To mark the end of her presidential year last week, Amanda Millar, the first openly LGBTQ+ President of the Law Society of Scotland, hosted an “in conversation with” event at which she shared her own story and asked the questions, “where are our LGBTQ+ role models?” and “how can we encourage more to speak up?”
I joined as a straight, cisgender person keen to learn more and better appreciate the challenges for some to be themselves in the legal sector. Chatham house rules applied, and stories were shared candidly. I was confronted with the fact that although Scotland is now regarded one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly countries in the world, our sector still has a long way to go in terms of openness and inclusion. The consensus was that despite us having an openly gay president, LGBTQ+ identifying role models are few and far between in the Scottish legal sector. This is likely a result of many in the profession not feeling they can comfortably and confidently come out at work, a problem that should worry us all, not least from a moral perspective but also because people perform better when not having to hide who they are. In my view the responsibility for making law more inclusive cannot and should not rest with those of us who identify as LGBTQ+. Heterosexual, cisgender people have a crucial role to play, particularly if they hold positions of leadership.
Lawyers can, for good reason, be naturally hesitant about “being political” publicly and so in my view the first step us for us to recognise that this is not a matter of politics: it’s about people. We can and should shout about the doors of our firms being open to all. The second is for people and organisations to make an active and conscious effort to work against multidimensional aspects of homophobia, transphobia, biphobia and discrimination of and ignorance to non-binary and genderqueer people. We have a responsibility to educate ourselves about how to be effective allies to our LGBTQ+ identifying colleagues. This guide from Stonewall is a good place to start – click here to view guide.
June is Pride Month and I’ll be celebrating by learning more about how we can make the Scottish legal profession more inclusive. Thanks to all who bravely shared their stories last week.