hard to miss. I mean, lets get real about this search. I think its a red herring, one among many stupid theories the police are cramming down our throats as fast as they can. They're hyping one part of our community after another and deliberately associating them with Cunanan. Do they have a plan to catch him? If this is their best shot, I doubt it. It looks more like a low blow, if you ask me."

A week before the murder of Versace, Kunst told GayToday, a pawn shop owner took Cunanan's stolen gold coin and the fugitive on the FBI's Most Wanted list signed his own name and address at the Normandy Plaza Hotel, leaving his fingerprint as well. "The drag issue is a police diversion to hide their own incompetence.... I repeat, the FBI and the police knew Cunanan was down here and failed to notify the gay community, in spite of the lies told on Larry King Live by Miami's Mayor Penelas." Reports from the South Florida gay press back up Kunst's statement.

"In the meantime, the AIDS communities and now the transgender communities in Florida have been tarred and tarnished with another baseless police theory. Talk-show host Jay Leno had the right idea tonight," Kunst laughs, namely, that Cunanan, "in order to go in drag, would have to think of himself as Suddenly Susan." Kunst told how Leno brought up former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover as one famous police-style investigator drag star. "Maybe the Miami-area police should take J. Edgar, or, excuse me, I believe he was Mary, for their role model," suggested the gay activist.

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