Rachel Goldberg (she/her)
President-Elect, National LGBTQ+ Bar Foundation
I transitioned in 2002. I knew I was going to transition and I felt safer and somewhat protected inside [the government office where I worked]. And I got health insurance, which I had never had before.
I feel safe in Connecticut. When I stopped working for the city of Stamford after 40-something years, I looked around to see if I wanted to do what some other people do and retire somewhere less expensive than Connecticut. I’m glad I didn’t, because all those places are now passing laws that would hurt me. I have no interest in going to Florida.
In my line of work, I was one of two people who got consulted on a regular basis about urban renewal law and urban renewal developments. When [I stopped working for the City of Stamford], I went talking to law firms who I had retained over the years, [who were] very familiar with my work. I had a number of very nice conversations with senior partners and hiring partners, but there is only one major firm in the state with a trans partner. None of the firms that I had given lots and lots of business to had any interest in hiring me.
In Connecticut, people in positions of power have not felt comfortable being out and loud with their protests… [Right now this means], I have to be more visible, I have to be more present, I have to speak up.
It feels good to do work for [the National LGBTQ+ Bar], an organization that’s doing good things, and can continue to do good things. The best thing that the Bar can do is grow allyship and try to obtain a greater unity of purpose.
I cannot overemphasize my belief in the importance of political allyship… Those connections are vital. Having ties to politicians, personal relationships… helps to give us access and helps to create a relationship where we can talk about what our community needs.
At the moment we have a reasonably good ally in the White House, could be better. Obama was good, better than Biden, but he could have been better. Somebody made a decision at the beginning of Obama’s first term not to move forward with the Equality Act and make it a priority, and that’s hurting us. I get that marriage was higher on the priority list but it’s still disappointing.
In the federal election and in state elections, the thing that will get Democrats into office is Roe and guns, not us. Which is why we need to have a strong relationship with the organizations that are specifically working in those areas. I know we don’t work as an organization in the political arena, and we should not, but we can be allies with those who do.
There’s so much to do, but I think organizations like Lambda and GLAD and NCLR and ACLU are all doing really good work legally fighting those bills, and for the most part, at least until they get to the Supreme Court, they will be successful. But I’m afraid of this Supreme Court, and that is why we need to have a strong majority in both the House and the Senate… that requires unity amongst the LGBT community.
Cat Kozlowski (they/she)
My name is Cat Kozlowski. I use they/she pronouns. The way I like to phrase it is, “she” doesn’t bring me gender dysphoria, but “they” brings me gender euphoria.
I joined Polsinelli in March 2020. I got to speak last year at Lavender Law, which was my first foray and introduction to the Bar. Most of my relationship with the LGBTQ+ Bar has been with Lavender Law and the amazing connections that I made during that time, that I have continued to cultivate. I’m excited to go to Chicago this year.
My home base is Portland [Oregon], and Portland itself is just lovely. It is a bubble of safety. Living just south of [the city], I’m very lucky to be in a community that focuses on diversity, that is very welcoming. Part of the reason we moved up here in October 2020 during the pandemic is we were living in an environment where we didn’t feel we could safely raise our children.
When it comes to what we need most, there are so many amazing organizations and these great national movements that are doing so much of the legal lift, and we see that. But the biggest thing we all need is that more intimate connection. It’s great to see these big powerhouses doing these big things and trying to move mountains and filing these lawsuits. I think so many of us just need a hug. And [to know] that there are people they have never met but that they may cross paths with that will see them, that will love them, that will stand up for them.
[During conference season], I buy… tons upon tons of rainbow pins. Whenever I go to a conference and someone comments on one of my pins… I give them one. My only request is, please wear this at whatever other conference you go to, so when I step into a room, I know you’re someone I can go to safely. [We need] our allies to be as visible as we are.
We need our champions and our famous people and successful people out there showing themselves. But we also need to celebrate our flawed people, our middle manager people, [to show us] “I’m still worthy. I’m still worthy of love and acceptance and existence even if I don’t have a million followers on Instagram.” And I think the best way for our community to see that is for our allied community to be just as loud as we are in support of all of us.
