Forced out for being trans, a former firefighter claims she lost her job after she revealed she was transitioning from a man to a woman. Her story is the now being featured in an ACLU campaign about transgender New Mexicans.
“I get to do the fun stuff, and help women remember they are important,” says Susan Powers.
From fighting fires to working as a beauty consultant, trans woman Susan Powers says she’s having fun now, but her change in careers was not something she wanted.
“More hurdles were made to make it more difficult for me to do my job,” Powers says.
Powers says for more than 12 years she worked with the Bernalillo County Fire Department.
“I was basically responsible for everything that revolves around wildland fire,” Powers says.
She says the department was supportive at first but as things progressed,
She came out as transgender in 2017.
“In order to get any questions answered I had to have one of my male subordinates literally take a list of my questions and go talk with the Chief,” Powers says.
County fire officials say she never reported any issues.
“We’ve never been made aware of those situations and there was never even a claim, nothing was ever filed with HR,” says Lt. David Lujan.
They say she was the issue, that she had been accused of workplace violence.
“A third party agency came in and conducted an investigation and found there was substantial evidence,” Lujan says.
The county says she was about to be fired when she quit instead.
However, Powers claims a co-worker told supervisors about a failed suicide attempt, so she was put on leave and then resigned.
“He reported that I was a threat to the chiefs I don’t know what the exact allegations were,” Powers says.
BCFD says they negotiated a settlement allowing her to resign rather than being fired. Neither side would say if Powers received a financial settlement.
The county says the fire department went through five training sessions with the Transgender Resource Center when Powers revealed she was going to transition.