"You better not be planning to kill yourself, Ennis!" commented one friend. When May 3 arrived, Don Ennis was gone. Dawn Ennis had taken his place.
Don changed his name to Dawn on Facebook, posted a photo of himself in a long brunette wig, along with the quote, "To thine own self be true." That same day, the 49-year-old father of three marched into his office at ABC News in a "little black dress," the New York Post reported, and announced her new identity to co-workers. The next day at her home, Ennis moved out, leaving a wife.
according to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law), the decision of if and how to come out at work can be extremely challenging. According to a 2009 study by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce, 97 percent of transgender individuals have been harassed at work, and 47 percent said that they had been denied a job or a promotion, or been fired, because of their gender identity.
Even though ABC, like most media companies, has inclusive policies when it comes to sexuality and gender identity, Ennis was worried too. A year ago, Ennis posted a comment on the YouTube video of another transwoman, saying that she worried about identifying as a woman at work because she was only part-time, and could easily lose her job.
Ennis didn't have to wait long; according to her LinkedIn profile, Ennis landed a staff job as national desk assignment editor at ABC News just a couple months later.
But Ennis' coming out also shows that coming out online can be just as important as coming out at work. In fact, our online and offline selves are so scrambled now, it would be almost impossible to be a woman in one realm and a man in the other.
Another benefit of social media are the hundreds of friends and acquaintances right there, who can declare their support with a click. Ennis' announcement received dozens of "like"s, along with cheers of "beautiful!" and "AMEN, SISTER!!!"
But Ennis' co-workers were plenty supportive in real life too. Some left flowers on her desk, the Post reported, and ABC News President Ben Sherwood even wrote her a personal note. "I'm overwhelmed by the strong support I've received from my co-workers," Ennis said in a statement, "and I'm looking forward to telling my story when I'm ready."
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