Put your money where your mouth is. Step forward… The thing I hear from allies is that “Oh, I’m afraid to misstep. I don’t want to offend anyone or hurt anyone”. I would rather you stick your neck out and get corrected and stand back up, than for me to have my whole body out there and to keep getting stomped down. Figure out your boundaries so you don’t cause me more harm. This tiptoeing that happens is really harming us because… you’re not saving anybody offense when you decide to sit out.
Things are really tough right now. Things are ugly. This is not the hardest swing this community has dealt with, but it’s the hardest swing that this younger generation has seen. And it’s shocking. But there’s nothing so enraging to someone trying to craft your oppression as projecting your joy in the face of that. We’re going to fight back against that hate (you can feel more than one thing at once). But we are still so full of rainbows and glitter that we can, at the same time, fight against you and blare our joy at the top of our lungs, and there’s nothing that anyone can do to stop that.
Don’t let any of this diminish your sparkle. If you show your joy out loud – that joy you’re making is gonna save somebody’s life.
Jay Larry (he/him)
At-Large Board Member, National LGBTQ+ Bar Association
I unfortunately hadn’t heard of Lavender Law while I was in law school and didn’t know much about the Bar. I didn’t know very many out people in general, and certainly no out attorneys, until I got to law school. I attended Lavender Law for the first time as a junior attorney and was blown away by how much it felt like a family reunion. I sat on four or five panels that first year and never looked back. Now, I’m very privileged and humbled to serve on the board of the National LGBTQ+ Bar Foundation.
Lavender Law presents an excellent opportunity to learn about life experiences and perspectives that are different from your own. I always encourage attendees to educate themselves on issues in which they may not have a vested interest. Figure out where your blindspots are and take up someone else’s banner. Be a citizen of our community, not someone who shows up and takes support but doesn’t give anything back.
I’m very fortunate to not have been personally impacted by the recent attacks on the trans and nonbinary community. I began my career in Houston, where I practiced for nearly five years. Even in a pretty progressive city like Houston, you could sense things in Texas were beginning to sour pretty quickly. Call it divine timing, but I happened to have accepted an in-house role in New York about a year ago that pulled me away from the immediate danger in Texas.
I’ve gotten the opportunity to speak to families of trans children – children who just want to be who they are and parents who love them but don’t know how to protect them from legislation that harms them – and answer questions about what it’s like to grow older as a trans person. I think a lot of us focus so much on these ages or milestones that are right in front of us – turn 18, come out to friends and family, turn 20, maybe find a partner, turn 21 – that we forget to plan beyond our immediate goals. I certainly didn’t imagine life past 23 or so – not in a morbid way, but I spent so much time trying to survive that I didn’t consider what age 30 would look like. It’s a small way of helping – telling younger people that, after you get through the most frightening parts of transitioning and shedding your old life, you get to spend the rest of your life finding the best ways to make yourself happy. But I think it matters.
[I think what the LGBTQ+ people need most right now is] unwavering solidarity among the different facets of our diverse community. There’s no scenario in which we can be divided and get through these attacks in one piece.
Hon. Jill Rose Quinn (she/her)
Cook County Circuit Court Judge
Traffic Division, Municipal Department
I am heartened that I’m in the largest county in the state and the third largest city in the country, and we’re facing these issues, and educating judges about them.
In Chicago we get accused of being in a bubble. We’ve had great government here, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to the [rest of the country]. I was horrified with what happened to [Montana] Representative [Zooey] Zephyr. It felt like the trains were going off the tracks. It’s not been that long since we were fighting against totalitarianism. To think that the stifling of communication can happen here…
Again, Chicago is an area where we do, in my opinion, have an open mind on these issues. We’re more willing to fashion remedies and decisions in such a way so as to give transgender people a right to express themselves and to get the services that are necessary. I just joined the Domestic Relations Division – I have educated other judges about what happens with parenting time when kids are transgender, or when parents are transgender.
