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Advice for lawyers who are transgender and their allies

Three notable transgender lawyers recently shared what they want their colleagues to know to ensure an inclusive environment for everyone in the legal profession.

Panelists on a recent ABA webinar advised lawyers how to be an ally to the transgender community.

Panelists on a recent ABA webinar advised lawyers how to be an ally to the transgender community.

On the webinar “Welcoming Our Transgender Colleagues in the Law,” Ellie Krug of St. Paul, Minnesota, who speaks and conducts trainings on human inclusivity and diversity and inclusion, had this advice for young lawyers who are transgender:

  • Pick carefully where you practice. Practicing in a state where you do not have legal rights will be “infinitely more difficult for you as a rule,” she said.
  • Develop grit and resiliency. “This is a solitary journey,” Krug said, and you need both in order to make it.
  • Have compassion for yourself. You’ve already jumped through hoops to get where you are, and sometimes it’s “three steps forward and one step back,” she said, but “you’re still alive.”
  • Know that it is getting better. And it will get better still, she said.
  • See a therapist. It’s just as important after you transition as before, Krug emphasized.

On how to be an ally to the transgender community, the panelists advised:

  • Check your terminology. There are no “trans lawyers,” there are “lawyers who are trans.” Make it an adjective, not a noun, although the panel acknowledged that terminology is always changing.
  • Include your pronouns on your business card, letterhead and email.
  • Use the correct pronouns when addressing people who are trans.
  • Understand that this is not easy. The trans person you know or work with has already cleared many hurdles, but in the end “authenticity is not a choice,” Krug said. “Give them some grace.”
  • Sometimes you’re going to mess up and say something that may be taken the wrong way. Apologize, learn and move on.
  • Open your consciousness. Mia Yamamoto, a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles, endorsed the resources available from PFLAG.
  • Do your research. Don’t expect a person who is trans to educate you on trans history and issues, said Kylar Broadus, founder and director of the Trans People of Color Coalition. A good ally does the work.
  • Never ask someone if they are trans. Rather, behave in a manner that shows respect and support and wait for them to tell you their story.

“Lawyers have an obligation to make the world a better place,” Krug said, and asked viewers to “advocate for all people who are ‘other’ in our society.”

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