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Transsexual Again Loses Race For Post Commander

June 10, 1986

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) _ A woman who last year lost her bid to become the first transsexual to command an American Legion post was again defeated Monday, losing to a male Vietnam veteran.

Bridgette Poi Brusseau, who was decorated during the Korean War while in the U.S. Air Force as Robert ″Bobby″ Brusseau, lost to Dominic Q. Cironi Jr. on a 52-22 vote by the John Coleman Prince Post No. 9.

Brusseau left immediately after the election, but told reporters in the parking lot she would ask the national American Legion headquarters in Indianapolis to look into the election.

″I consider it fixed,″ she said. ″It’s simply a matter of IOUs. A lot of members who never showed up before came here tonight to pay their dues.″

Brusseau, 51, said many members felt threatened by the fact that she is a transsexual.

″You say the word transsexual and right away their masculinity goes down the drain,″ said Brusseau.

″Members of the American Legion have very traditional attitudes toward things and I’m sure that includes things like this,″ said teacher Ronald Estabrooks of Mystic, a Korean War veteran. ″I’m very old fashioned. I still think if you’re born a girl, you should stay a girl.″

Brusseau says the publicity generated by last year’s election, when ″you couldn’t pick up a glass without somebody shoving a camera in your face,″ took its toll.

″I didn’t realize the toll it took on me mentally and physically until I found myself on a psychiatrist’s couch,″ she said.

Brusseau, who has changed her shoulder-length platinum hair to a shorter strawberry-blonde and taken back her family name, said she was a ″ninny″ last year to allow the campaign to focus on her 1973 sex-change operation in Mexico. She bristles when the issue is raised now.

″Why do people always refer to me as transsexual Bridgette Poi?″ she asked. ″I am a woman. My birth certificate lists me as Bridgette Roslynn Brusseau.″

This year, she focused on ″mismanagement and poor accounting″ that she says plague the post and concentrated on getting the vote out. Last year, Brusseau lost to incumbent Cmdr. Joseph Ottaviano Jr. in a vote of 23-13, a meager turnout for a post with more than 300 members.

Ottaviano made an issue of Brusseau’s sex-change operation last year, but insists her gender isn’t the reason he’s supporting Cirioni, the vice commander, this year.

″Altering her body is between her and her maker. All I’m basing my opinion on is who deserves to be commander. And Nick has earned it,″ he said.

Cirioni, 43, has been silent throughout the campaign, which began when nominees were selected May 12.

Brusseau and Cirioni have been members of the post for about three years. Both have been active and served as post officers.

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