Perspectives: A Magazine for and about Women Lawyers
Post-Transition in the Profession
Spring 2010
By Mia Yamamoto
Mia Frances Yamamoto (formerly Michael Francis Yamamoto) has been a member of the ABA for over 10 years. She has been a criminal defense attorney for 35 years, currently in solo private practice in downtown Los Angeles. She was named "Criminal Defense Attorney of the Year 2002” by the Los Angeles County Bar Association, and was named one of the "100 Most Influential Lawyers in California” in 2002 by the California Daily Journal . In 2008, Yamamoto received the American Bar Association "Spirit of Excellence" Award.

I am a transgender woman of color, and I would like to report on my progress and that of my community so far.

On October 22, 2009, the Senate approved the conference report on the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded the 1969 federal hate crime law (18 U.S.C. § 245(b)(2)) to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. For the first time in history, hate crime protection was extended to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

On that day, I was in Atlanta to speak to the Stonewall Bar Association of Georgia. I was in the very birthplace of the movement for black liberation that became the civil rights movement and sparked the human rights revolution, which eventually reached even my little corner of the community. I had never been more honored. But first, as I attempted to rise to the occasion, I needed some inspiration. I had to see the King Memorial and visit the Southern Center for Human Rights. Later that evening, in my speech I acknowledged our debt to those warriors who preceded us in this quest for equality and advocated for alliances. I thanked them for their open inclusion of the transgender community. President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard Act on October 28.

I spoke on November 20 at the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. This is a day for recalling those people who have been murdered in the preceding year for being transgender. Here, in Los Angeles, the gathering begins in West Hollywood with a candlelight march down Santa Monica Boulevard to a ceremony in Plummer Park, where the names of the dead and the circumstances of their deaths are recited, accompanied by projected photographs and newspaper accounts.

In my remarks, I wanted to recognize the courageous people who had come out to expose and publicize the slaughter. I thanked them for standing up in the face of danger, for marching, and for speaking out in nonviolent protest against this injustice. What could I say to them for coming out every year, knowing full well that they are themselves targets, refusing to forget the victims, and continuing the call for justice in their names? Memorials like this one were a very significant factor leading to the passage of the Matthew Shepard Act. I could not thank those that gathered that night enough.

Today, I have managed to continue with many aspects of my pre-transition life, including my profession, my family, and the friends who matter most to me, as well as my campaigns, causes, and committees. And I have been given so much more. I served a term on the ABA Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. I currently cochair (with Monica Lin) the Asian Pacific American Women Lawyers Alliance, a group of students, lawyers, and judges who are devoted to the advancement of Asian Pacific American women in the legal profession, providing mentoring, networking, and advocacy. We are active with the Multi-Cultural Bar Alliance, a coalition of the minority, women's and LGBT bar associations of Los Angeles, committed to affirmative action, marriage equality, and immigration reform.

After a lifetime of longing, I have been able not only to find a place in the world of women and women lawyers, but I also have been given the responsibility of leadership. I am a spokeswoman, advocate, and emissary for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. I have been given this multitude of benefits as well as the opportunity to contribute--and I know I shall never be able to completely express my gratitude for any of it or for this unique place in the ongoing struggle for human rights.

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Are Young Women Turning Their Backs on Law School?

Recession Places Law School Reform in the Eye of the Storm

Practical Education for Every Stage of Your Career

Law School Placement Offices Broaden Horizons

Post-Transition in the Profession

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