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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  • What a dreadfully dated, homophobic, nasty, self-loathing article! I can't believe this was written by a gay man about other gay men and supposedly how to be happy and honest at work. Reading this made me think we must be living in some kind of Dark Age, where being gay is akin to having some kind of disease, something to be gently brought up in conversation. Just tosh!

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  • I wont even dignify Jack Vance's comment with a response, but in my experience (albeit as a lowly NQ solicitor) is to have a sense of humour about it.
    I have never felt the need to "come out" at work - some people have guessed, some have asked (and I wouldn't lie) and some have no idea. I like it that way - it feels like I am the one with the power. I have rarely come across homophobia in my firm and if I did I am confident that it would be dealt with immediately. I've had the odd jibe, like "backs against the wall" etc but usually find that this only comes from arrogant, ugly men who probably have issues with their own sexuality.
    My advice would be to have a sense of humour about the whole thing and to use it to your advantage - in my experience female partners love gay trainees/junior solicitors and it can be good to build rapport with people - I suppose it doesn't threaten a lot of people so instantly you can build trust - and strike when you need to!
    Hopefully one day this whole topic will be irrelevant in any case!

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  • Jack Vance:

    Interesting. I feel the same way about hiring heterosexuals. So many of them I know have been alcoholic frat boys, who go out all hours of the night chasing women, into pornography, etc. I know they can't help it. They were born that way. :)

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  • I wasn't going to comment again, but I must take issue with Mr Hussain's post. I think he must have read a different article, because I fail to see how anyone could describe mine as either 'homophobic' or 'nasty' . Perhaps he would like to explain his comments. Incidentally, If you want a real example of nasty homophobia then just look at some of the posts in response to my article.
    I find Mr Hussain's allegation that I am a 'self-loathing' gay man to be cheap, ridiculous and personally offensive and I would ask that he withdraw those remarks.

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  • I have always been of the view that an individual employee's private life, regardless of their sexuality, is simply nobody else's busines, and my experience of shocking discrimination due to my own private life in a firm where I worked previously has done nothing to alter this view. Although I had strong grounds for bringing a case of constructive dismissal against my former employers, I did not feel able to do so, and I am sure that the behaviour of certain senior figures within the firm was due to their (correct) assumption that I would not be willing to "wash my dirty linen in public" at an Industrial Tribunal. Although I had nothing to be ashamed of, I suspect that I was not alone in my fear of being publicly shamed and (ironically) prejuduced in seeking employment in the future - whatever the circumstances, a successful case can be something of a Pyrrhic victory for an employee...........

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  • As the chairman of the Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association (LAGLA), I have come across many different stories and from the responses here I can see that this still rings true. While the humorous advice in the article may be overkill for some firms, I can also see that in other gay men and lesbians do not feel they can come out. In larger firms there may be a huge discrepancy from one department to another.
    For anyone who wishes to meet other gay lawyers in a social atmosphere, please do join (it is free) LAGLA http://www.lagla.org.uk or look at our Facebook group.
    As for myself, I had written my undergraduate dissertation on an obvious gay topic (age of consent) and put that on my CV. This made it obvious to any interviewer that I was gay (or at least that it was pretty likely) and there was no need to come out later on. It also meant that it probably ruled out some job opportunities, but I would not have wanted to work in such firms anyway only to find out that there is a homophobic culture later on.
    Within the wider family law profession, I am out and we advertise family law services actively to lesbians and gay men at Alternative Family Law, so there is no further need to come out. I agree, however, that it is maybe awkward at times to “come out” if there is no reason and you are already out to some people. I have therefore always taken a proactive approach.

