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Unique Job Fair Debuts in Colorado

May 3, 2011

DENVER - It's illegal in Colorado to discriminate against someone in the workforce based upon sexual orientation or gender identity. But Colorado is also an "at will" work state, meaning an employer can fire an employee at any time, without giving a reason. And that policy, combined with a high statewide unemployment rate, could mean workplace difficulties for some people.

That's the reason Shannon Colvin says she's leaving her job. She is a transgender Coloradan, who says the workplace can be an unfriendly place for people who are perceived as "different."

"The job that I'm coming from, I basically was not wanted there. And so I decided that I needed to leave that situation and move on to somewhere where I would be welcomed and be wanted as who I am."

Colvin plans to attend the first-ever Colorado job fair specifically for transgender people, this Saturday in Denver, at the GLBT Community Center of Colorado. The Center says the event will feature companies that have established nondiscriminatory policies and offer well-paying jobs. Colvin's hoping to use her years of experience in business and construction to land a management position.

Courtney Gray is coordinating the job fair. She says that, even though Colorado has anti-discrimination laws on the books, the workplace often demands that people fit an unrealistic norm.

"There is no 'norm': there's people of all different ethnic backgrounds and races, and religions. I think it's time for people give up the idea of what is a norm and let people live the life that they think is important and genuine, to them."

Gray says some transgender Coloradans turn to sex-related work or drugs to survive, and the Center is hoping to give people options for meaningful employment.

Shannon Colvin says the fair is important because she can be herself with a potential employer.

"It allows us to come as we are and know that it's going to be okay; and that it's a safe place and that we don't have to worry about any discrimination."

The fair runs Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the GLBT Community Center in Denver.

Information on the fair can be found at
tinyurl.com/3p3mawr

Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO