VOICE Omaha

Share Your Story - Omaha's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Discrimination in the Workplace Read Others' Stories

In anticipation of the re-introduction of the equal employment ordinance in January, we wanted to provide a place for members of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender community to share their stories of discrimination.
We recognize that there is currently not a safe place to share these stories, so this is our effort to provide one.


When the ordinance was initially introduced last year, some thought that Omaha had no problems with workplace discrimination because they had not heard any stories. We want to make sure that the community understands the true implications of not passing this ordinance. So please share any stories of discrimination in the workplace and how it affects your life and your decisions. And please pass this along to others - those in Omaha or those who choose not to live in Omaha because they are not treated equally.

We will review each story and post it on this site for others to read and understand what it's like to work in a community with no protection for your rights. In addition, we will collect these stories and present them to the Omaha City Council before they vote on the ordinance. We may have to do some minor editing as we prepare the stories for the City Council or our site. We assure you that it will be minor. In some cases, we may contact you to see if you would be open to present your story in person to the Omaha City Council.


Discussion

  1. 1 Billie Marie Winchester:

    Hello my name is Billie,it’s been 4 to 5 years since my last story.Just wanted to update my story.I am still employed at Millard Public Schools..Wish i could say things have gotten better but it would be untrue.Since my last story things have’nt been good.Even though my attendance along with my excellent job evaluations i have been forced into two suspensions over issues that were trivial.I now know that Millard Public schools are afraid of the fact i’m transgender..Of all the years they denied me fulltime status even with my excellent evaluations, been told by the director of employee relations in human resourse’s that i should be thankfull to even have a job.Since coming out to Millard it’s been an uphill battle.Everytime i’ve had to fight for fairness and equal rights, they threaten me.The only reason i finally got fulltime is because they made everyone fulltime.One incident was when i gave a coworker a couple phone numbers of my past therapists.He was very frustrated,angry and emotional.I was imformed by the director of employee relations that i had no right to give him the phone numbers and the only reason i did was to be hateful and hurtful.I tried explaining things to him only to be called a lier.He told me it grounds for a suspension.No verbal or written warnings but straight to a suspension.Once again he imformed me that i should be thankful for having a.job with Millard schools. Right then i knew he feared me only because of being transgender.I told him it was’nt fair and that i was’nt going to sign the suspension papers without discusing it with my union or possably a lawyer.He told me if i did’nt sign the paper that i would lose my job on the spot.I know it was wrong,unfair and extreme discrimination but out of fear and losing my job i signed the paper.It’s his way of having something against me that looks like its me thats the problem and not his fear or even worse transphobic,homophobic beliefs.Since then there has.been a few incidents where my coworker and even a teacher have talked negativly about my being transgender.My other coworker even witnessed it.I told the so called director of employee relations about it and the response i recieved was that maybe it was my fault do to a bad attitude.WOW!!! total discrimination for sure.Since then i just stay on the down low and do my job.I know now what hurt,anger,sadness others must feel and have felt in the past.Things will never change as long as there are ppl like this to continue the racism,discrimination out of their own fear and ignorance.Wish it were possable to find a job working with animals or even the elderly but i’m so afraid knowone would hire me due to being transgender.If anyone has read my first story then they allready know of the difficulties i have had to deal with throughout the past few years.Like i have said in the past,you would think that a large school district like Millard would be more open minded, excepting of diversity but their not.The school children need to not only be taught exceptence,understanding but to love all knowmatter who they are.Millard needs to as well. UNCONDITIONAL PEACE AND LOVE TO ALL

  2. 2 sha'i yeshu:

    I DONT REALLY HAVE A STORY,BECUS IM FED UP WITH BEING: HARASSED, TOUCHED, MISUNDERSTOOD AND IGNORED FOR WHO IAM ; I FEEL LIKE I DESERVE SOMETHING BETTER; BUT ALL I GET IS NO SUPPORT; I HAVE VERY LITTLE SUPPORT FROM FAMILY;I HAVE NO FRIENDS; AND NEVER BEEN MARRIED AND IS ALWAYS SINGLE; FOR ME , I JUST DONT WANT TO LIVE ANYMORE AND VERY SOON , I PROBABLY WONT BE( I CAN FEEL IT)???? I FEEL LIKE NOONE CARES ABOUT ME ,EVEN WHEN THEY SAY THEY DO ;(*SIGHS OF A’WOE’MANN*…..)

