Like too many, I lived my entire law school career plus the first part of my professional career suppressing part of my identity in fear that my orientation, instead of my skill, would define me and distract prospective employers, or worse, clients. So, while I developed my knowledge of the law and sharpened my litigation skills, I also became an expert at avoiding questions that revealed the gender of my partner.
Around the same time, I attended my first Lawyers Club event where a room full of successful women greeted me and opened my eyes to the possibilities available for female attorneys in the San Diego legal community. It’s hard to put into words the impact that 2005 mentor-mentee reception had on me and how it affected the trajectory of my career, but without a doubt it decreased my concern that my gender would be an insurmountable obstacle. However, it did nothing to thwart my fear of the professional consequences of revealing my orientation.
At the time, Lawyers Club did not have an LGBTQ Committee, and I did not learn about the Tom Homann LGBT Law Association until years later. I continued to be an active member, and even a leader, in Lawyers Club. And I continued to be closeted.
This status quo remained until opponents of same-sex marriage put a proposition on the ballot to amend the California constitution to exclude same-sex marriage. For me, Prop 8 opened my eyes to the importance of being an open lesbian in my professional career, gave me motivation to hit the streets to oppose the discriminatory proposition, and propelled me into being an activist in the LGBTQ rights movement. It was my personal tipping point.
I now appreciate how fortunate I am to have the freedom to use my voice, especially compared to LGBTQ people across the U.S. and world who risk far more than potential professional obstacles if they reveal their authentic selves. With this in mind, one can imagine the intensity of oppression and violence it took to trigger Stonewallers to rebel against police in the early morning of June 28, 1969.
This year, I traveled to New York and visited the now National Historic Landmark. As I stood outside Stonewall Inn, I took a moment to acknowledge the historical significance of the Stonewall uprising. Fifty years ago, the aftermath of Stonewall opened the door to the first LGBTQ rights and activist organizations, and the first pride parade kicked off one year later. I also reflected on how much we accomplished during this first year of San Diego Lawyers Club’s LGBTQ Committee and the pride that overwhelmed me when I heard the Lawyers Club mission statement blasted to the audience as the very first Lawyers Club contingent passed in the 2018 San Diego Pride parade.
My thoughts then turned to the theme of this year’s San Diego Pride, Stonewall 50: A Legacy of Liberation, and my heart filled with pride as I took a moment to acknowledge Lawyers Club is building on the legacy passed down by so many trailblazers, including the Stonewallers.
With all this in mind, I could not be more excited to invite you to march with Lawyers Club in San Diego’s Pride Parade on Saturday, July 13, 2019 (register here to join us).
Kimberly Ahrens wrote this for the San Diego Lawyers Club LGBTQ Committee, she is the founder of Ahrens Law, APC, and a Director of Lawyers Club of San Diego.