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The Fear within Me

Businessman in a desert

By reading this article, you're probably not going to take much away that is applicable to your life, to your legal education. It is basically a piece that needed to be written to air out something that's been bothering me and that I haven't had the opportunity to bring up with pretty much anyone.

I'm gay.

No, this isn't a public outing of a 23 year old. I have been open and honest about this for many years. I hear your cynical remarks, "Why is the article then written by 'Anonymous' if you're out and open about it?"

Well first let me say, ease up champ. The reason why I have written this article under the guise of anonymous is because the fear that is within me is more to do with the professional aspect of my life and I haven't decided yet whether I want my future employer to immediately know that I am gay. Why? Well…

In a profession where women are sometimes treated unequally, particularly in terms of lower pay rates, missing out on professional advancements due to the possibility of maternity leave etc, I have been thinking about whether the managing partners of firms, those who may harbour the stifling ideals of an older generation, will feel differently about me if I were to, for example, bring my babein' partner to work functions.

The idea is simply suffocating. It takes a great deal of strength and courage for someone to admit to themselves and their loved ones that they are in fact gay. Most make the decision to come out because living in the "closet" becomes so unbearable that they simply must. So in my professional career, what should I do? Do I hope that my lifestyle when I leave the office will not effect my professional advancement or do I push the coats to the side and hop back in?

Take Justice Kirby, for instance. He wasn't comfortable enough to come out (perhaps for personal reasons) until he was serving on the High Court. Look how much he could achieve, regardless of who he lay beside when he went to bed. However, is this indicative that I must not be open about myself until my ripe old age of retirement? I realise Justice Kirby was practicing in a different time and opinions on sexuality have significantly changed since then, but those in positions of power (judges, equity partners, other senior practitioners, etc) may still be in this negative mindset when it comes to the employability of someone who identifies as homosexual.

I personally don't intend to be any different. I don't intend to sashay into the office wearing a floral pink suit (unless it looked really killer on me), and I don't believe that my sexual preference encompasses who I am as a person, because I am much more than simply 'gay'. I just fear that something beyond my control and something I had struggled with so much in my youth may come into play in my adulthood and prevent me from progressing professionally.

I feel that no matter what your sex, race or sexual preference, it simply plays no part in the legal world (other than the fact I may be slightly more judgmental of the opposing counsel’s choice of tie). I realise that these fears and thoughts are not a generality. They are my own and I don't speak on behalf of the other gay/lesbian/transgendered practitioners (to be).

It was best said by Hon Michael Kirby in his interview with ABC's Lateline. When discussing his homosexuality within the work place he noted: "You didn't reveal it, you didn't force it upon people and as long as you kept quiet then that was something that was tolerated. But toleration is a very condescending emotion and toleration is over as far as I'm concerned."

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