The Sexist

Reader Beatdown: The Pansexual, Polyamorous, BDSM Law School Application


Judgers.

In this edition of Reader Beatdown, Sexist reader and sex activist Martin Quinones talks about how to come out—to law school admissions officers.

I was recently presented with the chance to come out in a way that was risky, honest, and productive. On law school applications, every school asks for a broad personal statement, using a prompt along the lines of "tell us something about yourself." I decided to dump every egg at my disposal into one basket. Since December, the essay below has been read by my parents, most of my friends, and the admissions committees at thirteen top-ranked law schools:

To come out fully, in my case, requires three separate disclosures, each as potentially confusing and alienating as the last. I share them now for reasons that are political as well as personal: I am pansexual. When I say this I mean that I seek physical and emotional partnerships with people of all genders, including men, women, and transgender individuals. I am polyamorous. By this I mean that I see monogamy as one among many stable ways in which people are capable of forming romantic and familial bonds. I mean also that I find joy in my partners’ joy, including when that joy comes through companions and lovers other than myself. Lastly, I am a member of the BDSM community. When I say this I mean that I find fulfillment in consensual relationships and sensations that are not always soft and fuzzy, but can indeed be painful and challenging. Taken together, these three facts mean that I have found love and fulfillment in a wide spectrum of relationships and with a variety of people, and that this diversity of partners figures importantly into my identity.

They mean also that I inhabit a small, overlapping sliver of three poorly understood, largely invisible, and utterly unprotected sexual minorities. I am acutely aware that to share these details about myself represents a risk both personal and professional, and in some cases legal. But one reason I have chosen to out myself is to help legitimize my identity, and the identities of those I care about. It is my great hope that taking this risk openly and often will yield benefits both for me and for all those minorities who seek public recognition.

I am an activist, but I am no partisan, no bloodthirsty separatist. Instead of engaging intolerance and divisiveness, I have invested my energy in positively increasing the visibility of diverse sexual identities and normalizing the discussion of sexuality in my immediate environment. This is why I co-founded the Male Sexuality Workshop at Brown University, and for three years took the lead role in designing its curriculum and organizing its activities, affecting more than two hundred and fifty alumni of the program. It is also why I wrote a weekly sex advice and sexuality column for Brown’s student newspaper, why I currently work at Planned Parenthood, and why I have volunteered with the Boston chapter of the National Organization for Men Against Sexism over the past year. Most importantly, it is why I am applying to law school.

The communities I hope to support are at best underserved, at worst the victims of fierce and unchallenged discrimination. How best to contribute to their advancement, whether through labor or constitutional law, family or criminal law, is not crystal clear, and I will allow exposure and passion to guide as I move further into my career. But the larger society can and will come to a better understanding of the diversity of sexuality and gender expression it contains, and in the slow crawl toward that understanding, the first and most profoundly personal step I can take is to state unabashedly who I am: to come out.

The admissions committees, as expected, responded with months of stony, bureaucratic silence. Every school processed applications on a rolling basis, with the promise to "endeavour to have all admissions decisions returned by late April." As the waiting drew on from December into January into February, existential panic replaced the more reasonable anxiety of the wait, and each day felt like a confirmation that I had made a bad decision. I was sure I had reached too far, I had been too polarizing. I would have to settle for a school that I had no interest in, and that had no resources for someone interested in gender, let alone sexual freedom. My career was poisoned, and I hadn't even found it yet.

Finally, agonizingly, the risk I took paid off, and I was accepted for admission at the UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law. To date, this is the only school I have been admitted to, a fact more reflective of how many reach schools I applied to than how my essay was received. But even if I am rejected everywhere else, a superb legal education is in my future, along with a JD from one of the most respected schools in the country, thanks in part to my choice to come out.

Photo via The Library of Congress

Comments

  1. #1

    As a young girl entering the workforce I am always hesitant about what to put into my portfolio or resume when I am showing various people. I have worked in the LGBT community for some time now, and never know how much to divulge when looking for work. Along with lots of other oddities in my resume (a sudden and drastic move to Maryland and such) that all deal with personal issues that others might take issue with.

    I came to terms a while ago that while it might make it harder to find work, that I don't necessarily want to work for a company that cannot accept me and my past.

  2. #2

    I was very out at university, but much less so at law school. That was a long time ago, but I still don't think I would be a public kinkster in my law school applications. That it worked, however, might mean that the world has moved forward more than I appreciate.

  3. #3

    Congratulations for being both open about who you are and getting into law school! The more open people are about their sexualities, the less the mainstream can stigmatize it. Best of luck in your career!

  4. #4

    Congrats on getting into Boalt!

  5. #5

    So BDSMers can get into Boalt but Native American congressional staffers can't (ie me).

    Screw you Bezer-keley. And let the new law student do it too.

  6. #6

    That. Rocks.

    Congratuations, and thank you for sharing.

  7. #7

    Martin Quninones is so hot right now.

  8. #8

    Interesting.

    I wonder what would happen to a straight guy that disclosed he was into doing hookers.

