Hot Springs woman sues; says she was fired for being transgender

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PATRICIA DAWSON: Electrician sues over firing. - ACLU
  • ACLU
  • PATRICIA DAWSON: Electrician sues over firing.

One of the biggest lies of the battle to institutionalize legal discrimination against LGBT people in Arkansas is that protections are unneeded.

Meet Patricia Dawson, a Hot Springs electrician, who was fired after her employer learned she was transgender.

The ACLU has filed a federal lawsuit in her behalf.

Dawson tells her story for the ACLU:

The day I got my driver's license with the gender marked "F" and my new legal name was one of the best days of my life. I was assigned male at birth, and my parents named me Steven. But I'd known for many years that I am a woman, and now I had the identification to prove it.

That year also included many of the hardest days. My parents, who belong to a conservative church, disowned me. My next-door neighbor hosed me in the face with a chemical poison. And I was fired from the job that I loved – all because I am transgender.

I'm an electrician, and I was working at H & H Electric, a contractor in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The day after I got my new driver's license, I told my boss that I am a transgender woman. He looked shocked. He told me that I was one of his best people and that he would hate to lose me. I was stunned that his first reaction was that he might have to fire me.

He didn't fire me right away, but he didn't let me come to work as a woman, either. He told me I couldn't discuss my transition with anyone at work or use my legal name, Patricia.

Even though I didn't say anything, people at work noticed that I was transitioning. My hair was growing out, and I'd started hormone therapy. Some of my co-workers were kind to me, but others were cruel. Twice, co-workers tried to sabotage my work. One of those instances could have caused an explosion that could hurt or even kill someone. Fortunately, I discovered it in time, and no one was hurt.

The more time passed, the more it became obvious that I am a woman. Eventually I felt brave enough to wear makeup and a blouse to work. I was on top of the world. I had a great job, and I was finally being myself. That week, my boss pulled me aside and said, "I'm sorry, Steve, you do great work, but you are too much of a distraction and I am going to have to let you go."

I am not a distraction. I am a woman, and I shouldn't be fired for being who I am. 

Arkansas has no law at the state or local level protecting people like Patricia Dawson. If Bart Hester, Bob Ballinger and Asa Hutchinson continue to have their way, it never will.

Is it right? Bart Hester, according to an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article this morning, seemingly suggested to a Presbyterian minister you'll go to hell if you think otherwise. Tough "love."

This is perhaps a good occasion to pass along a reader's effort to lampoon Bart Hester for his passage of his gay discrimination bill. You'll remember that the law, which Hutchinson allowed to enter the statute books, prohibits local civil rights ordinances. One of the popular arguments was that it could penalize a baker who refused on religious grounds to bake a wedding cake for transgenders or a florist who wouldn't provide a bridal bouquet. (The law effectively allows anyone to discriminate against LGBT people in any way they choose — even denying a gas fillup — if their religion won't allow them to do anything that signals approval of a gay person. It perhaps is not a subject for humor. Nonetheless:


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