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  • "Jack Vance
    I'm sorry, but all of the Americans I've known (and I've truly known - as friends - quite a few) have been heavily into bigotry, overeating, and binge drinking. This generally translated into obesity and ill-health. Being American is not a personality trait anymore than alcoholism is, but like alcoholism it is a serious addition that ultimately affects every aspect of one's life - just look at the life expectancy for Americans! As a senior associate at a large UK firm I would exercise more scrutiny when deciding to hire an American (at least if i knew he was American) 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 Americans who eat healthily and exercise a lot, maybe one of those gay men. But I would be cautious nonetheless. And no, I am not going to apologize for my "anti-American" comments because they have nothing to do with phobias."

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  • (Town Crieresque bellow): I am in fact Jack Vance!!

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  • What Jack Vance says is suprising. Jack, when you are next in town, meet me for a glass of mineral water and a vitamin "c" tablet. I will demonstrate to you that it is (believe it or not!) possible to be gay without being an alcoholic or a sex/drug/porn addict. In fact, you can be very hard working like me and spend your spare time at the gym followed by early nights (unaccompanied!).

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  • James Quarmby | 6-Jan-2010 12:40 pm -

    So your "serious message" 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"...

    Perhaps each "minority" (or "majority") should have a "two minutes anti-hate" and see what prejudices we can shake loose to be stamped on and crushed like a bug? Perhaps Muslims and Jews should unite in the caff to protest the eating of pork products at breakfast so as to smoke out - and deal with - those prejudiced against their religions? And black lawyers should take a daily walk through their offices shouting "Black Power" to smoke out - and deal with - racists? Should women burn their bras by the watercooler to smoke out - and deal with - misogynists? Should Australian Aboriginals mark the passing of each hour of the day by a burst on a digeridoo to smoke out - and deal with - the lurking anti-ethnic intolerants? Should shorter people cultivate Danny DeVito mannerisms to smoke out - and deal with - those evil anti-shortists?

    Or perhaps there are enough people out there who realise how destructive identity politics is, or maybe who are sufficiently bored of it? Instead, what I would dearly love to see is every single person dropping their various pro- and anti- agendas entirely for a day / week / year and instead simply treating the persons you come across as individuals. Decide how to treat a person by their own unique successes, failings and personality rather than defining them only as part of a supposedly homogenous group. The only discrimination legislation needed should fetch you a fat lip for doing anything else.

    The corollary of that is that being "out and proud" for the sake of "smoking out" those who are anywhere along a range from outright bigot to someone who made a silly joke is counterproductive. I have never felt the need to impose my sexuality, race, religion, political views etc on anyone. Anyone that seeks to impose such aspects of their lives on me will not endear themselves. Be intelligent, funny, kind etc and impress with those characteristics. I do not need to be appraised of your particular "minority" (or "majority") proclivity and would be happier never knowing. I promise not to tell you mine if you can resist telling me yours. If we can ever get to that stage, what could bigots be bigoted against? Imagine how annoyed they would be!

    Short version: If you insist on actively looking for prejudice you may well find some even where it never existed before. Relax and be yourself, not an agenda.

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  • what will those "straights" get up to next ? It shouldnt be allowed should it Jack!

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/leicestershire/8444134.stm

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  • The picture painted of White & Case by the anonymous poster on 6 January at 10.01am is not one that is familiar to me at all, either in my capacity as the executive partner of the London office or as the Executive Committee member with global responsibilities for people. Nor is it, having spoken to my fellow partner, Elaine Johnston, who is our global diversity partner, an accurate description of our Firm globally either.

    We have a well-established LGBT network at the Firm, that runs a range of initiatives to support our people. As a Firm, we are committed to and supportive of the diversity - in all its forms - of our workforce and we will remain so.

