November 07, 2013 Articles

The Closet Case: Coming Out in the Legal Profession

By Omar J. Alaniz

It's almost hard to say what "coming out" means in today's landscape of DOMA, Prop 8, the It Gets Better project, Facebook and Twitter. If one follows polling data, it would seem that more and more Americans are embracing those who have chosen to live their lives out and proud.  Yet, that still doesn't always make it easy to actually say the words: "I am gay."

For me, it's difficult to imagine what coming out for the first time truly means in this more open era. I made the decision to tell my friends and family in what seems like another time. Yet, I do know that most gay men and women don't just come out once. They spend their whole lives coming out, over and over, to every new person that comes into their lives—and nowhere is this more complicated than the workplace.

As lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) lawyers, we find ourselves faced with the coming-out decision many times over. We face the decision of whether to come out to peers, other colleagues, the firm generally, and clients. I am frequently asked whether a lawyer should come out in his or her profession. I don't think there is a right answer, but the following are some of my experiences and insights.

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