And there is grace within forgiveness…
But it’s so hard for me to find
Today was a good day. I felt useful for a change. In working with Chris Hartman, Executive Director of Fairness Campaign, we’ve always discussed ways that we might take my story of discrimination and harassment at AT&T more public. Today, I made a speech at the Kentucky Fairness Rally in the middle of the Capitol. The media was there as well as tons of supporters from all walks of life. I wanted to let AT&T know why Statewide Fairness is so important. Because if they’re not going to consistently enforce their own non-discrimination policies, then they should be held accountable. That they have an obligation to all of their employees. “DO BETTER,” I say.
While the news coverage didn’t include any of my actual speech, I did get a couple seconds on TV. You can see it here.
For the sake of posterity, I want to share my actual speech. I know I deviated in a couple places, but only in phrasing.
Hi, everyone! My name is Addison Newton, and I’m proud to be here in the capitol as we continue to fight for both LGBT and workers’ rights in Kentucky!
I’m also proud to say that my union, the Communications Workers of America, has been fighting for my rights too! When I came out as a transgender woman at my job at AT&T, I faced a lot of difficulties. Even though my company has pretty good LGBT policies, what I learned is that no one in my workplace really knew how to implement them or had any idea what being transgender meant.
For the next several weeks, AT&T scrambled to figure out where I should go to the bathroom and how to explain to other employees about my transition. It was embarrassing, demeaning, and it shouldn’t have been that difficult. As time progressed, I encountered misgendering on a regular basis, by both staff and management alike. The general manager of my office vehemently refused to refer to me as female. Intent on having me fired, she conspired with another manager who followed me around town. Throughout all of this, I’ve had constant support from my CWA Local 3310. As I saw how the company responded, I decided that I wanted to help other members and I became a job steward.
I’m very proud to be a member of CWA. The leadership has stood by my side every step of the way. We’ve worked tirelessly to hold my employer accountable and sending a message that each and every employee’s needs and safety are truly valued. Most likely, I wouldn’t be here today if not for the support of my union siblings. I want to thank them, especially local vice-president, Larry Gardner, who is here with me today.
However, even with the power of the CWA behind me, fighting for ALL workers’ rights, it’s still not easy. Anti-transgender laws like Representative Nelson’s bathroom bills make it harder and more dangerous for transgender people to live our daily lives and meet our most basic needs. My difficulties with AT&T also illustrate how necessary it is for Kentucky to pass a Statewide Fairness Law. Because even the most well-intentioned corporate policy is no good if the company refuses to enforce it. A Statewide Fairness Law ensures that all businesses in our commonwealth are held to the same standard of respecting the basic dignity of all people, including our LGBT community. So, in closing, I would like to ask AT&T to join the 200 other Kentucky businesses in the Kentucky Competitive Workforce Coalition!
I’m a proud transgender woman, union member, and Kentuckian fighting for Fairness for all!