ABC Fired Transgender Employee Dawn Ennis After a Complicated Saga

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Dawn Ennis. Photo: Dawn Ennis / twitter

It's been a tough year for Dawn Ennis.

Last summer, the ABC News assignment editor came out as transgender and was met with support from co-workers (network president Ben Sherwood reportedly sent a nice note) and some local news coverage, with even the New York Post telling the story with an unusual amount of compassion. Then things got more complicated. After a bout of "transient global amnesia," Ennis announced that she would go back to presenting as Don — "it appears I'm not transgender after all," she wrote to friends and colleagues in an explanation that again ended up in the papers.

Today, the Daily News reports, absent any sensitivity, "A gender-flipping producer from ABC News now has a pink slip to go with her pink slip." But with her firing from ABC (and medical history) now public, Ennis tells Intelligencer, "Everything seems to have accelerated after I let them know about my transition [for the second time]."

Nearly a year after she says a seizure led to memory loss, causing her to undo the very public transition she'd started, Ennis once again came out of the closet as Dawn and began presenting as a woman at work in April. (Her legal name and gender identity remained female throughout the last year.) "It made some people feel uneasy," she says. "We started to suddenly have a lot of meetings." A few weeks later, she was let go for what ABC called "performance-related issues."

"I am transgender," says an unequivocal Ennis now. "Yes, there was a time beginning in August 2013 that despite being female I opted to present publicly as male ... The reasons for this are complex and a source of great distress for both myself and for my family. Unfortunately, my change in presentation, and my later decision to publicly acknowledge that I had resumed my transition and to once again present as myself in the workplace, were almost immediately followed by meetings with corporate managers about the future of my employment with Disney/ABC."

A source familiar with the situation says the firing was "totally, completely, entirely unrelated to her transition."

Ennis, a former producer who worked most recently as the overnight national editor, says she's since entered negotiations with the network about the terms of her dismissal and, "I am hopeful the company will uphold its stated corporate commitment to gender identity and diversity." ABC News declined to comment.

"The issues of gender identity and transgender rights are very much in the news right now, and I can understand that to most people, who have never questioned their gender, this must be confusing and even strange. Imagine then how hard it is then to be living it, and having to do so publicly," says Ennis. "I have urged friends who are activists in the transgender community to not make matters worse and to await the outcome of our negotiations."