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  • Ah, a good old-fashioned spirited debate.
    Mr Vance is entitled to his views, and I for one would defend his right to express an opinion; however, I think he needs to acknowledge that while his personal experience may bear out what he is saying, it is a generalisation, and, further, that there is a substantial proportion (i'd say the majority in fact) of the gay population which keeps itself to itself and has habits - sexual and chemical - equally as ordinary and unremarkable as the majority of straight people.
    The more worrying to me than this kind of blind prejudice is the Forget-About-It thread, the kind of people who - if pressed - complain that minorities are always 'shoving it down people's throats' and encourage us to just stop having an Agenda and be ourselves. People are people etc.
    There speaks someone who has never had to deal with discrimination red in tooth-and-claw. The great problem, especially if you are gay, is that you just have no idea where discrimination is going to come from, whether it be a bottle thrown at you or a catty remark at work.
    I recall one prominent gay figure remarking to me that he didn't see himself as gay while he was at work, 'just a regular guy'. Gay, for him, was something he did in his private life.
    That's a fine little fantasy, but discrimination doesn't depend on when you are and aren't deciding to be gay. The knowledge that you ARE gay is enough for someone to have a go at you, and it doesn't matter how sensible or reasonable you are or how much you keep your head down, it's not in your control. Gay isn't something you can turn off and on, any more than being black or disabled.
    People should just be how they are. If that means mad and camp or as boring as an Actuary's Christmas Party, it is just them.
    Wanting people to be other than they are in order to conform to your view of how the world should work is plain wrong. It's called discrimination, people, and however you dress it up, whatever prejudice or moral code or sweeping generalisations you use to justify your bad behaviour, it's still fundamentally inhuman.

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  • I wonder if Jack knows how many of his hetrosexual friends also like porn, take drugs and have anonymous sexual encounters - undoubtedly many more than he realises.
    In my experience, most men like porn - gay or not. So do a lot of women as it happens, though some of us may not admit it! So long as it does not become obsessive, where's the harm?
    In my 20 years or so in law, I have come across many lawyers who regularly partake of canabis, cocaine and excessive amounts of alcohol - and in my personal experience these have been mainly hetrosexual men.
    As for one night stands, as the years go by, this behaviour is becoming far more commonplace and acceptable (unfortunately) and is most certainly not limited to homosexuals!
    Jack's comments, offensive and annoying as they may be, are simply the words of a pathetic, closed minded, blinkered individual who simply sees what he wants to see and hears what he wants to hear.
    If Jack truly believes that those few promiscuous, porn addicted, drug taking gay "friends" he has had are an accurate representation of all homosexual men then nothing anyone says to him here will change his views.
    What a prize plant pot he is!

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  • I am surprised that the Lawyer has chosen to publish this article. I presume it filled some pages which were lacking given the recent Christmas and New Year break. It has done little to help those who are still uncertain whether coming out will hinder their careers and certainly hasn’t encouraged anyone to come out as a result.

    In my experience and having worked in a high street, medium and large national firm, if you are a good lawyer, professional and courteous whether you are gay or straight, black or white etc makes very little difference to how you are treated. That is the point. There are no rules for coming out in your work or in your private life which suit all.

    Equally, this is not the forum to offer a do’s and don’ts guide how you live your professional or private life. I feel I must confess my enjoyment of musical theatre (shock horror), which clearly goes against Mr Quarmby’s advice. However, I know a shared passion can improve client relations – whether that be football, racing or more artistic activities.

    I note Mr Vance is more concerned with an individual’s private life than their capabilities as a lawyer. I note that he has already had a generous invitation from Steven Cunliffe to set him straight (pun intended). I am also pleased to hear about the LGBT groups which are around the country to support their peers. This is also true in Yorkshire where the White Collar Club has been revived and open to all professions. Mr Vance will be interested to see these are networking communities in respectable establishments, not sordid dens of drugs and iniquity.

    All of this reminds me of a story some months ago (http://www.thisislocallondon.co.uk/news/4479547.Senior_lawyer_in__homophobic__email_row/) which brought to light the homophobia which still exists in the profession. Clearly there is a need for debate on this issue – but if I was looking for an advocate I would probably leave Mr Quarmby to one side.