  3. 3 Billie Marie Winchester:

    Hello my name is Billie,Im transexxuale woman living in Omaha.I HAVE WORKED FOR THE millard public school district for almost 5 years.I wish i could say that because its a big school district,that millard accepts diversity not only in its educational curriculum but its employment area as well..Im so sorry to say it does neither..Even though Millard preachs acceptance,diversity,etc, It does not..I have talked to quite a few teachers who have told me of how they have had from elementary to high school kids come into their classses with some sort of gender identity problem.But when they approached the millard school board with this issue,they were told not to talk about this matter anymore..I think it to be very sad and disheartning to think that an educational school district that calls themselves the best district in Nebraska, can turn their heads and ignore what is in their very own school rooms..They truly dont practice what they preach at all..I myself have been passed over and over for job promotions only because im transgendered..Even though evereyone of my on job evaluations have all been higher than any other Millard employee that i have not only worked with,but know as friends,dont get my scores.My work ethics along with my attendance is top of the line..It doesnt matter only because Millard does not care..One can only hope that someday sooner than later,Millard will get over their fear,ignorance,and realize that this world is growing up and evolving around them,and if they truly want to succeed in their teachings,then they will have to grow up along side the rest of the worlds diverse and accepting teachings otherwise they will fail like the inocent children who get bullied and tormented by the kids who havent been taught that its okay to be differant and enjoy all colors of the rainbow,not just the blues for boys and the pinks for girls..If we truly want the human race to move forwards and evolve into a intelligent,peacefull,understanding,unconditionally loving and carring race,then we need to rethink our priorities..I wish only peace/love throughout this entire world..Ill keep my fingers crossed..Billie..

  4. 4 Andrea Talbot, Signature Ceremonies LLC:

    I am a small business owner in the wedding industry, and many of my clients have asked for complete privacy and discretion in planning and celebrating their most joyous occasions because they were afraid of being outed to their employers and fired. Some GLBT clients even drive to Des Moines or Sioux City to get their Iowa marriage license because they know if they get it in Pottawattamie County, it will be published in the Council Bluffs paper, and someone might see it. No one should have to hide their happiness on their wedding day. It’s time for this ordinance to pass.

    I know this is not a personal story of discrimination, and I am not a member of the GLBT community, but it really bothers me that some Omahans think there is no reason to pass an equality ordinance. I have seen, firsthand, how so many wonderful people have to hide who they are just so they can make a living.

  5. 5 Ryan Sallans:

    I’m a born and raised Nebraskan.

    I grew up in the small town of Aurora, Nebraska, and while saving for college I worked many jobs that helped the economy and people who live here. These include walking the long rows of corn pulling tassels for the farmers, and working road construction to help better the interstate and highways that we all drive on.

    Now, at the age of 32, I travel the nation where I share my story of being a transman and the experiences I’ve had with employers and my homestate. I continue to live here because I can’t think of another place I would want to be, I’m a Nebraskan.

    When I travel to smaller communities in this state to provide trainings on LGBT issues I see empathy, acceptance and an overall concern for LGBTQ individuals. This state should offer protections because we are all people who are trying to live as individuals and be part of a community. We are all contributing to this economy and we are all family, partners, friends, co-workers and human beings.

    To be fired because of an aspect of one’s identity (that a MINORITY feels threatened by) is ridiculous and unsound reasoning.

    It is time to stop ignorance. It is time to use our voices in support of fair and equal treatment. It is time for the LGBTQ community and allies to rally, so that after we win this issue, we can move on to others that will only help all Nebraskans.

    I love the subtle plains and the rolling Sandhills that are connected by our rivers. I love the kindness of the people and the endless waves from drivers that pass you by on the country roads.

