Hoping Md. Is 'Ready for a Person Like Me'
Saturday, September 2, 2006
Dana Beyer rapped on a door at the end of a leafy Silver Spring cul-de-sac. A woman answered. She listened to the candidate's spiel, sought her views on abortion rights (for) and growth (against) and found little on which the two did not agree.
"It's good to see more women running," she told the candidate as the two parted.
For the five decades preceding a fateful 2003 trip to San Francisco, Dana Beyer lived her life as a man named Wayne. The September primary will tell whether her legislative district, one of the most progressive in Maryland, is ready to elect the state's first transgender lawmaker.
Beyer, 54, a retired eye surgeon, is running against seven other Democrats for three seats that will represent District 18, which includes Chevy Chase, Kensington and parts of Wheaton and Silver Spring, in Maryland's House of Delegates. "Mansionization" rates as a major issue here.
Beyer's campaign is not about gender. If there is one overarching theme, it is universal health care, a concern that took her to Kenya, Nepal and rural Mississippi as a young physician. Like her seven rivals, Beyer supports abortion rights, opposes capital punishment and endorses same-sex marriage.
"I think I'm the only person on the dais who has actually been in one," she said, drawing chuckles at a recent candidate forum in Kensington.
She was also, for the record, the only woman on stage with two ex-wives.
It was hard enough for Beyer to explain her transition to the Chevy Chase neighbors who had known her for nine years as a man. By running for elective office, she has effectively outed herself to a district of 60,000 voters. Friends have told her she's crazy.
Beyer said the transition left her fearless, in the sense that the hard part was behind her. She found a new identity as a community activist, she said, empowered with confidence and "a set of skills and a life experience that no one else has." That, and her resolve to reform health care, convinced her that she should run.
"I knew I had to put out my story," she said, citing a decision to discuss gender issues on her Internet site and in interviews. "I wasn't going to emphasize it, but I wasn't going to hide it, either. . . . Everybody voting in this race knows more about me than they know about all the other candidates combined."
Beyer was raised mostly in Queens, N.Y., the first of two children born to a Conservative Jewish family. She said she was born intersex, her gender identity confused by conflicting genitalia, a condition she ascribes to the drug DES, which was prescribed to her mother during pregnancy. Puberty plunged her body into hormonal civil war.
She lived her first five decades as a man, graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Cornell University, receiving a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania and raising two sons in a marriage that lasted 19 years. A second marriage ended amicably after the 2003 procedure that Beyer terms her "transition."