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At a Law Firm and Gay? One Man’s Advice on Coming Out - (

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  • At a Law Firm and Gay? One Man’s Advice on Coming Out - (

    A hypo: You’re a BigLaw lawyer who’s gay. For years, you’ve been reticent to come out of the closet at work, but recently, as perhaps part of a new year’s resolution, you decide enough’s enough; it’s time to start letting people know.

    Okay. But how do you do it?

    Over at the Lawyer, James Quarmby, a gay tax partner at Thomas Eggar in Gatwick, offers up some interesting insights.

    Quarmby frames the dilemma thusly:
    Do you come out and risk the hatred, ridicule or contempt of your colleagues and clients, or do you keep it under your hat? The latter course is superficially attractive but once you start deceiving people it’s difficult to know when to stop. And when you finally do speak up, you’re exposed not only as a nancy boy (or girl) but a fraud.

    The “best course,” reports Quarmby, is to “be honest and come out.”

    For starters, Quarmby suggests doing a little homework before joining a firm: “Some of the *bigger firms have fancy equal *opportunities and empowerment policies, normally a good indicator of the level of acceptance you can expect. Others - often the smaller regional firms - are still living in metaphorical caves with their animals. Expect them to have less enlightened *attitudes.” (Of course, Quarmby is speaking about U.K. firms here; we can’t vouch for whether the same holds in the U.S.)

    The rest of Quarmby’s suggestions are thought-provoking. But we found these among the most possibly helpful:
    Don’t make any grand gestures or announcements. Hanging a banner over your desk emblazoned with the words, ‘Yes, I’m gay, get over it’, probably isn’t the best move. Lawyers are conservative *creatures by nature and are easily shocked by . . . well . . . anything really.

    and . . .
    Do drop casual remarks into social *conversations. These should leave no doubt which side you are batting for. “Oh, my boyfriend and I went to the theatre last night to see that play . . . ” If said by a man, it leaves no room for misinterpretation.

    and . . .
    Do challenge homophobic behaviour when it arises. In my experience this is never normally overt and when it is, takes the form of carelessly inappropriate remarks or jokes. These need to be stamped on and crushed like a bug so that the offender is under no illusions that a repeat performance will be tolerated.

    As interesting as the article is, check out the comments, too, which are as personal as they are opinionated. To wit: writes “Bill Jones:
    In the year 2010, it is absolutely vile that an article like this even needs to be written. I mean, really, this is a straight issue. A heterosexual character-flaw. It is not now and will never be a ‘gay issue.’

    And this, from “Michael Hamar”
    This is a great article but it grossly underestimates the homophobia that exists in many, many law firms in the USA. Indeed, coming out at work can lead to your firing since the majority of US states do not afford non-discrimination protections to LGBT employees.

    Finally, from an anonymous reader:
    [T]he bulk of this content seems obsolete and potentially reductive. Any community that has struggled so long and hard for equality should avoid using terminology to describe themselves that would be labelled derogatory coming from an ‘outsider’ - like “Nancy-boy”. Imagine the fuss if a straight lawyer was overheard referring to a gay colleague this way.

    LBers, any thoughts?

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