I always feel like you can’t visualize who a transgender person is until you know them. And you can’t know them unless you permit them to be visible. But once you know them and once you’re able to see the person, rather than the aura of whatever panic or fear you create around them, you become more accepting. I am very optimistic when I think about where we’ve come from, from my childhood to now. There’s a universe between then and now. There’s some backtracking, but I think that fear can gradually be eased as long as we keep an open mind. As long as we don’t shut down legislative action, and how democracy works.
The more you include people, the more seats at the table you get…I was talking to [a trans person] a few years ago who ran for a really minor office, and she won the office. Maybe that’s not going to affect legislation, but it’s someone who’s in office who represents us.
And in the Trump years… the courts were the first line of defense. We have to look at how judges are elected, and we have to support people with open minds in those positions. That will go a long way to help.
I think [the recent wave of bills] is a backlash, I think that it’s a distraction… [and] I think one of the reasons for the backlash is that people are getting confident. You can casually say, this is my wife, these are my children… And maybe [people] thought things were moving too fast. I, for instance, knew I was transgender at the age of four. When I told people at the age of 46, they had ten minutes to get used to it. I had been getting used to it for years.
We need to give people a little bit of slack. Not to say that we should yield, but we need to give some people a little bit of leeway in our lives. There’s a certain knee jerk reaction sometimes. [But] if people are acting in good faith, then everything else is easy… The key is to be visible and to be confident and to let people know that we exist – that we eat, we have mortgages, we pay the same high gas prices that everybody else does.
Ryan Rasdall (he/him)
My name is Ryan Rasdall, I am an attorney at Mintz [working] in the healthcare group. I graduated from Northeastern University at the height of the pandemic in 2020. Law school was chaos, and then there was the pandemic. Now I’m trying to catch up on life.
[I’ve been] genuinely inspired by Dru [Levasseur, the Bar’s Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] and all the other attorneys [who have come before me]. I never saw myself in that role [of an attorney] because it had never been reflected back to me. It was a mix of Dru and others telling me I could do it.
I actually [just] did a training… for health care providers across the country about where the laws stand, what the impact is. [It was] geared toward the providers – yes, these laws are harming trans people, but they’re also criminalizing providers. Leading up to that was really heavy – I had to read up on the bills.
Laws are a reflection of what we value in our society, and it continues to feel like trans people aren’t valued… I [also] walk through the world as a black person, and I don’t feel valued that way either. If you don’t feel valued, it’s hard to bring your full self to work.
I feel very privileged. I live in Massachusetts. I live in a liberal state and work for a supportive law firm, I have a supportive family. But I follow a lot of social justice news, and it’s exhausting. It’s all targeting health care that’s life saving. It’s draining.
In the black queer community, there’s often so much of a struggle with mental health. I feel like I have to be “on” and represent the community wherever I am. It’s heavy in that sense.
We need non-LGBTQ people, cis people, straight people. We need to see the support, whether it’s openly appreciating and loving us, speaking out, [or] challenging not just the bills but any hateful rhetoric. The bills allow for the hateful rhetoric and misinformation to continue.
Members who are not in our community, it’s more powerful when they are the ones who can put up a shield when our shields are worn.
I think people [need to] understand the attacks on trans people a) aren’t new and b) are intertwined with other movements. Bodily autonomy is for everyone. Roe falling really impacted abortion rights, racial justice issues, these are not separate issues.
Rebekah Scherr (they/she)
Associate, Paul Weiss
Board Member At-Large, National LGBTQ+ Bar Association
When my identity is respected, that’s a euphoric feeling. It doesn’t hurt my soul to be misgendered, it happens all the time because of how I present. But when I’m acknowledged, when I feel seen, that’s euphoric. We should allow people to be who they are, not just respond to trauma. We need to be celebrating and promoting our lives as happy, functional, and beautiful. It’s not just all about “we’re all about to die and that’s why you should care.”
As adult queer folks who have gone through significant trauma, we need to be careful to not pass that along to the next generation if we can avoid it. They need to know history, but our lived reality shouldn’t be their future expectation. Our kids are growing up hopefully not knowing the same trauma. We should be raising them with the expectation that they can be whoever they are and they will be safer than we were because of what we did and what we’re doing right now.
