This issue is one I’ve faced repeatedly in my career, and I suspect there are many others who can commiserate, especially professionals in the LGBTQ+ community. I bring attention to it in this article because I hope it will serve as a reminder to all that there is so much diversity among us, including diversity in our gender expression. And, if our goal is to be inclusive, we should work to recognize the full range of that diversity.
I also want to remind my fellow gender non-conforming colleagues out there that our value is not defined by the extent to which we meet societal expectations regarding “gender appropriate” attire. Case in point: I was preparing for trial in a small, southern town. A few days before trial began, our local counsel pulled me aside. He is a sincere man whom I deeply respect. He’s the type of person whom, if we spent more time together, I would likely call a friend. But, when he pulled me aside a few days before trial, he offered me a piece of well-intended advice that, I believe, ended up being a lesson for both of us. He told me that people were “traditional” in that town, and at trial, I should wear a dress. As I tried to quickly process the flood of emotions that immediately went through me, I looked at him and said, “I’ll wear a dress if you wear a dress.”
Needless to say, I did not wear a dress at that trial. And we won the case. And that jury gave my client everything I asked of them. After the verdict was read and the court adjourned, a few jurors stayed behind and waited outside the courthouse when we exited. Two of the jurors, one of whom was the foreperson, approached me. The foreperson said, “You were just so good in there. Every time you stood up, we felt like we trusted what you were telling us.”
That jury trusted me not because of what I was wearing or not wearing. It didn’t matter if I wore a skirt or pants, high heels or loafers. That jury trusted me because when I stood up to talk to them, I was me. Period. I was genuine and just me.
So, you be you.