    I love being a born and raised Nebraskan and hope to continue to be a taxpaying citizen of this state. I see the smaller communities dying as the younger generations move away from the hate and discrimination. With isolation of communities comes abandonment and distrust of systems.

    http://www.ryansallans.com

  6. 6 aeoconnor:

    The passing of Omaha’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance is very important to me for several reasons. I am a veteran educator here in Omaha. I have been teaching elementary school for 27 years including time in the Catholic schools, OPS, and Millard. I have two children of my own, an 18 year old daughter, and a 21 year old son. My son is gay and currently working on a 5 year degree in landscape architecture at UNL. Two years ago, he was fired from a summer job due to his orientation. He had been working at a local tanning salon for several months, getting excellent reviews and recognition. The day after the regional supervisor visited, my son was called before his shift and informed not to show up for work. He had been terminated. When he tried to meet with his immediate supervisor, she refused to see him face-to-face and told him he was being terminated because he was not a “good fit” for their company. This was after he had received rave reviews. When he tried to pursue it, he was told there was nothing to discuss. A co-worker who questioned his firing was told if she continued to ask about it, she would also be fired. When he told me this story, I couldn’t believe it! This actually was happening in Omaha, Nebraska in 2010!

    Just a few months ago, I was witness to another incredibly unfair situation at my workplace. In my district, the custodial staff is hired by an outside company. In August, a new building custodian transferred to my elementary school because she was in the process of transitioning from male to female, and the district thought it would be best for her to get a fresh start with her new gender. “Bobbie” (not her real name) was welcomed into my building by staff and students alike! She is honestly one of the HARDEST working custodians I have ever had the pleasure to work with! She put in extra time on the weekends (without pay) and would often work hours past her night shift to make sure the building was in meticulous condition for the next school day. She had a four year history with the district with excellent reviews and attendance. When a full-time custodial position came open in our building, we encouraged her to interview for it. If given the position, she would receive a substantial increase in pay and much better benefits. Several teachers in my building wrote letters of recommendation for her. Our building principal and her immediate supervisors also praised her work ethics. The outside custodial contracting company was in charge of the hiring process. To keep my story brief, “Bobbie” was passed over for the job. She was told she was “not as qualified” as the woman they hired for the position. The woman they did hire is a very petite, young woman who has only worked for the district for one year. When arriving at our building, she admitted she had no experience using a floor extractor, carpet cleaner, snowblower, or had ever changed a lightbulb! (All of which “Bobbie” has done with ease and experience.) To add insult to injury, this woman who was hired often needs “Bobbie’s” assistance to do the work she is expected to do, because she is not strong enough to do it! I have absolutely nothing against the woman who got the position. She is a friendly, nice person. I was just FLOORED that this outside company was allowed to pass over a more qualified candidate due to her gender identity. “Bobbie” even confided in me that she was told to “be grateful she even had a job, as in Nebraska, they didn’t even have to keep her.” I was APPALLED when she shared that with me! On a side note, “Bobbie” continues to work in our building and although she is hurt by what happened, she continues to have a cheerful, positive outlook on her situation and life. She is a survivor. She shared with me that she knows she will never experience a promotion due to her situation…. I am asking you to PLEASE help show her that this is not true! By your support of the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance, “Bobbie” and my son could be given the equal protection that we all take for granted.
    I again, ask you to PLEASE support this ordinance, and help make Omaha a more welcoming place to work, live in and visit.

  7. 7 Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones:

    I have the added career stress of being a Christian minister, and being gay has definitely impacted that. The church I was serving when I came out was initially a safe place for that, but they were uncomfortable with me being too openly gay, so I had to move to another church. I am proud that that congregation has since become a fully open and affirming congregation and maybe my journey there contributed to their journey as a congregation.

    That was a progressive baptist church, and had I not been gay, I would have remained a baptist and was projected to have a very successful career in a prominent baptist pulpit. I have, since, found a wonderful home in the United Church of Christ and am currently serving an historically prominent church in that denomination, so God does provide.

    In Oklahoma City I pastored a congregation of predominately LGBT persons and became very acquainted with the employment struggles for many of them. Maybe most difficult was the quiet form of discrimination that prevented them from advancing their careers and thriving as employees, sharing their best and most creative work. And given how creative the LGBT population can be, that is a great loss for employers.

    Here in Omaha I am fortunate to pastor the oldest continuously worshiping Protestant church in the city, a church that has long played an important role in the city’s history. It is also a church that is more than 95% heterosexual who did not close themselves off from hiring an LGBT person. The chair of the search committee that called me told the church how excited the committee was to discover all these great candidates that other church’s were not employing, and all for something silly like sexual orientation.

    My call here to First Central has been a great fit. They have embraced me and my husband Michael, and we feel at times as if we function in a post-gay environment. It is a great blessing when an employer is open to everyone.