If we can empower allies and our own community with a little bit more knowledge – a bit more focus on how to combat this discriminatory rhetoric and legislation and give them a hook, the talking points, the confidence that they are allowed to talk about something that they don’t directly experience – I think that would help us create a similar momentum for trans* rights and respect for gender non-conformity that we had with gay marriage.
The Trans in BigLaw Group (the Bar’s monthly mentoring group of transgender and nonbinary attorneys in large law firms) is incredible. There’s no way to explain it. I’ve identified as nonbinary since before I went into the legal field. There was no space for it back then. It was easier to let firms and colleagues call me a lesbian, but I did not identify with that term. When I went to Paul Weiss, I was the only nonbinary person I knew in the law. Over the years I’ve met others, including my friend and colleague Alexia, who later came out as trans* and nonbinary, and is now a partner at Paul Weiss. Having them in my life is the greatest gift, as a co-inhabitant, friend, and mentor in this profession and the world, in a nonbinary identity.
Now I also have the Trans in BigLaw Group, which started as 5 people and just grew and grew. Every month a new person joins our meetings, and just recently a new Big Law partner joined. Every time I’m in this Zoom meeting I am thankful to be alive in today’s world.
I never thought I would see this. I never thought there would be a space for us; being able to find community across firms in this space of being nonbinary and/or trans in big law. Big Law is already such an exclusive club within the legal profession. I never dreamed I would be able to talk about business generation, client management, and managing up and down, in the same conversation where we’re talking about clothes, bathrooms, pronouns, and coding – how you have to adjust based on who you’re with and where you are. It’s astronomical what Dru [Levasseur, The Bar’s Director of DEI] has done. I never expected there to be a way to connect not just with other Big Law lawyers but with specifically queer and trans people who are working to find their way, their path to success, however they define it. Every time I log into the monthly Zoom, it feels like the first time I walked in the door at Lavender Law as a 1L and went “oh wow, there are others like me?!”
Whether it’s about being a sexuality minority, a gender minority, or a lawyer, you know that the people in this group have all of those lenses of intersectionality on as well. People who are similarly situated to you – as opposed to someone who has various types of privileges, who might not be thinking about all the specific risks – can advise you in a way that is more holistically safe and better suited for you.
Jamie Zug (he/him)
Associate, McCarter & English
I joined the Bar in 2021, so not that long ago. I’m a tax attorney, I work for McCarter & English, and before that I worked for the State of New Jersey as a Deputy Attorney General… This year I’m going to have the opportunity to speak on a panel [at Lavender Law] so I’m excited about that. I was one of the 40 Under 40 winners this year.
I provide direct pro bono representation to trans and nonbinary name change applicants through my firm’s transgender name change project. My colleague Natalie Watson set that up before I came to McCarter. It was great to [arrive and] find that already in place. I do a lot of volunteering with various LGBTQ+ organizations in New Jersey, like Garden State Equality and a beautiful little education policy organization called Make it Better for Youth. And Trans Affirming Alliance, which is another local New Jersey-based organization. At those organizations I volunteer to jump way in and share my thoughts on things as they arise, because we all know that things are happening really rapidly in the space right now. I consider myself to be on deck to assist those organizations in the good work that they’re doing in response to all of the attacks that are happening.
I’m scared, I’m exhausted. And that’s what I hear from other people in the community. We’re in New Jersey, and a lot of the people I speak to who are trans and nonbinary are also in New Jersey. The state has excellent protections for trans and nonbinary people at the state level. Not so much at the local level, at least not consistently.
We are at the height of trans protections [in this state], really, but we’re all worn out, we’re tired, we’re scared. We’re afraid because we know that what we have in New Jersey is so fragile. It doesn’t necessarily translate, like I said, from the state level down to the local level, and it could all be gone in two legislative cycles. Or it could all be gone if we end up with a federal administration that wants to take it away from us. A lot of us are spending a lot of time [doing what] we can to help the situation nationally. We do it because we care. We love trans and nonbinary people, we want them to have the health care they need, we want them to participate in public life.
