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Today is Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Transgender Woman Seeks School Board Role

LANSING - When you think of the most significant races this year, the Lansing School Board election probably isn't the first to come to mind. However, one school board candidate is drawing many LGBT and other folks attentions to the state capital.

Melissa Sue Robinson, the founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Transgender People, is seeking a seat on the Lansing School Board this November, her second try for office in 2003.

"This year I ran for Mayor of Lansing and finished third in a primary of six people," said Robinson. "I was up against a State Senator and an existing Mayor in Lansing."

Robinson said she decided to draw attention to her status as a male to female transsexual before the August primary, to convince other transgendered individuals they could achieve their own personal dreams. Her announcement did not bring on the circus-like atmosphere many might have feared.

"I revealed it because I wanted it not to be an issue with the public," she said. "I studied the issues and they started listening to what I had to say."

Despite her third-place finish, Robinson counts the vote as a victory.

"I consider it a success because I got my name out and helped transgendered people," she said.

The day after the primary results were posted, Robinson decided to run for a seat on the nine-member Lansing School Board.

"I know I'll win that election and it will help me accomplish one thing I fought for in the Mayoral election - to build up Lansing schools," she said. "I'm trying to get a school bond passed so we can build a new middle school. I'm trying to ensure there is no discrimination in the schools of any kind."

Robinson said she hasn't faced much organized opposition to her campaign.

"Every once in a while you get the bigots," she said. "I'm not going to walk into a Pentecostal Church and expect them to accept me. The general public accepts me. I stay away from groups I know won't do so."

Last December, Robinson founded the NAATP to fight against discrimination and to work for legislation punishing hate crimes. Today, the organization has over 300 members who regularly march against violence and participate in mail and email campaigns to protect all people's rights.

Robinson was 49 when she decided to have her sex change operation in 1999.

"I wasn't getting any younger and knew if I didn't do the change now, I wouldn't ever do it. I had to complete my identity," she said. "The minute I became Melissa, I knew exactly who and what I was. I wasn't going around pretending I was Lou or Abe - I wasn't taking on elements of others' personalities for myself."

Robinson was baptized a Catholic, raised by a Protestant mother and considers herself to be a good Christian.

"The real purpose of our being on earth is for us to help and love our fellow man. It's not to eat, sleep and entertain ourselves," she said. "I think everybody should give back to their fellow man and to the earth, instead of just constantly taking."

Whatever the results of the November election, Robinson said she plans to make another run for Mayor in Lansing.

"Only the strong survive well in this life," she said. "To be strong you have to know who you are, what you are and what you plan to do with your life. If you know these things, being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered doesn't have to be a big issue."

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