College Columns December 2021 - Page 25

Columnist continued from page 24
not to go . So , after I received an offer , I did a Colombo-like coda …” Um , there ’ s just one more thing …” After revealing my orientation to the named senior partner ( a former baseball player and cantankerous plain talker ) and him spitting his chewing tobacco into his spittoon , he informed me that it wouldn ’ t make a d [ arn ] bit of difference to him or the firm , but he reminded me that it didn ’ t mean I was going to get any special treatment . I didn ’ t want special treatment . I wanted to not have to worry about discrimination in the workplace . His offer seemed like a decent deal . Of course , he smiled wisely and noted , “ I can ’ t guarantee what others ’ personal reactions will be , but I suspect you are equipped to deal with that yourself .” And so , I enjoyed 10 successful years at that firm , and had many colleagues as guests at the “ celebration ” of what was to be a 12-year primary relationship ( well before marriage was contemplated by us as a possibility or of course , legal ).
As friends and acquaintances were struck and killed by the AIDS virus , my desire to work in the community became front and center . The public nature of joining an AIDS agency board , fundraising and trying to bring new people from different parts of the community ( for example , the Jewish community within which I had been active from my teens onward ) was going to be make my identity more public . But by then I had enough confidence gained from my own self-acceptance to overcome fears and move forward . All in all , I found that the clearer I was able to be about myself and my goals , the less resistance and more respect I received in the professional realm .
Ultimately , in 1999 , I left the large firm practice behind and started a new firm with a close friend in the practice who had been on his own for 25 years . We were a bit of an
“ odd couple ,” but things turned out great . He liked to be introduced as my “’ law partner ” to avoid any confusion ( but a bit of humor never hurt ). We forged a practice together and built the boutique firm at which I still practice .
During the 35-year timespan encapsulated above , monumental progress has been made in the community at large , the legal community and within the LGBT ( QI ) community . I have been told that my case was a catalyst for a change several years later in the Big Brothers policy , and that the ban on participation was terminated . The Bar Association has a LGBTQ section , as do many legal organizations . Lambda Legal and other excellent legal and advocacy groups abound and have the financial support of mainstream businesses and prominent law firms , support that was unheard of years ago . Most importantly to me , young gay and lesbian lawyers have many more choices today than before . The right to privacy and to marry currently are protected . And as is the evolution of such things , I and other white , cisgender males that have occupied many of the leadership roles in the gay community of yesterday are now learning to embrace and promote the rights , voices , needs and leadership of women , people of color , the transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals . I am thankful that being involved in one era of progress has given me a historical perspective to help me understand the nature of change . Today I am blessed with a 19-year relationship , an accepting family , colleagues and friends , and a sense of optimism ( even in the very difficult times in which we live ).
It ’ s been a great honor to co-edit this publication for the last 4 years and to write this column . For now , it ’ s over and out ! Thanks for your readership and participation .