In what ways have you seen the legal industry change in recent years with respect to LGBTQ+ inclusion?
CG: The obvious change in the law regarding LGBTQ+ inclusion is the 2013 landmark case that legalized gay marriage. That case significantly rocked society and is a particularly proud moment for those of us in the legal industry.
Though the law has become more inclusive, we still have many barriers to overcome. In more than 30 states, there are still laws on the books that deny protection from being fired for being gay or trans, prevent LGBTQ+ people from adopting children, and discriminate against LGBTQ+ people in other ways. While there have been great legal strides toward LGBTQ+ equity, we still have a long way to go toward allowing people to safely, confidently, and legally live as their true and authentic selves.
What is your advice for allies who want to support the LGBTQ+ community?
CG: In my eyes, allyship can be as simple as advocating for the LGBTQ+ community and recognizing and celebrating Pride month. The fact that Tyson & Mendes is celebrating Pride month by focusing on the LGBTQ+ community is an act of allyship to me.
The very reason we have Pride month though is to remind ourselves we still have a long way to go. It may seem straightforward, but my advice to allies is to continue being yourself, and also to help others be their true selves in any way you can. For me, Pride month is not just for individuals like myself who are proud and openly out, but, importantly, I believe Pride month is for those who are not ready to come out yet. Pride month allows all of us, whether individuals or corporations, to say “We see you, we support you, and you will have a safe space here. You will be accepted for who you are.”
What role has mentorship played in your personal and professional growth?
CG: This question is very near and dear to my heart. I was very close with my sixth-grade teacher, Lorre, and her wife, Beth. Beth was a prosecutor and coached our mock trial team when I was in high school. I gravitated toward her because I had never had a role model like her. I thought, “She has been a successful prosecutor for 30 years and is accepted for her accomplishments as a lawyer.” She took me under her wing and showed me what the District Attorney’s office was like. She inspired me to pursue a legal career, but she also helped me come out to my parents. We were on our way to a mock trial presentation in a neighboring county, and I told her that I was planning to finally come out to them. She made it very clear that if it did not go well, I always had a place to stay and a place to come home to. She was there for me and continues to be there for me.
These types of valuable mentorships are less common in the LGBTQ+ community—where you do not often see people like you reflected in successful positions of power. This is especially true in the legal field, where, until more recently, there have been fewer out lawyers in leadership roles. Having Beth as a mentor gifted me the assurance to say, “I can really do this. I can go forward in this field.” She provided a solid foundation that helped me own who I am with confidence. She exemplified what I wanted—to stand in front of a jury of my peers knowing that I am being judged for my work and not because of who I am. Beth, or “Mama Bear” as I call her, propelled my confidence to move forward in this career and in life. She offered the support I sought, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without her.