My name is Barton Lee Jackson II. I’m from Eagle, Idaho.
Idaho is an at-will employment state, so by the same concept that you can leave your job at any point without any justification to your employer, your employer can terminate you for any reason without discussing that with you.
I started working in college in a fine art frame shop in Meridian, Idaho. I would actually do these custom fine art framing jobs, both for individual clients and also businesses all throughout the Treasure Valley. When I first entered the workforce, I was familiar with the annual review process. You know, you do your job, do it well, you get a raise. Wouldn’t be an exciting raise, but you got a raise.
The general manager changed in year 2 for that – for that – or I should say store manager changed in year 2 for my location. And when that happens, everybody’s annual reviews were getting pushed back to the point where the in-house human resource officer took over the reviews. But in the process, my annual review was a full year late. And I was patient about it and I would just kindly remind them.
Finally get around to my one-year-late annual review. And I have a great conversation with the human resource officer. They apologize for it being pushed back so long. They explained why. It was a fine justification. And the thing that excited me was they said, “Not only are you getting your raise, but it’s going to be retroactive.”
I wasn’t fully out at work. I wasn’t out at home yet. But I have a supervisor that I was very close with at work and I confided in her and just in the process, you know, somebody else over heard and, of course, everybody finds out that I am, you know, gay at work.
I get pulled into the store manager’s office real quick one day around payday. I thought I was just getting my paycheck because it wasn’t getting direct deposited yet.
And he goes, “Here’s a check. And by the way, we are not making that raise retroactive.”
So, you know, I – without getting furious in front of my boss, right – I’m trying to say, “Well, is there a reason for that?”
He’s like, “Well, that’s an expense that we’re not going to take,” and, you know, starts to insinuate that because I’m gay and that he knows I’m gay, you know, he could just fire me and he’s not – he’s not inclined to give me that raise.
So I go home. I’m furious. I don’t know what to do. I don’t really have a recourse to action.
So I reached out to somebody who I had been dating at the time who invited me to go to work at another place. It was a financial institution. It was a large bank in Idaho. And I went for the interview without telling my employer on my day off. I kept it hush-hush. I got a job offer.
And when I that happened, I went in and I gave my two weeks notice. And when they asked me why, I was like, “You know why. You – there was a retroactive raise that I was entitled to and you took back. You held the fact that I’m gay over me because you could fire me at the time. So here’s your two weeks notice. It’s been a delight working with everybody else, but not you.
The end of my two weeks is coming up and it’s Halloween, which is my favorite holiday. And I decided that I was going to do Halloween in drag at night at the club. I’m getting it all together and I get wild hair and I go, You know what? I’m going to come to work in this because we’re in a craft store – everyone else is dressing up, like people doing cats and bunnies and witches, whatever else. I’m gonna come in as a drag queen because now everybody I know knows I’m gay, everybody else is fine with it except the store manager. So I’m just gonna do it.
I go in just as myself as Barton. I go into the bathroom and do like a 15 minute quick drag. Like, it was the busted – the most busted drag I think anybody has ever witnessed. The only good thing was I hadn’t learned how to grow a beard yet. So, you know, this was at least smooth enough that, you know, people can forgive the contour job.
But I’m there, I’m doing frames in the back, you know, and finally I come up and I’m helping people at the design table. And one of my best clients comes in. She was the, like, the seventh wealthiest woman in Idaho. As soon as she hears my voice, she’s kinda like, “Barton?” And I started explaining to her, you know, that I’m leaving the company. She tells me – she asks why, so I’m explaining it to her. And clients keep coming in and I keep explain it because they all want to know why I’m leaving.
So as this is happening, you know, here’s Barton in drag with electric blue wig, electric [blue] oversized sunglasses and and high heel thigh highs. And the store manager comes walking through the department and he kind of stops and then he looks back and, you just, I just saw him turns scarlet, beet red. He was so mad. He couldn’t say anything because I’ve got this wealthy customer in front of me. And she is having the best time with that and I just look and I wave.
And I go back to my client and I’m, you know, I conclude with her and he comes back through and he’s like, “This is highly unprofessional.”
I go, “What’re you gonna do? Fire me? My two weeks, remember?”
I didn’t seem again. Like he hid in the office. The door was closed. He wasn’t talking to nobody. As soon as that happened, you know, every department was talking to every department, like, “Did you see what happened between so and so and Barton?” And, you know, he wouldn’t talk to anybody because everyone thought he was in the wrong.
One thing that I did find out when I visited Idaho after moving to Seattle was that that frame shop had lost, like, a third of their clients over it. They couldn’t retain them. And a lot of the employees ended up going somewhere else as well because they just couldn’t work for a person like that. But it was really nice to hear that, you know, people genuinely valued me at work for who I was and not just the quality of the work that I did.
After that happened, I was so happy and I realized something – that even when you’re in a place where the politics may not align with your survival or your quality of life, or the economy does not align with that, there are things that you can do to still recognize what your self-worth is and what your inherent worth is to the right employer. Start with with assessing your self worth, you know, and make sure that you realize that you’re valuable regardless of what anybody says. In fact, you’re priceless.