It’s really a matter of survival. They’re trying to get rid of us. They’re not even trying to hide it anymore.
[I think what people need most is] answers to practical questions. Individuals need to know how they’re going to get the care that they need. Providers have a lot of questions too. A lot of what’s needed right now is very practical, and it’s always evolving because the landscape that individuals and providers are navigating is constantly evolving.
There are other needs too – emotional needs like love and support and safety. But there are so many imminent practical needs [and] we have to put out those fires first.
I do think that the intentionality that the Bar has had around developing a relationship with the National Trans Bar Association, and making space for [Trans Law Institute] at Lavender Law – the work that the Bar has been doing for so many years around that – pays off now. We’re connected in a way that we wouldn’t be otherwise. I think it’s because of all the years of work that the Bar has done in prioritizing making a space for trans and nonbinary attorneys to connect with one another and to connect with the broader queer legal community. That pays off now because we’re not starting from scratch when it comes to coming together to address these things. We’re building on something that was already established.
Carrington "Rusty" Mead (he/him)
Attorney, Family Law Institute Member
It really irritates me when we have [some] local and statewide organizations that… are not being responsible for the messaging that they provide to the people that they serve. Instead of telling people how to take care of themselves, [are] foment[ing] fear in the target population instead of talking about the reality of it. We have organizations that are issuing travel bans for LGBTQ people who want to come to the state. That’s harmful. [It’s more helpful to say], “I get that this sounds really bad, but here are your rights and here’s what they mean.”
As a Bar, we’re doing a pretty good job. We [provide resources] and say, here’s where you can go. NCLR does a great job. They put handbooks out, not just for attorneys, but for [all] people. The FLI (Family Law Institute) is here with you. If you need proactive help, here’s where it is. These are your rights, here’s how you do it, talk to an attorney. But a lot of people don’t know that.
The first three or four years I went to [Lavender Law as part of] the FLI, one conference would help me grow immensely. I got a few years worth of growth in my proficiency and my ability to serve LGBTQ clients in the first year. The second year, the same. The third year, even more. And then people respected my opinion and my knowledge.
I’m working full time as the first trans property lawyer at a major firm, and I help LGBT families in my spare time because I’m tired of these people. Just because you grew up in a different time does not give you license to be an idiot.
It was getting dangerous for me in my other neighborhood… I started to feel a sense of a lack of safety. The lady who lived next door had been there long enough that she knew about my transition, and she started telling new neighbors that I was trans.
I’ve been assaulted for being trans. I was on a vacation for my birthday [in a small town]… I got treated like [hell]… and then I got pushed and shoved. They called the sheriff on me, trying to get me arrested as I was leaving. And they made a big deal about me being trans because they assumed the police force wasn’t going to be well educated on those matters and would arrest me for being trans. [Fortunately], it didn’t work.
[There are] everyday citizens operating in an environment without knowing their rights, and they don’t know they have them. And they think people have the right to victimize them, which perpetuates that behavior… teach the target population how to defend themselves. Tell them how to empower themselves.. let them know they can do something about it.
We lawyers are responsible for being the sane people in the room. And if we’re running around getting… emotional about someone else’s stupidity, we’re in no position to protect the people we aim to serve and we have no business calling ourselves lawyers for the cause. It’s ok to say, give me a minute to process this and I’ll get back to you.
When you inform people and tell them how checks and balances work, they feel a lot safer… [People] fear things they don’t know about… They’re looking to us [to help explain it]. [People] are passing laws. High school civics class is not going to be enough to help you understand that. If you can show people how ridiculous it is, it’s obvious that [the ones behind those laws] are just trying to foment animus.
My dad was in the military, my mom was a civil servant. There were no auspicious beginnings. I’ve worked just as hard as anyone to get where I am. And I’ve served people who have suffered just as much as I have, and sometimes more so. I don’t want other people to go through that. And it’s my compassion that drives the bus.