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  • Kevin 4.18 - I think its a bit unfair to criticise Mr Quarmby - his article might have been a bit too light hearted but he had the balls (dont get excited Jack Valance I dont spend every waking moment thinking about sex with strangers or their genitalia) to write it and get it published. He should be congratulated for that and also for stimulating the debate we are now having. I also think he has done us all a service by allowing Jack Valance to spout his vicious and ignorant views illustrating the problems that we all still face both within the profession and outside - however deeply depressing that may be.

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  • What my brother Jack Vance said is hilarious! He always was the funny one. Likening homosexuality to alcoholism really made me smile. And suggesting it is addictive also suggests that he dare not try it incase he himself becomes addicted and has to start taking it regularly.

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  • In response to the smug Mr Poulter, I think if I were looking for a lawyer capable of analysing all the available data and coming to a logical conclusion, I'd probably leave you to one side.
    Your contention: "In my experience and having worked in a high street, medium and large national firm, if you are a good lawyer, professional and courteous whether you are gay or straight, black or white etc makes very little difference to how you are treated."
    ...is based entirely - as you say - on your *personal* experience and is therefore of no relevance as to the discussion: whether the profession is discriminatory or not.
    That posters to this very thread have reported specific instances of discrimination (and I am sure other posters - as I do - have very many more specific instances they can quote) is evidence that your analysis is flawed.
    The FACT is that people ARE treated differently because they are gay or black or in some other minority (or even majority - talk to some female assistants some time...).
    Your personal experience may be all very well for the cosy little world you live in, but in extrapolating your views to the profession as a whole you are as bad as Mr Vance.
    Mr Quarmby's light-hearted piece was intended to stimulate debate, which indeed it has done, and, in another startling assumption, you cannot know whether it has done 'little to help' and most certainly cannot state that it has not encouraged anyone to come out or not (you might opine that it won't, but you cannot say that as a statement of fact - it simply isn't true)
    To cast aspersions as to Mr Quarmby's fitness as an advocate, especially in light of your own failings in simple logic and wild assumptions and generalisations does you no favours.
    And why shouldn't the Lawyer publish this kind of article? Where else should it appear?

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  • FB | 7-Jan-2010 3:28 pm
    I am not sure whether or not your comments were inspired by my earlier remark, but in the interests of a good old-fashioned spirited debate, may I ask why sexuality has to be such a major feature of day-to-day interactions? I and most gays/lesbians I have discussed this with would agree with your "prominent gay figure" who said that "Gay, for him, was something he did in his private life. "
    Surely we would all like to be judged on our intelligence, personality, demeanour etc, rather than on some overtly advertised sexual proclivity? Is that not preferable? Does it not reduce the person who makes an issue of their sexuality (whatever that may be) a bit of a bore? As an example, if you were in a bar with an acquaintance whose sexual preferences were different to your own and who couldn't stop leering at and remarking on the attractiveness of certain other patrons, would you want to buy the next round?
    I agree that there are those who are rabidly prejudiced against gays and/or other groups, but I think all would concur that their numbers are decreasing. You don't speed that decrease up by pointing out and harping on areas of difference.
    I think the way to lead to peaceful lives is just to get on with it in a quiet and as unassuming a way as possible. No-one should care whether my partner is Inuit, Aboriginal, blonde, ginger, Hassidic or Sikh. I hope you can agree that their gender does not need to be shouted from the rooftops.
    Unless, of course, you do not want to be judged on your intelligence, personality, demeanour etc? Do you prefer your sexuality (or race, religion etc) to be your "calling-card"? Is that because if a person you meet doesn't like you / is rude to you / doesn't help you with your shopping / doesn't offer you the job you were after, you can tell yourself "It isn't because I had a bad day / am dull / just couldn't convince them. No, it's because I am from X sector of society, so their rejection of me is their fault. Such vicious bigots out there...."

