Stephanie Mott, a well-known Topeka transgender activist, died Monday at a local hospital.
According to Mott’s friend, Rev. Sarah Oglesby-Dunegan, Mott had been admitted to Stormont-Vail Health after suffering an apparent heart attack the previous day, reports The Topeka Capital Journal.
Mott, 61, managed the Topeka chapter of Equality of Kansas, where she educated the public about what it means to be transgender and shared her deeply held belief in Christianity, as well as her belief that people don’t have to choose between the two, Oglesby-Dunegan said.
“We are all devastated by the loss of Stephanie Mott,” Equality of Kansas said Monday on Twitter.
“We cannot find adequate words to express our grief at her passing, but we will find solace in the knowledge that her life and her work will make Kansas a better place for future generations,” they added.
In 2011, Mott told The Capital-Journal that she would forever carry the difficult memory of being a woman living in a young man’s body while growing up in rural Douglas County and attending Eudora High School in the 1970s.
“I was very closeted about my gender identity, but I was taunted continually because I was effeminate,” she said.
Mott told the paper in 2010 that as early as age 7, she’d felt the need to express herself as a girl.
“I rode that horse until I was 48 through homelessness and alcoholism,” she said during the 2011 interview.
By 2011, Mott was living happily and productively as a woman in Topeka.
Mott had worked as a mental health clinician at Valeo Behavioral Health Care and formerly was an office assistant and grant writer at the Shawnee County Commission office, according to her Facebook.
She also listed herself as the founder of the Transgender Faith Tour, executive director of the Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project, a member of the Kansas Democratic Party LGBT Caucus and former state chair for Equality Kansas.
Oglesby-Dunegan recalled how Mott always worked on behalf of marginalized people, regardless of the manner in which they were marginalized by society.
“She went to become a social worker late in life became because she wanted to offer other people something that hadn’t been offered to her, which was unconditional positive regard,” she said.
The newspaper notes:
Mott filed suit in 2016 seeking to change her Kansas birth certificate to identify her as female, but that case was dismissed in 2017.
The New York City-based Lambda Legal Defense Education Fund then filed a lawsuit last October, which remains pending, challenging the refusal by Kansas government officials to correct gender identification on birth certificates for transgender individuals.
Dave Navarro, a friend of Mott’s, said Monday on Facebook that he had met Mott as she studied social work at Washburn with his wife, Nicole Nesmith.
“Nicole invited Stephanie over to our house to study and she was polite and charming,” Navarro wrote. “It was very easy to like her. And I always felt privileged to be her friend. She taught me so much, not just about the LGBT issues she championed, but what true friendship was. She was always there for my family, and always with that amazing smile that just made you feel loved.”
Navarro ended his post: “I haven’t seen you in a while Stephanie and that makes missing you even harder. I know that Nicole and I feel the same … we’ll be there to support what you started, it’s the very least we can do to honor your friendship. I love you, my big sister.”
Kansas Democratic Party chairwoman Vicki Hiatt and executive director Ethan Corson said in a statement released Monday evening: “Before laws gradually changed and public opinion moved, there was Stephanie Mott. Courageous in the face of cowardice and selflessly dedicated to advocacy for LGBTQ Kansans, Stephanie was a champion for the most vulnerable among us.”
Corson and Hiatt told about how Mott wrote last December about “the steadfast resolve behind her work and the hope we all share that, regardless of the consequences, our determination to do the right thing will inevitably bring about a better world.”
“From everyone at the Kansas Democratic Party, we thank Stephanie for doing just that,” they added.
Corson and Hiatt also added how Mott had written: “When I am asked by people to help with those exceedingly difficult decisions we must all make, I simply ask them what they want to see when they look back at the decision five years later.
“My personal answer to this questions is this – I want to see that I have done due diligence and I want to know that I tried to do the right thing … to do the right thing is never the wrong choice.”