Sunday, January 16, 2011

I'm calling her Sandy

There are a group of about two hundred 3Ls who believe that I am a transgender woman with a same-sex partner who lives in Iowa. I kid you not. Oh, and I live in Colorado so my wife and I miss each other a lot.

I’m calling my imaginary wife Sandy.

How did they arrive at this conclusion, you might wonder? Well, what can I say, the two hundred people were a conference of crazy people. Ok, not true, I was at the CLEO Mid-Winter Bar Preparation Seminar in DC and my fellow conference attendees were smart, delightful 3Ls. So let me explain…

On the second day of the programming three very nice bar examiners, representing California, Virginia, and DC, sat on a panel talking about the moral character portion of admittance to the various bar associations. I did my best to suppress my gag reflex as the three (old white) men yammered on about how reasonable the application was and that they’re “just looking for honest people.” During the Q&A most students asked questions about DUIs and foreclosures. I was tempted to ask how well the fitness portion of the bar admittance was working… making 3Ls submit divorce papers and driving records was keeping all the unethical lawyers out right? Oh, wait… In the interest of respecting all the effort CLEO had gone through to put this panel together, I resisted.

What I couldn’t resist was bringing up what my politically conservative little brother has affectionately termed “the gay stuff.” After patiently waiting my turn for the microphone I simply had to ask if these examiners had ever viewed their questions through the eyes of a lesbian woman or trans man. “Hi, my question is about whether or not your states are inclusive of the LGBT community. For example, do you present a third gender option, other than male or female, for transgendered individuals who may not fit neatly into those categories? Also, if you ask for marital status, do you ask for a jurisdiction? Say I’m married to a same sex partner in Iowa but living in and applying to the bar in Colorado where marriage isn’t legal. The marital status question isn’t so clear cut, unless it asks for the jurisdiction where I am married.” Crickets.

Other than crickets, you could hear the sounds of confused bar examiners furiously flipping through their questionnaires. Well, with the exception of Virginia, who simply said, “Um, no, we’re not inclusive. But I can bring it up at our next meeting.” Thanks sir, but that doesn’t help 3Ls who are currently filling out their applications. California told me that he didn’t think there were more than two genders and that marriage in California was still illegal. I pointed out that, unless his application asked for the state, I could be legally married in another state. “What, then sir, is the correct answer to the marital status question?” The crickets and I were becoming close friends at this point.

I did appreciate Virginia’s candor. I also appreciated that all of the men were actually thinking about the issue, perhaps for the first time. It’s true that I asked the question essentially already knowing the answer. I know that most bar associations are not inclusive and that it’s downright impossible for many LGBT people to answer demographic questions completely and honestly; the questions aren’t open ended and the correct answers aren’t options. Knowing the answers, however, doesn’t make hearing them any less frustrating. What was nice, however, was getting a chance to look at them with honesty and challenge the organizations they represent for what they are: nutty and exclusive. Really, how often do you get to raise an eyebrow at the man, in front of 200 potential attorneys no less? That, I can tell you, felt pretty good.

You’ll have to excuse me now; I think Sandy has dinner on the table.

Related Links:

State Department makes passport applications more inclusive.
Gender change on passports.
Queer the Census.


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