  8. 8 billie marie winchester:

    dear gary gernandt,tom mulligan,and jean strothert, im writting to tell you my story about not only job discrimination but also housing discrimination..i am a 52 year old female transsexual and i have lived in omaha my entire life. i have worked for the millard public school district for 4 years now and truly love my job.the teachers,principal and all other staff at the school i work at really not only accept me but love and respect me for being me. my attendance is perfect and every one of my job evaluations have allways been in the 90,s but for years i have tried bidding for fulltime positions with no luck and when i had enough being passed over i went to millard schools human resources to ask them why im constantly being over looked. i did talk to a discrimination lawyer about my situation and he told me that even though im being discriminated against for being transgendered, theres nothing i can do about it because nebraska doesnt have a glbt discrimination law at this time. when i told the millard human resource employee relations manager about being passed over by othermillard employees who dont have the years and the experience that i have i was told that i should be thankfull for even having a job because nebraska has no lgbt discrimination law and i could be fired at anytime for any reason. when i told them how all millard schools have anti bullying and discrimination posters on the walls in all their schools but yet millard discriminates still i was told by the human resource employee relations manager that because of what i said not only to a lawyer but to the nebraska equal opportunity commission that i will probably never see a promotion.it hurts so much to know that even though i have worked hard my whole life and truly love my job and what i do, that all that doesnt matter to millard public schools only because im transgendered. i wish that certain people could walk in my shoes for just two weeks so they could see and feel what its like not only to be transgendered but to feel even though their educated like their sub human that have nothing to offer the omaha community. if god would grant me only one wish that one wish would be for unconditional peace and love through out the entire world. i think john lennon said it best,all we need is love. i look forward to your response as to your support for this ordinance change.sincerely billie marie winchester

  9. 9 Natalie:

    My name is Natalie and I am a bi-racial lesbian who has lived and worked in Omaha, NE for the past 10 years. I went to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and received a degree in Finance and I am the only member of my family to ever get a college education. I have been successful in my corporate career because I play a very good heterosexual woman and I do that because I have a wife and soon to be triplets to support. I think it’s also important to note that I am the second oldest of 5 children from Lincoln, NE and we have a VERY modest upbringing and a very sheltered life. We lived on the north side of town for elementary school and got discriminated against from our own race because we weren’t black enough. Then my mother moved us to the south side and we got discriminated against because we were only of the only black faces in the neighborhoods. It was one thing to take discrimination from strangers; it’s another from your family when you find the courage to tell them that you are gay.

    I lived the first 5 of those years working for the largest Regional Bank and who is a prominent and visual member of our community and allowed me to be a very successful corporate lender as long as I fit a very specific mold. I was fortunate to get hired out of college into their management trainee program that allowed me to learn all aspects of banking. I was fortunate to find a permanent placement in the division of the bank that was my first choice; corporate lending. Unfortunately, when I was promoted from management trainee to a corporate analyst my supervisor asked me during my first week of work what I wanted to do and I said I wanted to be a corporate lender. He paused for a moment and then said to me; “Well, you won’t be a very successful one in Nebraska being a black woman because no corporation here will take you seriously”. That was in 2002; so they stuck me in ethanol lending because it was an immature industry and accepting of me despite the color of my skin because I was a hard worker and did what I said I would do. But, I spent the next 5 years never acknowledging my sexuality and trying to suppress it so I could be successful in my job.

    Unfortunately, depression and isolation led me to come out of the closet to my family and close friends in spring of 2006; I was 26 years old. Then in 2007 when a co-worker of mine from the same financial institution saw me walking downtown with my significant other, who is now my wife (yes we are married thankfully to the wonderful state of Iowa); I quickly realized that my ability to be successful again was jeopardized when on Monday I walked into the office and he approached me and said “If you ever want to move up in this company you will need to keep your private life more private”. I knew that I had to go back into the closet.

    There is no hiding the fact that you will be fired for being gay. It is thrown in your face each and every day when you walk into the office and see family photos on everyone’s desk, but your own. Family picnics sponsored by companies that you don’t attend or find a good friend who is opposite sex and will act like your significant other; while you leave your significant other at home and hope that they understand that they mean the world to you and that you are not ashamed of them.

