Success, with Style

Posts tagged “Women in Men’s Wear

Butch Dress-for-Success

Posted on August 8, 2015

Yesterday, I presented workshop called “Butch Dress-For-Success” at the Lavender Law national conference, presented by the National LGBT Bar in Chicago, Illinois. The workshop seemed to be well-received. I have wanted to do a workshop like this for some time because it provided the thus far unprecedented opportunity for me share what I have learned in my style, success, and personal journeys. Yesterday, I was able to talk to women and men who, like me, must navigate their careers while presenting gender expressions that do not conform to society’s norms. Like me, they have to decide every day just how much of themselves they will allow the world to see while being prepared to suffer the consequences and reap the rewards of doing so.

lavender law

One of the themes that arose in yesterday’s workshop is that butch women are often gender-policed while on the job. We heard tales of how mock jurors told a woman lawyer that she was not feminine enough: she should do “something” with her hair, she should wear different, more feminine suits and shoes, and that she would be taken more seriously if she were prettier. Women who experienced similar criticism echoed their dismay and solidarity after hearing her story.

We also tackled the difficult issue of balancing our own need, and right, to be just who we are, while also zealously advocating on behalf of our clients. What do you when a judge has a known policy of kicking lawyers out of his courtroom because they fail to adhere to his arcane and misogynist dress code? There is no single solution for us because our experiences and jobs are all so different. One thing was clear, however: as a lawyer representing a client in that judge’s courtroom, you must put your client’s interests first. That could mean that when appearing in that judge’s courtroom, you wear the required black skirt suit. It could also mean that you send a colleague in your place to appear before the judge so as not to compromise your own identity and ideals. It could also mean that you seek to have the judge recuse himself or that you request a change of judge. All of these options have consequences. How you choose to proceed, how you balance your own interests against those of your clients (which should come first), and against the political and social landscape that you may be trying to change require each of us to do the hard work of figuring out what works best for our own lives and careers.

gender policing image

Another theme that arose out of yesterday’s workshop is that a change in the culture of the practice of law must occur, and that includes a shift in social notions of gender and professionalism. I have chosen to take on the hard job of promoting and pushing that shift. But, we don’t all have to do this work. Each person has a particular role that we must play and duties that we must fulfill. Some of us are change-agents while some of us reap the benefits of change. Either way, everyone wins. There is nothing wrong with this arrangement. As I emphasized yesterday, you can’t guilt someone into doing the hard work of being freedom fighters just like you cannot guilt someone into coming out as LGBT.

I am a visible Black gender nonconforming lesbian because I want to be and because I want to work to help ensure others may also safely and happily choose to be out and visible. As long as I am able, I will continue to do this work, which includes publishing this blog. In that regard, I am happy to be back here doing what I love. DSC_0076

Work: 5 Days of Dapper

Posted on March 9, 2015

As a lawyer, I can say without hesitation that I am not who you usually envision when you think of “lawyer” or “attorney.”

In fact, I usually get raised eyebrows when people ask what I do and I tell them, “I’m a lawyer.” There is an implicit bias associated with certain professions. I get it. I look young, I don’t subscribe to the traditional conservatism that one usually associates with lawyers or the legal professional. I am not a White male. You don’t think of me when you think “Lawyer.”

I am here to change that, not just for myself, but for people like me: people whom American society has worked for generations to relegate to the margins. My job is to bring my full self to the table, from the margins to the center.

I am unapologetically Black, Lesbian, Androgynous, Gender Non-Conforming, Intelligent, Caring, Creative, and Stylish. I define myself, for myself. I affirm myself and I encourage you to do the same.

Style: Casual Distinction

Posted on March 4, 2015

Personal style is intentional and should reflect your personality. I’m pretty laid back; most things no longer get me riled up. At the same time, I take myself and life very seriously, as we all do (or at least we should). Therefore, my style tends to strike a balance between formality and frivolity. It’s what I call “casual distinction.” My wardrobe consists of modern, vintage, a touch of trendy, but mostly classic, elements.

While traveling to Southern California, Los Angeles and San Diego, my style choices reflected the laid-back nature of SoCal, but also included dapper accents. It was Casual and Distinguished.

%d bloggers like this: