LGBTQ individuals have found places in every area of legal education and legal practice, including organizing small law firms, taking seats on the bench, and working in law firms specializing in the LGBTQ rights movement. Use our resources to help you find your place—there has never been a more important time for more LGBTQ individuals to join the fight for justice.
I'm originally from a small town... where most people are either farmers or factory workers. I moved to upstate New York at the beginning of high school; I attended college in New York. It was an amazing experience! For the first time, I was completely out to friends, classmates, professors, etc. And it was also the first time that I got a chance to be part of the larger LGBTQ community. I knew that I wanted to go to law school, but I also knew that I needed to start paying off some of those undergrad loans. I spent three years working for a communications company... then I enrolled in law school. I attended law school because I knew I wanted to be a lawyer... I've always considered devoting some of my practice to LGBTQ legal issues... there are so few practicing attorneys who are up to date on the latest in the field.
I went from high school to a community college and then transferred to a large state university. I finished college with a bachelor's in sociology and then began law school. I transferred in my second year to the law school I currently attend. I assumed that my law school's religious ties would create a campus which was likely to be uninviting for its LGBTQ students, but I was willing to risk that. I was surprised once I got there how inviting the campus actually was. I ultimately became president of OutLaw and was able to coordinate many events with the LGBTQ students on campus.
I originally went to college straight from high school, but after two years, both my college and I decided (separately) that I needed a break. What was to be a one-year hiatus turned into eight. I had enormous difficulties with being gay; I was the epitome of internalized homophobia and became "born again" as a college freshman... No part of my identity made me feel so entirely "other" as did my being gay—not being female playing on male sports teams nor even being a first-generation Filipina who remembers standing in food bank lines as a child, who attended a private high school and a private college surrounded mostly by white students from upper-income to straight-up wealthy families. However, I have found my experience in law school to be open, welcoming, and supportive.
I see my LGBTQ status as being one brick in the wall that is me. I am a half black, half Italian-American, gay woman... I don't like to separate my identities or categorize myself. I am just me. I think that my diversity has lent itself to many great experiences in law school. I have used it as a platform to join many different types of student groups, talk to many different types of people, and discuss many socially relevant issues. The many aspects of my identity, sexuality included, have made me more aware of, and engaged in, important legal issues, such as marriage equality for the LGBTQ community. Though that may not be the direction my career is heading, it is important to be part of the discussion.
Before coming to law school, I was a nurse for fourteen years... My life experiences encompass an interesting gamut of things, including attending seminary in Miami where I studied for several years to be a Roman Catholic priest. I knew that no matter where I went as a gay student, my political, social, and religious beliefs could present a possible struggle. Attending a law school where I would not be ostracized or feel like a black sheep was important to me.
Being transgender inherently involves legal difficulties. My struggles with discrimination, documentation, and obtaining health care are what truly encouraged me to apply to law school. I think most people who are trans feel like a minority within a minority. Facing discrimination by other members of the LGBTQ community has always been particularly difficult for me. If we all looked the same and did exactly the same things, the LGBTQ community would be horribly boring. All my frustration with the way the LGBTQ community has been used as a political tool over the past several years led me to joking around about going to law school. I slowly became more serious about it and realized this was a way I could make a positive impact on the community.
Choosing an LGBTQ-Friendly Law School
Coming Out on Your Application
As an LGBTQ person, you often must decide whether or not to be out, under what circumstances, and with whom. When applying to law school, some people will conclude that their sexual orientation or gender identity is irrelevant and choose not to mention it. Others view it as an integral part of who they are and will discuss it openly. Many fall somewhere in between. You may be out on some applications and not on others.
Find LGBTQ-Friendly Law Schools
A law school’s definition of diversity should be in sync with your definition. Consider how a particular law school and its community are best prepared to facilitate the type of legal education and practice you envision for yourself. Ask law school representatives about their school’s policies and programs that are designed to bring about diversity in legal education.
Most law schools welcome all applicants and promote a diverse and inclusive community. In fact, you may find that the choices available to you are somewhat overwhelming. As a savvy consumer of legal education, you will ultimately want to attend the law school that is the best fit for you, which means doing some research and asking a lot of questions. You’ll want to ask questions pertaining to the classroom experience, the student population, career issues, and overall support from the law school you may attend.