    It has taken a tremendous amount of courage for me to write this, and could potentially suffer severe consequences for submitting this. I am Democrat who votes Republican 80% of the time. I am a very guarded woman not only because of racial discrimination, but also because of sexual orientation discrimination so I cannot stress to you how hard this email is to write. However, this is also about the next generation and their rights. The rights of my children, who are on their way. This is about allowing me and thousands of others to finally be a human being. Not the black woman. Not the lesbian. Just Natalie.

  10. 10 Jymie Tamara Story:

    Allow me to introduce myself. My Name is Legally Jymie Tamara Story. I am a transsexual. I have been all my life. It is no ones fault. But above all it is not a choice. Though I did have one presented to me. Live as the woman I was born to be or swallow a few pills and end everyone elses issues. On to my tale of discrimination. In 2005 I legally changed my name and started living my life as a woman. I burned all of my male clothing shoes included. I worked a few jobs as taht woman and no one knew. Well a few years ago, I applied as Tammy, I interviewed as Tammy ( twice) and I even went to my first day of training as Tammy. While I was there i was given a choice. Bind my chest, cut my hair and change my voice if I wanted my job or leave with out incident. How would you feel if someone told you you had to put on a costume that you dispised and tortured you heart and soul? But given the need to fund my transition I bowed to thier wishes. I worked for a year and crossdressed as a male. I often sat on my bed and cried as I saw no light at the end of my tunnel. My manager saw my pain and jumped over all of the local managers and supervisors and went straight to our headquarters and petitioned them for a change. The company saw the changes in the nation and decided to allow me to be myself in the workplace. I have since dedicated myself to performing at my best for this company. I have had friends dismissed from thier employment just for being who they are. Or those who live in fear each day that if they are discovered they will loose all thier income and then also be denied access to public services. I am unique. My company has embraced me, I strive to not make them regret that decsion. We are an untapped resource. We are skilled. But most of all we are grateful for the oppurtunity to work and make income to finance the things we need to do to be who we are. Our exspences are not yet covered by Medical Insurance.

  11. 11 anonymous:

    I worked for a large communication company in Omaha. I was eager to build a career and worked very hard at moving up the ranks. But it seemed every time I attempted to become a manager I was passed by. It had been shared with me on numerous occasions the director wouldn’t promote anyone who was known to be GLBT. I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted to have faith in people so I kept trying to no avail. Finally a position became available in the training organization. I was promoted to it IMMEDIATELY! The manager of the department was AMAZING! He was super supportive and wanted me to be successful at all costs. The group I trained was for the division I had left. Well my first training class I was met with some opposition from a couple of the participants who immediately went to the director to share their disappointment in the training. Not so much with the training as they shared they were disappointed with my style of training! More importantly they didn’t not like the fact I was a lesbian. The director immediately launched a review, which later I found out had NEVER happened in the history of the position! My boss assured me he was going to take care of it! So they had the class take a survey specifically on me. Something else which rarely happened! The survey came back with outstanding results! The class overall loved me and my training style! They felt that I was one of the most understanding and supportive trainers they had every worked with! The small percentage that had issues only had issues based on my orientation! Well the director made it her agenda to get me removed as a trainer. She told my boss that we couldn’t have me working with new hires! So, because I had no legal protections, I was returned to my old position! My training manager told me that when I originally came to him and shared that I felt there was discrimination going on when it came to promoting me he said and I quote, “I believe you but there isn’t anything you can do about it unfortunately.” After the review and before I moved back to my old position he said, “I wish something could be done. I fought hard to keep you because I think it is bullshit but they still did what they set out to do. Please know I think you are amazing!” His words made me feel better but ultimately it was the beginning of the end of my employment there. As a result of my training the two people who complained the loudest about me went on to be in the top 5 in the department within a years time! One of them eventually came to me and apologized and told me she was were she was as a direct result of how I trained her! She apologized for causing me to lose my position and wished there was something she could do to change the circumstances. I left the department shortly after and a few years later left the company. It makes me sick to think this happened to me still today! I really hope this ordinance passes! It is time to END the blatant discrimination! Thank you!

