James Quarmby, tax partner, Thomas Eggar

Ten ways to reveal your lover: coming out the easy way

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  • In the year 2010, it is absolutely vile that an article like this even needs to be written.
    As if teaching gay citizens how to play nice with the people (heterosexuals) who created every single gay person on planet earth is the way to go????
    Shouldn't there REALLY be an article instead of this one that could be titled, 'How to be a heterosexual without abusing and degrading the gay children you may create?'
    I mean, really, this is a straight issue. A heterosexual character-flaw.
    It is not now and will never be a 'gay issue.'

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  • I have worked at large national and regional firms. I don't shout about my sexuality but I don't hide it either. My colleagues have never shown any signs of homophobia and I actually think that lawyers are very accepting and intelligent about the subject.
    I work in corporate finance and in my experience accountants and bankers find the subject much more awkward if it arises in social situations - often embarrassingly so. Again, I generally wouldn't announce the fact but if someone asks me over a pint who I've been on holiday with, or whether I'm married, then I'm not going to lie to them.
    I wouldn't lie to clients either, but I am probably more careful, perhaps more than I should be. If I'm asked if I have a wife or girlfriend, I might just say "no" if I think revealing to them that I actually have a long-term boyfriend might cause embarrassment or awkwardness on their part. You know who you feel comfortable telling and who you don't. If it is a client that I am particularly close to, because I've advised them on a number of deals and built up a good rapport with them, then I might tell them, but honestly, it's never really been a major issue. Perhaps I'm lucky, but honestly I think it's because I am straight-acting and looking and because I am so comfortable with my sexuality, I don't feel the need to make an issue about it to other people.
    In my experience, if you care about your job and concentrate on providing sensible and pragmatic advice, then clients and colleagues will judge you on your ability as a lawyer, not on your sexuality.
    I am very grateful to those who have fought hard over the years for gay rights, and we are lucky in the UK to have these enshrined in law. The only battle I've experienced is the (thankfully few) ignorant people that I've met during my career so far. Work with them, laugh with them, educate them and if you do your job and do it well, then they soon realise that they were wrong.

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  • This is a great article but it grossly underestimates the homophobia that exists in many, many law firms in the USA. Indeed, coming out at work can lead to your firing since the majority of US states do not afford non-discrimination protections to LGBT employees. I speak from experience since I and others I know experienced that fate. I have written about this issue and the failure of law schools to enforce their supposed policues banning anti-gay firms from recruiting on campus on my blog, michael-in-norfolk.

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  • As noted, in a profession of generally well-educated, intelligent and tolerant people, the bulk of this content seems obsolete and potentially reductive. Any community that has struggled so long and hard for equality should avoid using terminology to describe themselves that would be labelled derogatory coming from an 'outsider' - like "Nancy-boy". Imagine the fuss if a straight lawyer was overheard referring to a gay colleague this way. Further, whilst a couple of points resonate with real truth about the state of affairs in certain law firms, I wonder how many lawyers have ever gone to work under a banner reading "Yes, I'm gay, get over it", or driven to the office in a Jeep to make a point about their sexuality. Further, heroic drunkenness and "snogging to the slow numbers on the dance floor" is off-putting to witness at a law firm Christmas party whether the couple is straight or gay. This can't be meant as actual advice on an easy coming out?

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  • Good grief 'anonymous', get a sense of humour! As with other discriminated communities, it is only the relevant community which can reclaim some of the derogatory terms used about it (I think you'll find the African-American community has done this very effectively, so there is precedent)
    Actually, I'd disagree that the bulk of the content of the article is 'obsolete', far from it. Despite the law being composed of very highly-educated and intelligent people, tolerance - understanding would be a bridge too far - is still in woefully short supply.
    What is in great supply is hypocrisy, assumption and outright discrimination, the latter not necessarily writ large but expressed in hundreds of little ways, every day: micro-inequities, in the new discrimination parlance.
    All too often lawyers defer to client 'problems' with gay lawyers to mask their own prejudice, because after all the client is always right. How many refused promotions, covert sackings and generally discriminatory conduct can be put down to this, I wonder? (I have heard of several examples myself). Three cheers for clients who force law firms to spell out how they are approaching the issue of diversity.
    Law schools, new recruits and the legal press need to do more to name, shame and boycott those firms continuing such heinous, inhuman treatment of people, and gay men and women need to come out themselves in order to defeat ignorance, because if we don't, who will?

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  • If humour, rather than Opinion, was the object of the exercise then do ignore my last FB. True equality, though, is always going to be unattainable as long as each relevant community feel a need to reclaim, or claim, derogatory terminology. In any case, as long as it's OK for some and not others there is an imbalance, and these issues will continue to be a running sore.

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  • There is a gay lawyers group which meets regularly in Bristol and Cardiff. Our next meeting is on 28th January in Bristol at the offices of Clarke Willmott with a speaker on developments in civil partnership law followed by drinks and networking . Please feel free to contact me for further details - jon.green@clarkewillmott.com.

