UPDATED: The Dirty Little Secrets Queerty Doesn’t Want You to Know

They offered me $2K to buy my silence. But you need to know that the man I call “Captain Bullshit” fired the only trans writers at this LGBT news site.

by Dawn Ennis

Author’s Note: Today marks five months since the day I was fired from my job as assistant editor at LGBTQ Nation, effective immediately. The website is owned and operated by Queerty, Inc.

Buhbye, Job

That was the day I was fired, 5 months after our all-expenses paid “business retreat” to Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, where we were endlessly wined and dined. When we weren’t lounging around in bathing suits, we were encouraged to participate in uber-casual meetings about strategy, advertising, and how well our company was doing.

…they owed him so many months back pay — thousands of dollars in invoices, waiting to be reimbursed — that the bosses opted to “stop the bleeding” by making sure there wouldn’t be any more invoices. Problem solved!

The other trans writer had just contributed a series of wildly popular stories that drew a lot of eyeballs, and I had spent the week filling in for that vacationing supervisor, running the site as acting editor, dispensing assignments, deftly handling breaking news and (I thought) making everybody proud. As it turns out, I did; both Bil and Chris told me this was “not a performance issue,” and that they loved me, and they hoped that I might work with them again in the future on an unspecified project that would call upon my talents in video production.

Was It Coincidence or Discrimination?

That fact was never mentioned when we were told we were let go. Bil told us in our respective phone calls that this was the result of “budget cuts.”

Yes, I am THAT Dawn Ennis

Tragedy Strikes

But just days before my wife was to finally get her wish of a divorce, she passed away quite unexpectedly, on January 20, 2016, the final blow after a 30-week battle with cancer. On that day I resigned and headed east to care for our three children, choosing to not further damage them by uprooting them from everything they knew and loved.

It was accepted by everyone on our team that everything he said was a lie, from his promises to his praise.

What I didn’t expect was that when Bil became my boss, his boss would become my nemesis.

Oh Captain, My Captain

This is a man who would sweet-talk me to death, only to turn on me and play dumb when confronted with what he had said. It was accepted by everyone on our team that everything he said was a lie, from his promises to his praise.

…the CEO tried to buy my silence if I would sign a release, promising to not go after them for discrimination, to not tell my story, and to basically take the money and shuddup.

It didn’t take me long to figure out the Captain’s favorite method of gamesmanship: one of us would send him a text or an instant message via the widely-used workplace app, Slack. He’d respond with a non-committal thought or opinion and ask you to call him. But the call would never, ever be answered, and the only choice would be to leave a voicemail and wait for him to call you back, at his convenience, almost always after hours, even on weekends. The power trip must have delighted him as much as it annoyed the hell out of everyone I knew.

Surprise

I thought we were actually making headway, until the day Scott proposed to buy my silence. It had all the earmarks of the Captain. All I had to do was sign a release, promising to not go after them for discrimination, to not tell my story; basically, to take the money and shuddup.

Captain Bullshit certainly dreamed big. But knowing my history, why on earth would he even attempt to mislead me?

Their offer was to pay me one month’s salary and the agreed-upon price for a commissioned article of branded content (an advertisement disguised as news that I had written for the Captain). A month had passed since I’d been let go, and while I considered this offer, and reviewed the terms with attorneys, I took a break from the battle and hit the beach.

EDIT: Just to be clear, because I’ve been asked by a few folks: yes, I am now receiving unemployment benefits, a little more than half of what I used to earn per week, and I’m very grateful to the state auditor and benefits administrator who decided in my favor. Just in time for Labor Day!

A little bird told me fines and penalties might also result from them trying to pretend I was not what I am. I was told in a threatening email they would challenge my unemployment claim, but the only thing they did was pay me the $75 fee for one story I wrote after being fired, and a measly $20 for another.

Errors of Pretense

To me, Queerty’s biggest mistake of many, many errors was its lies to its employees. Like how the Captain harped on his desire that we provide original content to the LGBT community, but wouldn’t let up on pressuring Bil to assign us to rewrite other outlets’ original works. If its budget cuts are due to reduced revenue, then this company is failing in a business where rich gay men make a fortune on the backs of broke queer writers. It’s no joke; these jetsetters spend more money on a bottle of wine than they do on journalism. The going rate at Queerty is $20 a story and op-ed contributors don’t earn even a penny for their labors. It is a wonder why anyone would pretend to be interested in journalism when the bottom line is nickels, dimes and a pat on the head.

Everything I Feared

All that came true when I stopped pretending, and it didn’t help that my transition was rocky and fraught with medical issues that played out under an international spotlight that brought me nothing but shame, derision and eventually, unemployment.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

— e e cummings

About the Author:

Host “RiseUP With Dawn Ennis,” Blogger at http://lifeafterdawn.com, award-winning broadcast & online journalist, widow and single mom whose kids call me “Dad.”