Personal Stories

From The Diary Of A Queer Law Student

While we worked on socially significant issues of domestic violence and labour disputes, discussions on queer issues were notably absent or simply not considered important enough to warrant serious conversations.

I haven’t always known that law was my calling, but grappling with the integration of my identity as a queer individual within the legal field has been a constant struggle. While there are successful and openly queer lawyers, they predominantly operate at the apex court, leaving those of us at the foundational levels—such as trial and district courts—feeling somewhat adrift.

Fortunately, I’ve been blessed to find incredible queer friends in college who’ve helped me navigate the complexities of staying true to myself while pursuing a legal career. Law school and internships expose you to an all-encompassing world of legal intricacies. Delving into the legal intricacies concerning queer individuals entails navigating and dealing with the complex dynamics of various state institutions. This includes, but is not limited to the police, the judiciary (a.k.a. the courts), civil society, and the individuals who find themselves failed by these entities. It involves a nuanced examination of the legal environment in the country, which sheds light on the challenges and inadequacies of these institutions that directly impact the rights and existence of queer individuals. For me, dealing with these institutions meant a significant level of masking who I am, in presentation as well as stances and opinions. Failing to reconcile my queerness with my legal pursuits would mean compromising a significant part of who I am as well as leaving myself vulnerable to the overt and implied consequences that being “out” in the workplace brings.

In my first year in law school, I began interning under a progressive advocate at a district court in Delhi. While I was there, it became pivotal for me to explore how my queerness would be perceived in those surroundings. While we worked on socially significant issues of domestic violence and labour disputes, discussions on queer issues were notably absent or simply not considered important enough to warrant serious conversations. However, being part of a circle that embraced diversity provided a semblance of comfort about being out in an environment like that.

A friend’s comment on how only specific queer organisations address queer issues was eye-opening. Even within ostensibly progressive organisations, the indifference to queer concerns is glaring. Nevertheless, the response from senior members, acknowledging the need for inclusivity, fueled my optimism that being an openly queer lawyer was a tangible prospect.

In my second year, I embarked on a new internship with an organisation’s LGBT program, a decision driven by my uncertainties regarding a career in litigation, ultimately leading me to opt for a supportive organisational setting over my individual advocacy. There, I joined the legal aid department, where the dedicated team worked tirelessly to support queer individuals facing legal challenges. Apart from that, the team provided valuable mental health resources to help individuals cope with the emotional aftermath of these incidents. This experience not only broadened my understanding of legal assistance but also exposed me to the critical intersection of legal and mental health support within the LGBTQ+ community.

It has been an exhilarating rollercoaster ride, where my identity as a queer law student seamlessly integrates into the fabric of the organisation. At an organisation where you work mostly with queer individuals, my queerness is just one facet of who I am; it doesn’t overshadow or burden me. Working here has been a healing experience, surrounded by like-minded individuals and interacting with various members of the queer community. Of course, I acknowledge that the organisation wasn’t flawless and had its imperfections like any other workplace, such as conflicts between different departments, lack of trained human resources, misunderstandings between the staff, and more. Despite these, my identity as a queer person was always acknowledged and affirmed. Being in that familiar space, surrounded by other queer individuals, provided a sense of safety and comfort.

In contrast, even progressive organisations lack ample space for queer individuals due to their predominant composition of cis-het men and also the inherent power structures in place that prevent queer people, especially queer women, to hold positions of power.The scarcity of diverse identities in such spaces underscores the stark difference between existing as a queer law student in larger progressive organisations and the inclusive environment of queer organisations. This is not to say that all the queer organisations are fully inclusive or understand how to navigate biases stemming from casteism, elitism, or even a lack of reflection on ‘the political’ altogether.

We urgently need more spaces where queer individuals can exist without having to constantly explain their identities to those who don’t understand them. The legal field, dominated by cis-het men, demands our presence and activism. In a country where basic rights like marriage equality, civil union rights, anti-discrimination policies, and even basic dignity remain elusive, we, as queer individuals, must be the trailblazers on the ground, fighting for ourselves, as no one else will.

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Shreya Gupta, a dedicated law student at Campus Law Centre, Faculty of Law, Delhi University, is deeply passionate about the social aspects of legal practice, particularly those concerning the queer community. Drawing from her valuable experiences, Shreya has actively collaborated with community members, offering assistance in their cases and conducting informative training sessions. Beyond her legal pursuits, Shreya finds solace in the harmonies of music and enjoys leisurely picnics, balancing her commitment to justice with moments of joy and relaxation.
Shreya Gupta

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