Senior barrister told BPTC student ‘I don’t trust fags like you’, shocking new LGBT+ research reveals

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By Katie King on

Homophobia appears to be worse at the bar than it is across other workplaces

New research on the experiences of LGBT+ barristers has revealed homophobia is more prevalent at the bar than it is, on average, across other professions.

The survey and interview data gives an interesting and at times uncomfortable insight into the lives of 98 male and 28 female lawyers — Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) students included.

Of the 126 survey respondents, 26.5% said they’d experienced sexuality-linked discrimination ‘sometimes’, ‘often’ or ‘frequently’. Authors UCL academic Dr Steven Vaughan and the University of Westminster’s Marc Mason note this “arguably suggests that homophobia is stronger at the bar than in the general population.” This is because research by LGBT+ charity Stonewall shows, overall, 19% of LGBT+ employees have experienced verbal bullying because of their sexual orientation in the past five years.

Though the stats are stark, starker still are the interviewee anecdotes scattered in the research. One student revealed:

One of my fellow students was at an Inns’ qualifying session and was talking to a bencher who sort of jokingly or flamboyantly said, ‘I don’t trust fags like you’. This BPTC student didn’t really know how to respond to that. It was a bencher, what are you going to do basically?

Vaughan and Mason note they were “struck” by the level of criticism directed by interviewees at the Inns. “This criticism was particularly notable at both the most senior (QCs) and most junior levels (pupils),” they say.

But there are problems in chambers, too. One respondent, a barrister, said: “Every time somebody got drunk at a [work] party or a dinner I got some bloke coming up to me asking why I was a lesbian and hadn’t I ever considered having sex with men — really quite inappropriate comments.” Another said they would have chosen a different chambers for pupillage “if I had known about [the chambers’] attitudes to homosexuality before making my decision.”

Away from research into homophobia, ‘Sexuality at the bar’ also considers the value of networks and role models in the LGBT+ barrister community. Various positives were mentioned, including: the promotion of LGBT+ issues, support for members, and visibility and awareness-raising.

However, others “pushed back against such networks”. One respondent said: “I feel that these groups have a tendency to become drinking societies rather than doing much to support LGBT+ members of the bar.”

Read ‘Sexuality at the bar’ in full here:

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