Susan Estrich: Bob Tur's public life

June 14, 2013 12:43:18 PM



Bob Tur is a well-known and respected news helicopter pilot and reporter in Los Angeles. Those of us who have lived here for a while remember his reporting of some of the most famous (or infamous) events in our city's history, including the riots back in 2002 after the acquittal in the Rodney King case and the most-watched slow-speed car chase of all time (and the biggest day ever for pizza delivery) starring O.J. Simpson in his white SUV. 


This week, Tur himself is the story, after a radio interview in which he revealed that he has begun hormone therapy to "become" a woman. 


It is, I am sure, a measure of how old I am, and how new it is to be discussing such things publicly, that I am not exactly sure of what the right words are. Is a person who, as Tur puts it, was "born" with a female brain -- "a genetic defect that happens in utero" -- finally "becoming" who she was supposed to be all along? "You think you're a woman, but you're a man," Tur said in an interview. 


I can't imagine it. But so what? 


A few years ago, a well-respected Los Angeles Times sportswriter made the decision Tur has made to go forward publicly with his gender transformation. I wrote a piece applauding his courage. She became a hero. And then, somehow, things went sideways. She went back to being he, and later he killed himself. Those of us who had applauded the courage, who had contributed to making her a heroine and a symbol, wondered. There was a long follow-up story in the Times, but it really didn't answer the hard questions. Life is hard. Transformation has to be harder still. Doing it publicly? Well, can it get any harder? And what does one story prove? 


So here we go. 


"I'm done trying to deal with this. It's gotten very bad in the last five years. It's been a very easy process once I made the decision to go forward. Now that my brain is getting the right hormones ... I had no idea that life was like this. I just had no idea. It's amazing. The dysmorphic OCD thoughts are gone. For the first time, I'm truly happy," Tur told a local interviewer. 


"Truly happy." God bless. 


I grew up when people were afraid to "come out" as gay. If you asked me how many gay kids I grew up with or went to school with, I would have said none -- which of course could not have been true. The truth is I have no idea how many confused and frightened kids I grew up with. They are still out there. Every time I hear someone making ignorant comments about the supposed "evils" of homosexuality, I think about the true evil of the high suicide rates among gay and lesbian teens. 


But being gay isn't news anymore (unless you play professional sports). Compared to being caught in the wrong body, being plagued by "dysmorphic OCD thoughts," being gay is commonplace and mostly accepted. What once seemed unimaginable and shameful has been revealed to be perfectly normal. 


There was a story the other day about a school that couldn't figure out what bathroom to let a transgender elementary school student use. It reminded me of the bad old days when the Equal Rights Amendment got killed in large part because of stupid scare stories that it would lead to unisex toilets. 


Flown on a plane lately? Visited one of your kids' college dorms? Hello. The world has survived. We can figure out how to protect everybody's privacy in the toilet stalls. 


I wish Zoey Tur Godspeed. Someday it will be easier.