Inspiration and caution for LGBT+ History Month
A report on Law Society events for LGBT History Month 2018
The Law Society and its LGBT+ Lawyers Division (LGBT+LD) organised an exciting programme of events to mark LGBT History Month in February 2018.
The year’s official theme was ‘Geography: Mapping the World’. 2018 also marks 30 years since the notorious Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 criminalised the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality (and 15 years since its abolition in England and Wales).
Tom Daley and Dustin Lance Black attend the Interlaw Winter Carnival
Olympian Tom Daley and screenwriter husband Dustin Lance Black were two of the guests at the Interlaw Winter Carnival, an event organised by Interlaw Diversity Forum and co-sponsored by the Law Society.
At the event, which serves as a major fundraiser for Switchboard - the LGBT+ Helpline - there were rousing call to action speeches and warnings against complacency. President Joe Egan showed his support for LGBT+ lawyers and the wider community, and representatives from our Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) divisions, Social Mobility Ambassadors and D&I team also attended.
Pictured above in addition to Tom, from left to right, is Dustin Lance Black (Tom’s husband), Jane McDonald (Law Society Head of Diversity & Inclusion), Katrina Robinson (Chair of the Law Society LGBT+ Lawyers Division) and Chris Seel (Law Society Diversity & Inclusion Adviser (LGBT+)).
Law Society events
Inspirational event in London (22 February)
Law Society President Joe Egan opened and closed an interesting panel discussion about the legacy of Section 28 and how far we have come since.
Katrina Robinson (head of legal services Optivo, Chair of the LGBT+LD) entertained the audience with tales of how she got arrested for protesting against Section 28; whilst Christopher Morgan (LGBT+LD committee member and Government Legal Service lawyer) and Paul Twocock (Director of Campaigns, Policy and Research, Stonewall) described how unsupported they had been whilst at school at the time. The fourth panellist, Tim Ramsey (CEO of LGBT+ young person’s charity Just Like Us), had not even been born in 1988 but provided useful insights on what life in education is like now.
All the panellists were positive about the progress made since Section 28 was repealed but noted a clear warning that no one should be complacent. There are worrying similarities between press coverage of LGB matters in 1988 and that relating to trans issues now, and a clear risk to minorities in such an unstable political climate. On the international side, Russia, America and many other places are becoming even more hostile to LGBT+ people.
Both the audience and the panel highlighted how lawyers have a role to play in standing up for equality. An example was given of the positive response to our groups marching at Pride, as there is an all too common assumption that lawyers are conservative. (Watch for further details on how to get involved with this year’s Pride season).
Inspirational event in Bristol (28 February)
Chair of the Law Society Board Robert Bourns chaired another panel event themed around Section 28, but which soon opened up to a discussion with the audience about diversity and inclusion in the legal profession and generally.
Marc Johnson (Teaching Associate in Law, University of Bristol) and Adam Hunter (current student and future trainee) discussed the education system, and how we need to be engaging with students and school children about how inclusive our profession can be. Stephen Williams (former MP for Bristol West) gave a first-hand account of getting progressive legislation passed and drew analogies with other professions.
The importance of role models was highlighted. Even though that label can sometimes feel uncomfortable, the panel and audience stressed that it is vital to improve awareness and support for LGBT+ colleagues.
Inaugural informal Division drinks
Many members of the LGBT+LD division took advantage of the chance to meet the committee and other members in an informal environment. These will be running bi-monthly (the next one is on 12 April) upstairs at The Retro Bar, The Strand, London WC2N 6HH from 6pm.
Division committee members spoke at:
- Cambridge University (LGBT Rights: What Has Changed and What Needs to Change?) - Daniel Gerring, partner, Travers Smith
- Hull University (Diversity and Equality in Work) - Kevin Poulter, partner, Child & Child
- Interlaw (A Celebration of LGBT+ History Month from BAME Voices) - Nimmisha Aslam, associate, Russell-Cooke - and then wrote about it for our website.
Law Society D&I team members spoke at:
- Pinsent Masons, London (LGBT+ and mental health) - D&I adviser Alex Storer hosted a round table discussion on LGBT+ mental health issues and how to create inclusive and supportive workplaces.
- Weightmans, Manchester (Sharing best practice to effect positive change for LGBT equality in our profession) - Matthew Jones (solicitor, Weightmans) described his personal experiences as a gay lawyer, and D&I adviser Chris Seel explained what the Law Society is doing to support inclusion generally and LGBT+ issues in particular. A vocal audience demonstrated enthusiasm for both.
Press and newsletter features
Law Society Gazette
Items from Division committee members:
- Opinion piece - Adrià Moral, Registered European Lawyer and Spanish abogado, Scornik Gerstein, talked about why History Month is needed.
- Opinion piece – Netanya Clixby, solicitor, Latham &Watkins, wrote about international firms sending LGBT+ employees to less tolerant countries.
My Legal Life
- Katrina Robinson, head of legal services Optivo and Chair of the LGBT+ LD, answered questions about her experiences.
- Daniel Gerring, partner, Travers Smith, did similar.
Blog with committee member Esther McDermott (senior associate, Dentons) and Chris Seel (Law Society D&I adviser (LGBG+)) discussed their experiences of being LGBT+ in the City.
Writing on the Law Society blog, Daniel Matchett, solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, talked about LGBT representation in the legal profession.
Flying the rainbow flag
The rainbow flag flew over our Chancery Lane building throughout February.