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

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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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32 Comments

Not Amused

IF it happened then name and shame.

And if academics could stop pretending questionnaires are evidence then that would also be super.

Anonymous

Because naming and shaming them is really going to help the careers of the easily identifiable victims.

Anonymous

Name and shame? Good luck fighting that defamation suit afterwards.

Anonymous

Section 2 – Defamation Act 2013.

Anonymous

In what sense is a questionnaire not evidence? Surveys and questionnaires are used to get information about large populations all the time. How on earth else can we gather that kind of data? Strange remark.

Anonymous

Heterosexual homophobic barristers are sooo gay

Anonymous

The bar is one of the most left-wing professions out there. Homosexuals/LGBTs generally are everywhere. Half the bar is gay. Unsurprisingly since homosexuality is linked to increased intelligence (there are hundreds of studies showing this, e.g. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22293319
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/659850).
Not only that, barristers mostly work alone; even when working on other matters either leading or being led, there is relatively minimal contact with one another, 99% of the work is done independently, correspondence is mostly done through email and phone. Even if you had a homophobic barrister, he or she would be isolated from everyone else anyway, it’s not an office environment.
It’s a huge non-issue/non story basically.

Anonymous

It’s not a non-issue at all. I was at an elite London chambers and left because it was a hostile and homophobic environment. Members and clerks there regularly speculated about the (homo)sexuality of other members of chambers and their attitude to sexuality was that of an average 14 year old public schoolboy. There were many people there who were homosexual but who kept it covered because the environment was so hostile and hypocritical.

Anonymous

I disagree that this is a non-issue. I’ve heard casually homophobic (as well as sexist and racist) remarks bandied about in my chambers. It’s always been relatively “mild” versions of these things (things that on their own I would not consider reportable to the BSB), but it’s the repetition and the general feeling that these kind of remarks/attitudes are ok that gets you down. I have challenged remarks when I have heard them, but suspect it has just made people roll their eyes and watch what they say around me rather than actually re-thinking their attitudes. However, even in my antediluvian set, a sense is arising that chambers needs to be modern in its attitudes and outlook – if only for commercial reasons. You need a few progressive members to stick their heads above the parapet and make the case for this, which is thankfully what is happening in my set. Depending on the internal politics of a set this might be difficult though.

Anonymous

It’s telling you have absolutely nothing of worth to report to the BSB by your own admission and have no comments of interest to actually even report anonymously on an internet site. But you adamantly assert, however mild, these comments are racist, sexist and homophobic, and imply that if it happens at your set, it probably is quite widespread. All I see is a delicate little flower who would have issues wherever he worked. Prove me wrong and report back with some substance re the actual comments you’ve heard.

Anonymous

At my former set, I have heard homosexual people referred to as “lezzers”, “fudge packers”, “arse bandits”, “queens”, “fairies”, “friend of Liza”, “friend of Elton”, “poofs”, “gays”, “fags”, “faggots”. Gay marriage was referred to as an “abomination”, members talked about “not tolerating the gays”, “being tolerant of gays”. A member was directly questioned on their sexuality in front of other members.

Anonymous

So you got triggered by a micro aggression?

Anonymous

Well, clearly I am more sensitive to this kind of language than certain others at the bar. Not being a member of the alt-right, I couldn’t care less whether you think that makes me a snowflake, delicate, triggered or anything else. But I do think that the tide is turning, and openly exhibiting attitudes like this is becoming less and less acceptable. When our clients are celebrating LBGT month it’s just harder for us to justify describing stuff as “gay” meaning lame or to ponder out loud which of a gay couple is “the wife.” It’s a slower process at the bar because it’s a profession that is quite homogenous in its make-up, is (at least in some corners) in awe of tradition and crucially made up of self-employed individuals who don’t face regular performance reviews, but I do think that progress is being made.

Anonymous

“openly exhibiting attitudes like this”

Like what? Either anons at 11:51 or 12:49? Or the other members of chambers who you imply regard you as a nutbag and whose comments you allege are homophobic, racist and sexist? But not worthy of mentioning to the BSB and, when challenged re what these comments have exactly been, you have above implicitly refused to do so instead preferring another little snowflake diatribe?

Anonymous

The bar is dying in any event. In ten years it’ll be half its current size.

Slaughter and May Trainee

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

Kirkland & Ellis NQ

This is absolute bollocks. There are so many LGBT initiatives and groups at the bar. In fact, so much that “straight” applications are now the minority.

Kirkland & Ellis soon to be NQ

There are also a lot of LGBT individuals at your firm. Like the silver shoes?

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

Anonymous

The bar is one of the most diverse! Just look at top judges like Judge Rinder and Judge Judy…

Anonymous

I refuse to believe a senior barrister would say what was quoted.

I am not naive enough to disregard the possibility that some barristers may have thought such a comment but suppressed it. Such a horrible accusation is being made there. It is a difficult conundrum because the person reporting it is junior in their career and fearful that a bencher could ruin them at such an early stage.

I work in an office where nobody cares about sexuality or at least does not vocalise any views on the matter.

Anonymous

You haven’t met many barristers I assume?

Anonymous

Hundreds.

We all know what happens when one assumes….

The only good assuming in your life is when your mum assumes the position.

Anonymous

It didn’t happen. The student questioned didn’t even hear it. It was this anonymous bloke’s anonymous mate approximating wording he thinks he told him when everyone was tipsy, it’s Chinese whispers. It’s a non story.

Anonymous

Racist for using the term chinese whisper

Anonymous

You don’t get out much, do you?

Trumpenkrieg

It’s an intentional falsehood meant to cremate a narrative of oppression in a country where LGBTBBQ people are more privileged than they have been at any other time or in any other civilisation in history.

Trumpenkrieg

*create

Anonymous

how did you get the two words mixed up?

Trumpenkrieg

*procreate

Anonymous

Naming and shaming made Charlotte Stunning Cat Melon Head Proudman a minor celebrity.

Get a few old farts drunk at an office party and you could end up on Strictly these days.

Anonymous

“I don’t trust fags like you…I much prefer Marlboro”

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