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  • Oh heck. I don't know if any of my colleagues are gay or not. I'm kind of too busy doing the work to concern myself with anybody else's sexuality. Wonder would I have noticed if they'd been so gay they were spaced out? Or maybe it's none of my business? What about the ones who were spaced out from working too hard? Did they turn gay? Did I miss it? Have I? Better ask the missus.
    A good lawyer's a good lawyer. End of. Anybody who judges on any other basis deserves to fail. Which they will.

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  • LOL @ Kevin Poulter. Pwned in the face by FB.

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  • To Jim. I understand where you're coming from, but I think you misunderstood my point. My point is that you can't choose when to be gay or not to be gay, you just are, 100% of the time, 24hrs a day. Equally, if you're straight, you're that, 100% of the time.

    That doesn't, in my view, mean talking about sex or sexual preference or the nuts & bolts of being gay (or straight for that matter), but my point was that it's not just possible to 'just get on with it' all the time.

    If you're straight, it's usual to take for granted that you live in a straight world, and therefore anything manifestly gay feels as though someone is shouting at you, or shoving it down your throat, and I understand that.

    Let me illustrate. One of my friends asked me if I knew a particular pub. I said I didn't, because I didn't usually go to straight pubs. She looked puzzled. She said: "it's not a straight pub, it's just a pub!!". I had to explain to her that there's no such thing as 'just a pub' if you're gay (hence we have gay pubs). She asked, not unreasonably, whether I only went to gay pubs, and how limited that was. I said I mainly went to gay pubs, but not exclusively, and had to explain to her that I preferred to go somewhere where I felt comfortable. A straight person, in a straight pub (or a gay pub for that matter) could kiss their partner withoug a problem. Try doing that as a gay man in most straight pubs and see what happens to you. Hence I choose to go to a gay pub where I feel most comfortable and where if I choose to show affection to my partner (or friends) I won't get attacked or indeed 'offend' anyone.

    Unfortunately, alcohol and intolerance can be a heady mix, and even in the most seemingly friendly 'normal' pub, discrimination can come at you, even if you are just having a nice drink with your straight mates one evening. I've had experience of this, and none of my mates - straight or gay - would describe me as 'flamboyant' (to use Mr Quarmby's word).

    For gay people, much of what you regard as simply normal life is 'straight' stuff. We're used to it, so we don't make a fuss at endless ads showing straight couples kissing, mums and dads on hols with the kids, billboards, couples in the street, the list goes on. It's just 'normal' life. For you.

    Instead, we get things like being refused a double room in a hotel (this happened to my partner and I after a 7 hr drive to Cornwall) having booked it in good faith, or being refused service in a pub or get attacked for wanting to be treated equally in our partnerships (we're still not, btw, as Civil Partnership does not have the same recognition rights as Marriage)

    I want to be judged on my intelligence, personality, demeanour, but I HAVE been judged - out of my control - many times simply because of my sexuality, whether I admitted it, was proactive about it or not.
    I don't 'blame' every negative thing that happens to me on my sexuality; but nor do I try to live my life in a bunker hoping that if i life in 'as quiet and unassuming way as possible' (as - clearly - every single straight person does 100% of the time) that everything will be ok.

    Instead, I believe that prejudice and ignorance have to be rooted out, challenged and shown up for the wrong behaviours they are. And if that means being gay in the office - whatever that entails - I'll make that choice, and people can think what they like.

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  • Well, I worked in a lawfirm in the Philippines, and the reaction was pretty cool. But, while it's nice to be brave and say fighting words about how coming out should be a piece of cake, there's still the fear of the unknown to deal with. To have a mindset that expects everybody around you will have a 21st century, rational response to your sexuality, is to be deluded...

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  • I think Jack Vance's backpedaling is delicious. Can't we just imagine those little gears in his head, turning and turning. "Wait, this is the internet! What I write here is traceable back to my IP address! Someone with rudimentary skills could track me down! My clients might discover that I'm a senseless bigot! My partners might find out!"

