Pride and a Passion for Justice: One Student’s Journey for Change
June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month, a yearly celebration recognizing the profound impact that LGBTQ+ individuals have had on history, art, politics, and culture. This year is particularly significant. Not only does it mark the 50th anniversary of annual LGBTQ+ Pride traditions, it also comes at a momentous time for our nation’s ongoing struggle for equal justice. The deep racial and class impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, together with the unjust killing of Mr. George Floyd, have sparked renewed and vigorous outrage and action on behalf of equal justice. Because members of the LGBTQ+ community comprise a wide cross-section of race, class, ethnicity, age, and ability, the community is a strong advocate for allyship and intersectional approaches to social justice.
Pride, persistence, and a deep desire for equity and justice are hallmarks of the LGBTQ+ movement. Understanding how the law works provides a strong foundation upon which we can advocate for change, and for this reason, a legal education can be a valuable path to pursue for those who want to add their voice to the conversation. Below is the story of Charlie Stegner-Freitag and their courageous and inspiring journey through law school. I had the honor of meeting Charlie when they were a student in my Gender and Law class. Thanks, Charlie, for your devotion to justice and for sharing your story to help inspire others to pursue their passion for law and justice. We need your voices!
“I had a hard time seeing myself as a law student,” recalls Charlie Stegner-Freitag. “On television, you see all these incredibly smart, attractive, and very conventional people. I’m not like that. I have weird hobbies and quirks and I identify as nonbinary.”
Charlie had initially earned a degree in social work, but it had left them feeling powerless.
“Social work happens on a case-by-case basis,” Charlie explains. “Legal challenges present a lot of red tape and a lot of costs, and there are never enough resources to really fix the system. If you want to change the system, you have to change the laws. You can do that by becoming a lawyer.”
But what about not exactly fitting the “typical law student” mold?
“I’ve since learned that the conventional law student is kind of a myth,” says Charlie, who just recently completed their final year of law school. “During my 1L summer, I worked with a center that provides direct services to the LGBTQ+ community. One student wanted to start college without having to explain their preferred name and pronouns. Being able to help this student navigate the challenges involved was my wake-up moment. I realized that serving my community was something I could do.”
Charlie is now passionate about the law.
“It’s an area where I can make change,” Charlie explains. “I believe in fairness and justice, and I want my work to help not just one individual but potentially hundreds or even thousands of people.”
Charlie now plays a role in inspiring others to discover the benefits of a legal education as part of LSAC’s BE IndiVISIBLE campaign, which encourages all people from all walks of life to consider a career in law.
“Don’t be afraid to try,” Charlie says. “And remember, there will always be ups and downs. Anxiety, the fear of not doing well, and worrying that you’re not going to meet the expectations of friends and parents are all normal parts of the journey.”
It’s a journey Charlie is glad they took, and definitely one to take pride in.