  9. #9

    From one kinky pansexual law student to another, bravo for your courage. I also checked the LGBT box on my law school application and was accepted, although I didn't out myself as a member of the BDSM community.

    Like you, I consider BDSM to be a critical part of my identity. It's not just something I do; it's a large part of who I am. It's nice to know that I'm not the only law student out there who feels this way.

  10. #10

    DirkJohanson - interesting point, although arguably different: regardless of people's feeilngs on the subject of sex work, prostitution is illegal. I imagine it wouldn't go over well.

  11. #11

    As a undercover heteroflexible law student myself, I applaud your decision to "out" yourself in such a visible and potentially disastrous venue. I have chosen to stay on the more discrete side of things mostly because I don't want to foreclose upon any future political opportunities I may have, but I also live in the very conservative Midwest where a kinky alter ego is a nail in the coffin of any burgeoning political career. I wish you much luck and success in law school and may you continue to thrive in your pansexual lifestyle.

  12. #12

    This is an interesting article. Politically, I'm a little right of center. With that being said, I'm also a gay Iraq War veteran and failed law school applicant. I applied to law schools of comparable quality. (Vanderbilt, Boston University, and Pepperdine to name a few.)

    I completely understand how hard it is to come out, but at some point we need to separate our sexual proclivities from our sexuality. Whether I was gay or straight, I would never tell me parents that I was a sucker for guys with tattoos on their chest (oh please, don't read this blog's comments Joe and Sherry!).

    Coming out is hard. But to go into a situation where you seriously think "I'm probably going to die today," again and again and again is even harder.

    That is the situation that soldiers are faced with every single day. If the courage to come out is more valuable than the courage to face death to defend ideals, I think we are in serious trouble as a culture.

    I am a veteran, and I am sensitive to this issue. I would look forward to other perspectives, just please don't be offensive.

  13. #13

    Martin, kudos, both on being accepted at Boalt and on having the great courage to be out as to who you are and live an authentic life, even moreso at moments like this when so much is at stake.

    I'm a long-time polyamory educator, blogger and advocate who identifies as bisexual and is very kink-friendly. I also work in big law in DC. Both by telling your story here and by being open about who you are in your law school apps, you are making an important contribution to raising awareness of the variety of ways one can express themselves sexually and choose the most personally appropriate form of establishing relationships.

    There are many ways we can make a difference and help those who cannot be out, a fact you've just demonstrated very well. Thanks, and again, congratulations!

  14. #14

    Chris,
    I work with a man who wound up beaten and bloody in a bathtub, and then homeless, when he came out to his parents. Recently a gay teen in Georgia was thrown out of his house because he wanted to take his boyfriend to prom. Lesbians (mostly in other countries, but I'm sure it happens here too) have to fear "corrective rapes". Whether they're gay or straight, trans gender people face the highest murder rate in the country.
    Sometimes (maybe most times, I don't know) coming out can be a cake walk. But sometimes it can be really fucking hard too. And no one on this thread, not even the original poster said anything along the lines of "the courage to come out is more valuable than the courage to face death to defend ideals"

  15. #15

    When I applied for jobs as a tenure-track English Professor, I felt I had a moral obligation to put in my job letter that I was in the National Guard, mainly because I needed to have a semester off that very first year. While I got a job that I'm very happy with, I still think I would have received more interviews and perhaps more offers if I hadn't put the Guard in my letter. So I understand, in some ways, the career-suicide panic that can accompany this kind of decision and commend you (not that you need my commendation, of course!).

    I've also come out repeatedly about my sexual identities in academic settings and I've received everything from stony silence about my kinked identity at a GLBT caucus to utter acceptance in my current field. So I also understand the sheer joy of being accepted for who you are in your chosen career field. It's like nothing else.

    Good luck and please continue to stand up for our freedom to come out, no matter what closet we're in.

  16. #16

    Wow. That's brave. Congratulations!

  17. #17

    Marty's personal statement is one of immense fortitude and incredible insight. I am honored to have met him when he recited his personal statement at KinkForAll Providence, a sexuality unconference held in his old college's classrooms at Brown University this past February. I was also honored to get the opportunity to speak to him about his application process personally when he was a guest on episode 30 of the sexuality talk netcast Kink On Tap, "Anal Sex For God".

    I sincerely applaud Marty's bravery and courage in being a visible role model for others. Such public visibility is crucial if marginalized sexuality or certain gendered communities (including women in general) are going to attain truly equal participation in the structure of society. Marty is an inspiration and he deserves nothing less than total support. I'm glad that at least one university understands that.

  18. #18

    I'm glad you got accepted and all, but trans people aren't a third gender. In the vast majority of cases we're men or we're women. Not some nebulous third category.

    Just sayin'.

  19. #19

    @Alexandra
    Thank you so much for pointing this out. There is exactly one thing I wish I could go back and change about what I sent out to the schools, and it's exactly what you said. What surprises me is that no one else has called me out on it, because the way I put that is pretty busted. I'm sorry that it appears in this version of the essay; I confess that I copied and pasted.

