The last year has been particularly challenging for us all and especially so for members of the LGBT+ community, with almost one quarter of young people at risk of homelessness identifying as LGBT+ and more than one in ten LGB people facing domestic abuse from their partner, rising to 19% for trans people.
When reflecting on my own experience of seeking to become a barrister as a gay man, I realised that there were very few visible role models who I could look to for inspiration that it would be possible to be who I am at work and for it not to affect my prospects of pupillage or a successful career.
However, when I started pupillage, I realised that the Bar is much more colourful place than I first thought, although it still has a very long way to go before it is truly representative of society as a whole. I was fortunate enough to discover and, in many instances, become good friends with a host of people who are working tirelessly to change the face of the Bar in all aspects of diversity, including through the work of FreeBar which is on a mission to improve visible inclusivity at the Bar with its ground-breaking visibility project and FreeBar Charter.
Therefore, for my contribution to LGBT+ History Month 2021, I wanted to highlight a small selection of the lawyers who are gay men and inspired me with their positive contributions to LGBT+ inclusion at the Bar:
- Ollie Persey – Ollie is a barrister at Garden Court Chambers and was formerly at the Public Law Project. Ollie founded the LSE-Featherstone Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Moot, a competition which is now in its 5th year, dedicated to the consideration of areas of sexual orientation and gender identity law.
- Dr S Chelvan – Chelvan is a fearless campaigner for LGBT+ rights and is globally recognised for his work on refugee and human rights claims based on sexual or gender identity. Chelvan is a member of the government’s LGBT+ advisory panel and a founding member of FreeBar.
- Professor Steven Vaughan – Steven is a former solicitor turned academic who co-authored the world-first research into sexuality at the Bar which aimed to capture the experiences of LGBT+ members of the Bar. The research was eye-opening with just over half of the respondents disclosing that they had experienced discrimination based on their sexuality and multiple examples of homophobia experienced by those working at or seeking to join the Bar.
- Mohsin Zaidi – Mohsin is a former solicitor turned criminal barrister at 6KBW College Hill who is named in the Lawyers Magazine’s Hot 100 of 2021. Outside of his successful practice, Mohsin is a trustee of Stonewall and has recently gone public with his must-read memoir, A Dutiful Boy, which bravely talks about growing up as a ‘closet’ gay Muslim and coming to terms with the various clashes of identities.
- Jonathan Cooper OBE – Jonathan is an international human rights barrister at Doughty Street Chambers. Jonathan is a vocal advocate of LGBT+ rights and has spoken candidly on multiple occasions of his experience of being an out gay man when joining the Bar in 1992 and the work of “OUTyStreet” which was formed in 2019 as a forum for LGBT+ barristers, pupils and staff.