  12. 12 Rob:

    I worked in a very large regional, full service, insurance agency here in Omaha about two years ago. At all-company meetings, gay jokes were cracked by our CEO and individuals in the company were teased in a way that insinuated that these coworkers were gay. I personally don’t believe any of them were but just the same. I certainly did not ever want to be out at work, in such a hostile environment, and I certainly didn’t join in when the work force laughed or clapped at the homophobic jokes. Having no genuine idea as to why I was “laid off” but the woman that instigated my leaving the company did make an eyebrow raising comment to a co worker after the fact. She said to the coworker, “I think Rob was gay.” Witch hunt or coincidence? I certainly think the GLBT community needs legal workplace protection.

  13. 13 anonymous:

    I work in an industry that is VERY anti gay and very right wing conservative. I hear gay jokes, etc. every hour of the day. I work for a company in the construction industry. I am often praised for my work ethic as well as my knowledge and efficiency. What then is my problem? I am a male that has married his male partner of 3+ years. My problem is that I am not out at work, I can not add my husband to my insurance, and I am afraid of someone seeing us out together at times. N0 one knows that I am gay. I fear everyday that if anyone finds out that I will be fired and lose my job that I am well respected at. Omaha needs to get its act together and pass GLTBS protections if they expect to lure top recruits to this citY.

  14. 14 Robert Patterson:

    My first job out of college happened to be for a non-profit organization in Omaha, a field which I ultimately have continued to build a successful career. In my first few months on the job, I excelled at my work and my boss was extremely happy with my productivity. Shortly after my 90-day probationary period, some coworkers casually mentioned to the boss that I was gay. My boss wanted to immediately terminate me because of this and only this. Looking back, I am astonished to realize how unprotected I was as an LGBT individual… and how twenty years later, I am still unprotected.

    Fortunately, I was able to continue to work for in the nonprofit field and am now the CEO for the Kids Can Community Center in South Omaha. I love to call Omaha home and am extremely fortunate to be involved in great organizations such as Leadership Omaha, the Nonprofit Executive Institute, and the Greater Omaha GLBT Network as well as receiving my masters degree from Bellevue University and being honored as a Ten Outstanding Young Omahan and Midlands Business Journal’s Forty Under Forty award.

    As our city makes a prodigious decision on creating an equal workplace for Omaha, I wondered… would any of this have been possible if I was fired from my first nonprofit job for being gay? Would I have been able to follow my passion and give back to our community? Would I have even stayed in Omaha? Or would I have chosen a city where my right to work was recognized and appreciated?

    I stay in Omaha because I love the city, I love the community and I love the people. I know we will make the right decision and create a truly inclusive community both in word and spirit.

  15. 15 Chad:

    I’ve never been a part of the traditional work environment. I started by own business when I was in college with a friend, a friend that eventually became my partner in life (we recently got married on the Council Bluffs side of the pedestrian bridge spanning the Missouri River). We chose to create an inclusive work environment – we included LGBT in our non-discrimination work policies. We didn’t have to. Obviously no law told us we needed to, but as two gay men running our own company – the decision to include this was obvious. Our business has been growing now for seven years, a small basement start-up, no outside investment, we did it ourselves. No help. No nepotism. Just us. We’ve created jobs for Omaha, jokingly referring to our most recent hire (a heterosexual, white male) as our “diversity” hire, as everyone who has worked with us has been multiracial, gay or a woman (not by design, but because they were the most talented and creative people we could find). We are very proud of what we have accomplished and love the environment that Omaha has provided for our business. However, as members of the Greater Omaha Chamber, we were disgusted by the Chamber’s stance against Councilman Gray’s Equal Employment Ordinance. As members of the business community, as well as devoted members of many non-profit and volunteer organizations – we felt deeply disrespected and felt a clear message had been sent that the Chamber did not appreciate our contribution to the economic fabric of Omaha, nor did they want to create an inclusive city that would make it easier for us to recruit young, creative, talented professionals from across the country. The talented individuals that live on the coasts don’t want to relocate to a city that they feel is holding onto intolerance and bigotry – this is a brand that is being created for Omaha and it trumps all the positive press of Omaha as #1 such and such in several publications. Young professionals care about this issue. They care about what is right and they won’t sell-out because our houses are cheaper, our unemployment lower or standard of living higher. Whenever a decision making entity like the Chamber sends a negative message like this – it makes our job harder. We want to grow. We want to stay in Omaha. We want to attract talent. In response to the Chamber excluding our business philosophy from what they deemed good for Omaha, we dropped the Chamber, explaining to President David Brown that we had no interest in paying dues to an organization with such archaic, hateful, backwards views. This to me, is the strongest example of discrimination that I have faced as a gay man. I helped create a business that adds to the artistic and tech. culture of Omaha and instead of being encouraged by the very Chamber of Commerce that I was a part of – I was insulted and given every reason to uproot by business and take it elsewhere. Some have. But, my partner and I made a choice – we aren’t going anywhere and instead of leaving we are going to be a constant reminder, a constant thorn in the shoe of the Chamber, reminding them and other decision makers that we want, we demand, an inclusive city and we aren’t going to stay quiet.

