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Alicia Pedreira

Therapist Fired for Being Lesbian

By David Williams
The Letter

[NOTE: What follows is the only news story published to date that has been read and approved for accuracy by Ms. Pedreira before publication.]

When Alicia Pedreira applied for a position as a therapist at the Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children in Louisville this past spring, she decided to come out as a lesbian to her prospective employers so that there would be no surprises once she began work. If her homosexuality was a problem, she told clinical director Jack Cox, then she didn't want the job. Cox told her that if higher-ups found out, it could be a problem and suggested she not talk about her personal life at work. Because she's a professional, she responded, she wouldn't do that in any case. alicia.jpg - 30.72 K Alicia Pedreira and her lover Nance Goodman in the photo that sparked the controversy

Pedreira dug into her job, garnering glowing reports and receiving the respect of her supervisor and peers. The troubled teenage boys she cared for took to her readily. She had her work cut out for her: KBHC is Kentucky's largest publicly-funded residential treatment agency for youth, with a population of more than 3,000 in eight homes.

All that changed when Pedreira and her lover, former Fairness activist Nance Goodman, returned from vacation in August. Unbeknownst to them and without their consent, a photo of the two, taken on the Belvedere after last year's AIDS Walk, had been entered in a photographic competition at the Kentucky State Fair.

The picture, by amateur photographer Jeffrey Offutt, showed Goodman behind Pedreira, who wore a t-shirt with a map of Greece on it and the words "Isle of Lesbos" displayed prominently. It wasn't the first time the photogenic couple had been shown together in a public photograph. The Louisville Courier-Journal printed another photo of the two last year after Fairness III went down to defeat. Pedreira was not an employee of the Baptist agency at the time.

Some fellow employees saw Offutt's photo and reported back to the agency. Suddenly, the KBHC cabinet was meeting, personnel was phoning her boss, and her job was in jeopardy. Someone began telling the children she was evil. Many fellow employees expressed support, but with higher-ups it is was another story.

A week after the fair ended, they asked her to resign. She refused. They then offered her a temporary desk job and help to find work elsewhere. For three weeks, Pedreira says, she was basically paid for not working. Finally, on October 23, after what Goodman terms was six weeks of harassment, Pedreira was fired, but only after she made them put the reason--sexual orientation-- on the document. Because local and state civil rights laws don't cover anti-gay discrimination, she has no legal argument on that basis.

In protest, at least five employees, including clinical director Cox, resigned, and two local institutions of higher learning, Spalding University and the Kent School of Social Work at the University of Louisville, wrote letters informing the agency they will no longer send psychotherapy graduates to intern there. UofL's art therapy school won't be sending students there, either.

"I feel like discrimination in any form, it promotes hate crimes and promotes violence and ignorance in the community and the churches," Cox told the Gay People's Chronicle, a Cleveland weekly. "For me to be a part of that, it felt like I was promoting that. I don't want my kids to think that's okay."

aliciaprot.gif - 26.42 K Carol Kraemer, office manager for the Louisville Fairness Campaign, leads a crowd of 100 in song to protest the firing of therapist Alicia Pedreira by Kentucky Baptist Homes because she's lesbian. Louisville, Ky., L&N Building, November 24, 1998. Pedreira developed several stress-related health problems during her ordeal with the Baptists, including insomnia, an abdominal rash, and exacerbation of a hay fever problem. For the first time in her life, she had to see a physician for allergies. By the end of November, however, her emotional and physical state had stabilized and she says she's ready to move on with her life. Because Goodman is co-parenting a son with her ex-husband, the couple has no plans to move away.

The Baptist agency, which is funded largely by taxpayers, has since instituted a policy stating that the "homosexual lifestyle" is incompatible with their work and "KBHC core values." In a statement to the Gay People's Chronicle, the home said that the best way to care for abused and neglected children is to provide them with role models "who embrace traditional family and sexual values."

The board of directors has not instructed staff to proactively seek out other gay and lesbian employees for termination. MSNBC reports, however, that if other employees are discovered to be homosexual, they will be fired as well.

Besides discouraging prospective gay or lesbian workers from applying for jobs there, the new policy affects gay and lesbian teenagers placed in the care of the home. How they will be handled remains in question.

