In 1999, when I came out to my long-time boss and friend, Hap Myers, an Alabama State Senator and conservative Republican, he was, to say the least, shocked. And he was afraid, not just for the blowback on the company for which I had worked 25 years, but also for me and my family. Hap was a good man. But his final words to me still ring in my ear: “Don’t get in people’s faces like most gay people do.” I knew what he meant. The visible gay people pushing for equal rights in Mobile and Alabama were “in your face.” And I too sometimes wondered why they couldn’t just chill out and go with the flow of the times. They were making progress and it was just a matter of time, it seemed to me, until they would get most of what they wanted. I had been “asked” to leave the company when I came out to the powers, the owners of the company that had bought BCM. They did not think a “queer” should be in such a visible position as Executive Vice President, especially given that many of our offices were in what we now call red states. So with little real planning, I was cut loose from most of the things that had given me a measure of self-worth for most of my adult life. For the following two years, I struggled with the loss of my career, my family, my economic stability, my community, and with the critical decision of moving forward with transition or not. For almost a year, I did nothing toward moving into transition; I just tried to survive by focusing on building a new career. While with BCM, I had played the dominant role in getting the company on board with the power of the computer. When I was in my master’s program at Auburn in 1972 and even when I arrived at BCM in 1974, everyday engineering tasks at almost every engineering firm were still being done using slide rules and the occasional primitive calculator. When I left the firm in 1999, BCM was one of the leading engineering firms with respect to use of computers in everyday engineering problems. So it seemed natural that I would lean toward doing something with computers. And I did: I started a company to build websites, first for the real-estate industry and then for others. I had quickly grasped the potential of a new technology called virtual imaging and incorporated it in my company, The Mindz Eye. My friend and transgender mentor, Courtney, went into business with me in a company we called Et-NOLA (Et for “eye-tours” not ET). Courtney was a few years younger and a few years ahead of me in transitioning and living full-time. Her result was similar to mind – her long term employer had promptly fired her. But Courtney fought back and would eventually win her fight with her company. She became involved with PFLAG on the national level and engaged with other trans-activists pushing gay organizations to become trans-inclusive too. One day in 2001, still before I had committed to living full time as a woman, Courtney called and asked if I would help her on a trans issue. A trans-women, Peter Oiler, who had worked for 20 years for the national food chain Winn-Dixie, had been fired after the company was informed that she dressed as a woman in her non-work hours. She had never made an issue of her gender non-conformance on the job. Still Winn Dixie had terminated her. Courtney was working with the ACLU, which had decided to file suit for Oiler, wanted a website to help publicize the firing and to gather community support. So Courtney thought of me and I readily agreed. This was back in the days when web design was accomplished with hand-coding as the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) coding tools we now have did not yet exist. So I jumped into the project and produced a website “ShameOnWinnDixie.com.” (I didn’t keep copies of the website pages but I discovered that the Web Archive project captured some of the site’s pages.) I made several “interesting” graphics for the site, some incorporating Winn-Dixie’s logo, but I was forced to remove the graphics when Winn Dixie filed suit against me personally as well as against my little company. Unfortunately, the web archives did not capture those graphics before they were removed. And I have long since lost them among the many laptops and desktops I have gone through.
But they did capture this page which has a “banner” ad we asked supporters with websites to add to their website.
You can access the captured pages here on Internet Archives, otherwise known as the “Wayback Machine.” https://web.archive.org/web/20010406063317/http://shameonwinndixie.com/action_main.htm Though I was not nearly as active nor as visible as Courtney, I did my part over the following years. I was THE only transgendered person on the founding board of Bay Area Inclusion and fought to get Equality Alabama to include trans-issues in their platform, which they eventually did. Winn-Dixie eventually capitulated and negotiated a settlement with Oiler.
Hey Dawn ,Its Bobbi Werkheiser, I have followed you and your courage and are so proud of you. I have a best friend Caroline Anne L’huillier who with much courage went on with her life to keep from losing her life .She was thrown oit of La. national Guard after 18 years. She is a big part of my life.She has given me the courage to keep on living.I love her as a big part of my life. Because of her and you ,Jamie Buth and Michelle Hamilton I have the will to be the woman Ive always been for the rest of my life.