  16. 16 Stuart Shell:

    I am GLBTS. I reserve the right to have a gender preference. I require my coworkers to accept my orientation. I require a workplace where all genders are accommodated. Excellence in team performance starts with mutual respect. I am and will continue to be embarrassed by a polity which does not accept diversity. Some legends hold that tolerance and religious freedom were the birth of our nation. In the heartland we suffer from a cosmopolitan stereotype that we are narrow-minded. In fact, it is our proximity with the foundation of wealth in nature that compels us to embrace the world as it presents. It is many and diverse. We are the new New England. We have a responsibility to our founding fathers to extend a culture of tolerance. The failure to explicitly protect gender diversity is a turning-away from humanity. Humans, nor politicians, nor the agglomeration we call government can decide the eternal fate of man. That is for the gods alone. I am GLTBS. So are my friends, and my un-friends. We all need the mutual aid and respect bestowed by Omaha’s equal employment ordinance.

  17. 17 Kristin:

    Sometimes the nuance of discrimination makes it hard to feel empowered to say something about how other people’s behavior impacts the workplace environment for GLBT families. I was working as a fundraiser at a local nonprofit and loved my job. I got to work with community leaders and our Board of Directors was noticing my work. While I had “come out” to my boss and others, I made a point of avoiding too many conversations about my personal life so that I could remain somewhat “closeted” to the influential people on our board. I didn’t want anything about me to impact my ability to raise funds for an organization whose mission I care deeply about.

    The intersection of professional and personal life is a balancing act for us all. When you are gay the casual and constant questions like: What are you doing for the holidays? What did you do this weekend? Are you married? Do you have children? turn into a somewhat ethical dilemma–if I answer, will they hate me or try to get me fired? If I evade the question will they think I’m being rude? and so on.

    My partner of 11 years gave birth to our first son, so it was a bit easier to be evasive about the questions about my personal life. I knew that there were some people who assumed I was a single woman and I made the deliberate decision to let them own their own assumptions–even when they were trying to set me up with “eligible bachelors”. However, when I became pregnant with our second son I knew that the influential board members would 1) assume I got “knocked up” or 2) find out I am gay. Turns out they found out I am gay and at least one of them made it clear she had a problem by expressing her concerns about my employment to several board members–making a point of noting that I was “not a good role model”. In addition, my supervisor let me know that the executive director had suggested that it would not be appropriate for me to take paid leave for a sick child if it was not for the son to which I gave birth. In addition, I was told that my being “out” was going to be a problem for my ambitious career goals.

    Is this discrimination? No, not in the legal sense. But it affected my work and sanity to constantly be looking over my shoulder, waiting for someone to find out my “secret” and wondering when someone I trusted with personal information would share with the wrong person.

    My livelihood was threatened by someone else’s issues about how and who I love–and by the fact that I had no legal protection should my employer decide she cares more about an influential woman’s opinion and donations than my livelihood.

    I don’t want special treatment. I just want to know that I won’t lose my ability to provide for my 9 and 6 year-old boys because of a socialite who has nothing better to do.

  18. 18 Ejay Jack:

    Penn State Graduate, 2002
    Peace Corps Volunteer, The Gambia, West Africa 2002-2004
    White House Intern, 2009
    Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, 2010-Present
    University of Nebraska at Omaha Graduate – Masters of Public Administration & Social Work, 2011

    …. These are only a few of my accomplishments in my 31 years. If the city of Omaha does not pass this ordinance I WILL take my talent elsewhere, to a place that values my expertise, motivation, and career drive. To a place that does not boil down my identity to a person who happens to be Transgender, but rather a productive and accomplished citizen who plans on contributing for several more years to OUR civil society but demands respect in return regardless of identity.

    Thank you, to those council members who are fighting for equal rights and protections for all citizens of Omaha!