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  • I'm sorry, but all of the gay men I've known (and I've truly known - as friends - quite a few) have been heavily into gay pornography, substance abuse, and late night sexual encounters with anonymous strangers. This generally translated into a "spaced out" persona very similar to what you see with long time pot smokers. Homosexuality is not a personality trait anymore than alcoholism is, but like alcoholism it is a serious sexual addition that ultimately affects every aspect of one's life - just look at the life expectancy for gay men! As a senior associate at a large US firm I would exercise more scrutiny when deciding to hire a gay man (at least if i knew he was gay) just as I would someone with known addition problems. Doesn't mean I wouldn't ultimately hire him. He may be one of the very few homosexual men who have achieved stability in their lives and relationships. But I would be cautious nonetheless. And no, I am not going to apologize for my "homophobic" comments because they have nothing to do with phobias.

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  • If you work for White & Case and want to keep your job or have any hope of being made a partner, I would not come out of the closet! I was fired from White & Case because I am gay. White & Case touts its 100% favorable rating (2010 Corporate Equality Index) on lesbian and gay issues from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation as being some sign that it is "diverse". However, these ratings from LGBT organizations are based solely on the stated "policies" of the law firm. It is not based on the reality of what occurs at the law firm. The treatment of lesbian and gay attorneys at White & Case, in practice, is abysmally bad. At many firms, like White & Case, lesbian and gay attorneys are widely discriminated against, fired or generally held back from promotion. So, if you are a lesbian or gay (particularly at White & Case), I would have second thoughts about coming out in the work place. The comment by Jack Vance (7;24pm) is one indication; my direct experience at White & Case, another.

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  • Jack Vance:
    (a) I am truly sorry that you are unable to attract the right kind of people as friends around you. I do not blame you for your generalisations in such case, because they are based on your experiences.
    (b) Perhaps you may have already given this some thought, but do you not agree that the extreme and "spaced out" personas you have come across are actually symptomatic of a much larger issue of social marginalising? I hate to delve into "chicken or the egg" conversations, but maybe it's because of people like you, who insist on continuing the trend of associating homosexuality with amorality and lewdness that self-esteem (which is at the base of drug abuse and wreckless behaviour) amongst homosexuals remains statistically lower.
    (c) I'd encourage you to also to reconsider your comparison between alcoholism and homosexuality. I know it's rather unfortunate that the US still lags significantly behind on such social issues, but that is no excuse for a well educated "senior associate at a large US firm" to jump on the bandwagon.
    I hope you do not find this as offensive as I found your post, that honestly is not my intention. I hope that at the very least this inspires some alternative thought in you.

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  • Jack, your comments are pathetic. You would not dare make such sweeping comments about black, jewish or other minority groups. If your experiences of gay "friends" is as you describe then clearly you should chose your friends better.
    I am gay and middle aged. My life expectancy will be limited more by my high cholesterol rate than my sex life!
    My partner is the MD of a household name and we have the support and love of our family and friends.
    Please examine your ignorance. I would suggest that your comments about pornography and substance abuse could just as easily be directed against the straight men in your office and generally amongst the male population.
    A lot of British people find individual Americans crass and obnoxious but would not damn a whole population by the actions of certain individuals. I suggest you try to do the same.

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  • I think Jack raises an interesting question, as does Anonymous above....

    Spaced out Associates..... and Partners.....

    So anyone for random drug testing.... regardless of sexuality or level within the firm?

    Alcohol, we all know that's a problem.... let's test everyone for Cannabis and Cocaine......

    As for the rest of Jack's views - I won't be buying him a drink anytime soon. Just take out his reference's to gay men, and substitute with Muslim, Sikh, Black, Female, Jewish.... I think you get the picture....

    Happy New Year all.

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  • Jack Vance

    Sorry but as a lawyer you should know full well that the comments you post on the internet can be used against you. What you have said is down right homophobic and as such you should be dealt with in the appropriate way.

    Putting it another way if I was looking to hire a lawyer the last person I would instruct would be someone with your views, and that goes for anyone else in your firm. Your views are wrong in every single way, and to be honest as a gay man I wouldn't want nor accpet you apology for your biggoted and close minded views.

    I am glad to work in a profession where everyone is well educated and can accept that not everyone is the same.

    Oh and to just ask what kind of gay bars do you frequent then if you seem to think that every gay man is out for one night stands whilst being off their face on drugs?

    Enjoy your biggoted life and perhaps one day you can grow as a person and also a lawyer as well as I always thought being a lawyer meant you shouldn't be so narrow minded!