Ironically, the agency's mission statement would seem to contradict the new policy. It states in part that "KBHC is committed to fostering an environment that daily affirms the professional, ersonal, and spiritual development of our staff. That environment includes a safe work place, an appreciation of multicultural backgrounds, and a commitment to ethical integrity."

All of which Pedreira observed but the agency did not.
Editorial: As You Sow, So Shall You Reap
David Williams, Kentucky's Gay Editor, Responds to the Baptists

When I first saw the photograph of Alicia Pedreira and her lover, former Fairness activist Nance Goodman, at the Kentucky State Fair photographic contest this year, I stood in front of it for a long time. What a wonderful affirmation, I thought. At last, a warm photo in a very public space that says, "Look at us!" I felt uplifted, moved.

Leave it to the Southern Baptists to find something wrong with this picture. When a few holier-than-thou types saw it, they tattled to her supervisors and she was out of a job. Forget the glowing reviews. Forget the respect of her supervisor and colleagues. Forget the kids' welfare. We cain't have inny o' dem dern lezbeen perrrverrrts roun' heah, now, kin we, Brinda?

It's the clearest case of anti-gay discrimination we have. She made them put the reason for her firing on her termination slip: sexual orientation. Good for her. Such simple dignity in the face of such vile bigotry says volumes about her character, and the spiritual bankruptcy that's costing that branch of Protestantism any last penny of respect it may once have had. This isn't Christianity but some Salem-style perversion of it.

Unfortunately, not all cases of discrimination are as cut and dried. In fact, most are not. It's a problem that's dogged the Fairness Campaign over the last six years. For every case like Pedreira's, there are ten that aren't so clear. It gives our opponents an easy way out. If it's such a problem, they ask, why aren't there more stories? There are: employers are just too savvy.

My own experience is telling. I feel I've been discriminated against at least three times, but ask me to prove it and I can't.

My chosen career is secretarial. I've been working in offices since starting out at my Dad's, reams of paper ago; I've been clocked at 132 words per minute on a word processor. So you'd think employers would be chasing me down, right? Pffft! Male secretaries, no matter how competent, suffer one big stigma: employers think they're gay. Well, 75% of us probably are.

One temporary agency refused to let me apply for any clerical work. They tried to steer me toward day labor. Not that I'd mind that, but it's not what I wanted. Didn't matter.

Another time, I thought I had the job until the interviewer looked at my application again. "You're single?" "Yes." "40?" "Yes." "___ South Second: that's in Old Louisville, right?" "Yes." Hmm. Single, no children, forty years old, lives in Old Louisville. Must be gay. NEXT!

The last time, I interviewed with a major downtown firm. This time they were smarter: they danced around my marital status and place of residence, but I knew they were just dying to ask that question, "Are you gay?" I never heard from them again.

Is this proof of discrimination? No. No one ever came out and said they won't hire gays. On the other hand, no one will ever convince me otherwise. If you think my gut feeling is wrong, ask any black man if he recognizes these same scenarios. Redlining lives.

When I was growing up, my father, an agnostic, always preceded "Baptists" by another word. As far as he was concerned, the official name of the denomination was "Damn Baptists." Of course there are many fine, loving Baptists in this world--perhaps the majority. Too bad their denomination has sunk into such pharisaic orthodoxy. Is this what Revelations meant about false prophets leading the people astray in the end times?

In this life, whatever you sow, you reap. Treat people with disrespect, and they'll return the favor. That might be the only satisfaction we get from the Baptists' degrading treatment of Pedreira. Sacrifice intelligent, caring workers at the altar of denominational purity, and sooner or later you're going to find your offices filled with drones, crones, and Stepford wives. But who can say they didn't get exactly what they asked for?

How to Protest Pedreira's Firing:

The Kentucky Baptist Home for Children at Spring Meadows needs to hear from the community about Alicia Pedreira's firing. Send letters to Brenda Gray at 10901 Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY 40243. Or email: Be respectful but firm.
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Previous People Features from the GayToday Archive:
U.S. Dept. of Labor Responds to Discrimination Complaint
Kentucky Schoolgirl Taunted as 'Lezzie' Wins Lawsuit

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