    And one can't help but wonder about all of those gay "friends" that he has. What a true friend old Jack turned out to be, eh boys? You drunken, porn-watching fuckmachines. Poor wretches, so lucky to have Jack as a beacon of hetero respectability!

    I'm all for free speech. But I'm also all for the ruthlessness of the free market, which lately abhors this kind of bigotry. Here's hoping the market for legal services teaches Mr. Vance a lesson about the economic costs of being so uniformed and discriminatory, at least in public.

    On second thought, I'd be happy with just one more backpedaling post. Come on, Jack. Walk it back just a bit more for us.

    Love,

    Non-drinking, monogamous gay prude who bills 2200/yr.

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  • There's been a lot of needless criticism and banter on this thread, all of which can be summed up in the one question: Have you any of you actually met a homosexual person?

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  • I'm a trainee at a mid-size law firm in the South East and I decided to be out to everyone before I started. I also did it in much the same way that the article suggests (although I do like musical theatre...) to my immediate colleagues.

    However my plans for the rest of the firm sort of fell apart when it was suggested that my sexuality become a running joke (in a good way) in the Christmas Party entertainment. Oh well...at least everyone knows now, and there's been no bad come back.

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  • K

    Very brave of you, but for your firm to turn it into a running joke?

    Presumably the panto also included a re-enactment of the Black & White Minstrel Show?

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  • @ Anonymous (Jan 6) in re White & Case:

    My husband has been with W&C for three years, and is openly gay. We attend company events as a couple, and the firm has been nothing but supportive of us. I am sorry if you did not have similar experiences with the firm, but I have to say we have seen an open and accepting culture there.

    Jason

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  • Well, it hasn't turned into a running joke outside the entertainment, everyone has been perfectly respectful and it's been treated as nothing more important than if I'd revealed my taste in cars. Which is obviously a good thing.

    I am the only out person (I think) in the firm and I recognise that the first inevitable step of tolerance and acceptance is, firstly, visibility.

    I can endure good-natured ribbing and curiosity with no concern, and humour is a useful tool for diffusing situations, provided that, like any tool, it is used in the right way.

    I actually wrote a good part of the entertainment so was able to ensure that the humour wasn't offensive to me or any reasonable person - and while given the option I probably would not have come out so publicly, I also recognised the opportunity to present my sexuality as something of which I have no shame over and that there was no reason for anyone else to concern themselves with.

    I recognise it's a difficult line to tread between...oh...the Black and White Minstrel Show and...Avenue Q (to use a musical theatre example of racial politics as entertainment). But provided you can keep to the line, it's one of the most effective methods of integration and tolerance. And I've never been one to shy from that sort of challenge.

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  • I *heart* FB and 'Non-drinking, monogamous gay prude who bills 2200/yr'

    Isn't it strange how any debate on gay rights usually involves Jack Vance (or his equivalent) holding forth about how awful gay men are in their behaviours, and little, if any, comment about lesbians.

    Because when people like Jack Vance talk about gay rights he will focus on the gay MEN and how awful the gay MEN are, and the unspeakable things that gay MEN do to each other and gay MEN shouldn't be allowed to exist and let's belittle gay MEN because they're clearly a lesser species and not menly men like me, Jack Vance.


    Lesbians, of course, don't exist on Jack Vance's radar until Jack Vance requires some form of pornographic entertainment, at which point we exist for him and him alone. But what we do isn't subject to the same sneering idiocy, which is reserved purely for the men. Me? I'm an exotic curiosity in Jack Vance's feverish imagination. And yet he won't sound off about my rights (and in particular the rights I shouldn't have).

    Fact is, it's ridiculous to focus on sex when talking about sexuality, and utterly absurd to think that the rights of someone else might rest of what I think of what that person does (or doesn't do) behind closed doors.

    I think many of the comments on this article have actually heartened me. I've been 'out' for many years and I'm very pleased that noone seems to care. Except maybe Jack Vance.

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