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Student Lawyer

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

I’m Nicole: A Law Student and Trans Woman

Nicole Alexandra Rizza

I’m Nicole: A Law Student and Trans Woman

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July 5, 2019, I came to the striking realization that I’m a trans woman.

And since that day I’ve lived the life I’ve always wanted to live. Albeit sober and in law school—which are challenges in and of themselves. So. Yay me. Starting London Tipton. It’s been a tough 10 months. But it's been a blast.

Transitioning during law school certainly comes with risks. What if my classmates or professors or the administrators don’t respect me and my name and my pronouns? I’ve been so blessed that none of those fears came to fruition. My classmates and professors and the administrators have all been kind and compassionate during my transition.

Going to law school has always been my dream. And I’ve always fantasized about being a woman. Well, now I get to do both!

It’s great to be in a place where I get to pursue my dreams and be the person I’ve always meant to be. I claimed my space in the classroom by emailing each of my professors before classes began and informing them what my name was with registration and what the name they should refer to me by. This helped ensure that they knew who I wanted to go by.

The faculty, staff, and administration all responded with dignity to my transition. The Dean of Students, who I had already developed a relationship with, was very kind and supportive of my transition, and even would make comments about how happy I looked and what a difference she could see in me. This was very comforting and heartfelt. One time, the Academic Dean, who was my professor, asked me to call him because my dead name, the name I was given at birth and no longer go by, was in the system for an evaluation and he wanted to know if it was okay if it remained that way since registration couldn’t change my name until financial aid was changed. I thought this was extremely kind and caring, as he took the time to be respectful of my new name.

I am so extremely grateful that my peers have respected me and made Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School a safe space for me to be myself and pursue my education. I would always challenge a peer to think of how they would represent and advocate for a client who is different from them. We don’t always have the luxury of identifying with our clients, and we need to be able to respect all those we come in contact with.