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  • As the author of the article in question I have been following the postings with some interest. I think most readers have realised that the piece was supposed to be humourous (I didn't actually expect lesbian lawyers to drive to work in a Jeep, as exciting as that mental image is). However, behind the humour there is a serious message and that is that we gay lawyers need to be out and proud so that we are able to smoke out - and deal with - any latent homophobia within our profession.
    This has been beautifully illustrated by the comments made by Mr Vance. Hitherto, perhaps, his colleagues and clients (and the world) didn't know that he harboured such extraordinary igonorant views about gay people. Now that this information has been smoked out ,appropriate action can be taken (which would include, I suggest, keeping him away from any interview panels).
    What I found most depressing, however, was the comments from gay lawyers about discrimination in the work-place. I am horrified that a lawyer was (allegedly) sacked for being gay by White & Case. If this is truly what happened then I think that the firm in question needs to have a good, long hard look at itself.
    I also find it sad that a number of people have said that they still hold back from being honest about themselves, particularly around clients. Whilst I completely understand the reasons expressed for holding back, I am afraid that this type of self-censorship simply panders to the homophobia (perceived or actual) in others.
    Anyway, keep up the posts - its providing fascinating reading material....

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  • Jack Vance -
    Many of the straight people I have known are heavily into pornography (along the spectrum from triumphantly straight to pseudo-lesbian and bisexual), substance abuse and late night sexual encounters with anonymous strangers.
    On occasions this has translated into their taking unscheduled time off work and other commitments while they nurse their weary bodies and a sexually predatory attitude towards friends and strangers. This has resultant lapses in their efficiency, productivity and reliability.
    But like you I am open-minded enough to look past these indiscretions and "truly know" them as "friends".
    I forgive them for the fact that despite the backbone of church, state and law reinforcing the stability and ultimate preeminence of the heterosexual relationship so many of them choose to disrupt this paradigm through extra-marital affairs, casual sex and divorce.
    My heart is so big that I am prepared to work with and would even recommend as employable many of my heterosexual counterparts, despite the fact that many prominent rapists, murderers and child molesters also happen to be heterosexual.
    Indeed I believe so strongly in diversity that in a managerial position I would never dream of personally discriminating against my straight brethren, even though their proclivity towards reproductive activity means that may need to take time off for childcare obligations.
    But unlike you - who can confidently say he has no fear of the homosexual - I must admit that as a gay man I have on occasion feared heterosexual individuals. Especially when the intertwining of sexual addiction, violence and ignorance leads to gay men being killed for holding hands in public spaces.
    http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2009/10/15/girls-who-killed-man-in-trafalgar-square-had-been-screaming-homophobic-abuse/

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  • Or maybe too much analysis. Why not keep it simple and be yourself in the workplace. If you are camp, butch, in the middle or whatever it shouldn't matter. You could even appear in your firm's calendar in speedos like me if you want to make a particularly lasting impression (good or bad lol).

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  • Jack Vance:

    As an employment lawyer (who also happens to have worked with James Quarmby for a number of years) I am disappointed by your post. I am sorry if your personal experiences have left you with less than positive views but it is a shame that you feel that they qualify you to comment so generally.

    I am not clear what you mean when you say that you would “exercise more scrutiny” in hiring a gay man but treating job applicants differently due to their sexual orientation is likely to land both you and your firm in hot water. The only relevant factors to consider before a new hire is made are whether the applicant has the necessary skills and experience to do the job. The sexual orientation of an applicant (or colleague for that matter) is irrelevant. I am sure that your firm’s internal policies (i.e. those covering equal opportunities, diversity and/or recruitment) will confirm this.

    As a final thought, when the Equality Bill (that is currently going through Parliament) becomes law later this year it will codify and extend existing discrimination legislation and so it might be worth taking a look at that too.

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  • Vance:

    You are a prize c*ck.

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  • I will take your comments under consideration. My opinion - like most people's - is formed by experience, and to date, my experience is as I hithertofore stated.
    I would discriminate against anyone who I knew was involved in addictive behaviour like drug abuse, alcoholism, pornography, or anonymous sexual encounters. To date, all of my homosexual male friends have had these problems.
    To say there is generally no problem with these issues in the gay community over and above what is witnessed in other communities - is to bury one's head in the sand in the name of political correctness.
    I am also stymied by how many allegedly enlightened law firm personnel assert that homosexuality is a non-issue but are more than willing to discriminate on other grounds such as age.
    Finally - Mr. Quarmby & Mr. Eggar - your article was well penned and interesting, but your reply to my post, particularly your assertions to smoking me out and keeping me from interview panels for engaging in free speech in a public forum on the internet, are regrettable. My views are not extraordinary - that is why you wrote the article in the first place. There is nothing to be "out and proud" about engaging in unhygienic sex acts (regardless of gender), substance abuse, or pornography. These things - in my subjective opinion - seem to be endemic to the homosexual community. Further, I would never post under my real name because I am well aware of the sovietesque thought and speech police who patrol internet chat forum posts and who would actually act on them in order to assuage their own lack of self esteem. Thank you.

    JV

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  • Vance - your comment is offensive to gay people. If you had made a similar tirade against admitting black lawyers into firms or against hiring Asian associates, that would be seen as an outrage and I would not be surprised if The Lawyer would remove such a comment. The same standards should be applied to homophobic and narrow-minded comments such as yours.

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