April Co-Chair Letter

April Co-Chair Letter

Last week, your NTBA Co-Chairs D Dangaran and I, Rafael Langer-Osuna, spoke on the American Bar Association’s Webinar Panel: Creating More Welcoming Workplaces for Nonbinary Individuals | Practical Steps Towards Gender Inclusion in the Legal Profession.  The Panel further promoted the Creating More Welcoming Workplaces Nonbinary Resource Guide, a project led by The Harvard Law School LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic (HLAC) and Beyond Binary Legal and co-sponsored by the NTBA, the ABA’s SOGI Commission, the National LGBTQ Bar Association, and NALP.  

The panel, moderated by Andy Izenson, one of our favorite people and Senior Legal Director at the Chosen Family Law Center, and co-starring August Hieber, Senior Program Manager of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, and Rebekah Tobison Scherr, Partner at Kirkland Ellis, can be viewed here:

We encourage you to share the Nonbinary Resource Guide widely as it offers practical tips for all workplaces with supporting trans folks.  Feel free to share the panel too!

The conversation foregrounded being one’s full self in the legal system and workplace – and the strategies that we trans and nonbinary attorneys use when that is not possible.  As I reflected on our conversation, I wanted to highlight a tool that I think was implicit in our comments but used by everyone: compartmentalization.  We discussed strategies that trans and nonbinary lawyers must use when advancing clients’ interests and navigating workplaces or courtrooms that are less than accepting of us.  The conversation revealed our collective efforts to compartmentalize in our work.  It seems to me to be a skill that many trans and nonbinary people – and many queer people and other minoritized people – often utilize when navigating spaces that impose normative hierarchies.

Compartmentalization is not, in and of itself, negative.  Many recommend lawyers study and practice the art of compartmentalization.  See, e.g., Anne Elizabeth Collier, The Thriving Lawyer: Compartmentalize Your Stress to Optimize Success, ABA Law Practice Magazine (Mar. 1, 2022).  

Compartmentalization is a skill worth developing.

And compartmentalization is even more important for those lawyers dealing with legislation or executive actions that directly target them as trans or nonbinary people.  In these situations, we may feel an even greater need to hold our gender identity in a safe, private place as we step into the spotlight as a lawyer trying to defend what gender identity means.  And, occasionally, we might find it effective in our advocacy to bring our own gender identity front and center strategically, holding out the truths of our lived experiences as evidence—showing the world that we are the experts on what being trans means. I think this skill will become even more important as the wave of anti-trans legislation continues to crest.

But I also know that compartmentalization can exact a toll on us.  Sometimes it costs us dearly.  It hurts a little—like a paper cut—every time we’re misgendered or othered; based on the context, we may need to just move on, but we put that wound somewhere.  We may only realize the burden of burying that pain when we do not have to hold it anymore, such as when we convene together at the Trans Law Institute and get to be both trans people and lawyers, in the same space, surrounded by community. There’s something to be said for the beauty of that communal release. It feels like liberation.

Having raised this issue on our panel, I pose to you, dear reader, a further question:  What are you doing to decompartmentalize – to integrate and tend with compassion to the pain we regularly set aside?  Do you have a practice – such as walking in nature or connecting with a specific friend or set of friends – that lets you come back together?  And if you do not have such a practice, can you set aside time to develop one?    

– Rafael Langer-Osuna

NTBA Co-Chair

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We’ve been really productive this past month! Here are two highlights.

First, the NTBA proudly signed onto the Center for Constitutional Rights’  amicus brief concerning LGBTQI+ homelessness in City of Grants Pass v. Johnson.  That Supreme Court case may determine the constitutionality of criminalizing homelessness through arrest, fines, or jail time.  Unfortunately, this is an issue directly affecting our community given the disproportionate number of LGBTQI+ people who find themselves without housing at some point in their lives.  The Center for Constitutional Rights advocates for an end to such criminalization to protect our most vulnerable community members.

Second, our Public Education Committee has begun active collaboration with law schools. We are presently working on assisting law students with their rights at law school and as job applicants.  We are compiling resources for a model curriculum that law students can use to educate themselves as to legal issues facing the trans community.  If you are currently a law student and would either like these resources or to help create them, do not hesitate to connect with us! 

Finally, as for spaces in which you can come to decompress, we’d like to remind you of two gatherings – one in summer and one this winter.  We will be convening on August 7, 2024, in Washington D.C., at the Trans Law Institute on the first day of the National LGBTQ Bar Association’s Lavender Law Conference. We will also be in community in the evening of the last day of the conference, August 9, 2024. We are still arranging matters, details to come!  Apologies for getting these dates wrong in prior newsletters.

On December 3, 2024, for the third year in a row, the National Trans Bar Association will move the admission to the United States Supreme Court Bar of 12 attorneys who are transgender, in an in-person ceremony before the full bench of the Supreme Court in a session at the Court in Washington DC.  See below or contact us if you’d like to know more about this ceremony.  There will also be a social gathering in connection with this event, likely the night before.  More details to come on that as well.

We will continue to hold these and other events across the country and online throughout the year because we know how important it is to come together as trans lawyers and allies. We look forward to seeing you! 

Please let us know how we can support you. Stay magical. We are so grateful to be in community with you.