I came out as gay after university when I was doing my law conversion course in 2003. I never hid the fact I was gay when I was in chambers, but nor was it something I talked much about, particularly in the first few years of tenancy. If I were starting out again today, I’d feel much more comfortable in being more visible as a gay member of chambers.
My overall impression of the bar today is that it is a welcoming and supportive environment for gay barristers. My sense is that I started my career at around a time when there was a sea change in social attitudes more generally towards being gay. But I appreciate that there is a wide range of experiences – particularly for those starting out – and there can be no room for complacency.
The bar can feel daunting and unknown territory to those who aren’t part of it. The bar can seem – and be – a particularly conservative institution and there can be a perception of “needing to fit in” for those coming into it. That’s why it’s particularly important to increase visibility and change perceptions of what life is like at the bar for those thinking of coming to the bar or starting out.