    Thank you again for calling me out on this. I'm generally proud of what I wrote, but even just four months later I wince a little bit looking back on that clause.

    Marty

  20. #20

    @groggette: That is an excellent point. I did not consider that coming out too many times involves physical courage as well as moral courage.

    In my comment, which admittedly was partly motivated by my failure to get into any of the schools I applied, I was trying to point out two things.

    First, I feel that military service is undervalued in our culture. As much as people like to say they respect the military, by and large, people do not respect real values and skills that are developed during service.

    Second, and I'm sure people would be willing to point out why I am wrong about this, but it seems like interest in BDSM is more of a fetish than an identity, and is inappropriate in a place like a law school application. (When I come out to people, I don't feel compelled to share if I'm more of a top or bottom.) Nobody should care what other people do in their bedroom, but it seems that people should recognize when it should be left in the bedroom.

    @groggette pointed out faults with my first post, which I appreciate, so I would love feedback on this comment. My first point in this post is based on my personal experience and my perception of it, so you probably won't change my opinion on it. My second point, however, seems like an interesting topic. Can anyone explain why interest in BDSM should be appropriate in a law school application. Or, how much an interest in BDSM influences one's identity?

    Just please be respectful in your responses.

  21. #21

    Chris, while in many ways I agree that BDSM is something more towards what many would say TMI "this is how I have sex" rather than "this is who I am", I think there's certainly aside from that argument, an argument that can be made in the law school relevance part. Simply put, BDSM play can be very legally tricky in many places--both in terms of simply doing it, but also in terms of things like "if my ex says I like to do this during our divorce proceedings, will my lawyer freak out? Will the judge give him/her custody? Will a bar I go to get raided because the cops think this is "wrong", and I end up in jail, just because of where I go to meet people? Will my name end up in the news, and my employer be embarassed?" Etc, etc. Similar to the situation many gay people have faced and in some states continue to face.

    The same with polyamory.

  22. #22

    @meara: It was my impression that the purpose of a personal statement is to explain how or why a pariticular applicant will succeed in that profession.

    I agree that the ability to argue one's point is important to the legal profession, but the author does not even do that.

    After re-reading this letter several times, I'm not clear of the point that it is trying to make. Is the author trying show that he has overcome adversity? He does not explain how he overcame it. Is the author trying to explain that this adversity has made him a stronger person? He does not explain how. He says that he has come to appreciate a wide spectrum of relationships, but he only mentions vague relationships with the GLBT community.

    @Marty: What exactly were you trying to convey in this letter?

  23. #23

    Right on, Marty. I appreciate your reply.

    Off the top of my head I would guess that the main reason others haven't mentioned it and/or noticed it is cissexual privilege. Being trans I am naturally going to pick up on things like that much more quickly, since they affect me.

  24. #24

    I'd agree with Alexandra about the cis privilege. I actually did notice that line but for the opposite reason. For me it was more like, 1)hey, he acknowledged trans people exist and can be sexual! and 2)he said "all genders" instead of both genders*! So yeah, I completely skipped over the problematic part.

    *I mean in the sense of some people not considering themselves male or female, not trans people being something other than men or women.

  25. #25

    Hey! I know a Martin Quinones from way back! I wonder if this is the same one? Hey Martin Quinones, did you attend nerd camp?

  26. #26

    @chris
    So although I do not presume to know martin's reasons for sharing this about himself in a law school application, i do know a little about school applications.
    Often admissions offices ask about diversity and multiculturalism in their application. On paper at least they say they want well rounded students from a variety of backgrounds. Students from racial minorities almost always highlight this in their applications, so why not sexual minorities. Also the law school asked him to tell them something about himself. Although I am straight, I have a very sorted past. Whenever someone asks me to tell them about myself I feel compelled to share it, because it is a huge part of who I am. I am sure people would look at me sharing a story about my parents as irrelevant, but to me it is the most relevant thing. Also in the letter, he states that his sexual identity and work with sexual minorities is why he is going to law school. The passion he has for this work oozes out. Who you are and why you are interested in law school are not only relevant to a law school application, but essential.
    @ marting: I commend your bravery, because unlike racial identity or my sorted past, having a nontraditional sexual identity is often seen as a negative. As a future teacher, I hope for the sake of our future this changes and you have taken one of the first steps.

    P.s. I am not very educated on politically correct LGBT terminology. I fully support this community, but just don't know enough about them yet. If I said anything offensive please forgive me and correct me.
    P.p.s. I do acknowledge that many racial minorities are still very discriminated against, however on most school applications (thanks in part to affirmative action) minorities are rewarded.

  27. #27

    Wow, I really admire your openness. I share one of the aspects of your sexuality (BDSM), and it never even occurred to me to mention it when I applied to law school myself recently... after reading this, I still don't think I would, as for me it's something personal that I'd rather keep private. But I think you made the right decision here: your sexuality is clearly a huge part of your identity, and to not mention it might have felt like hiding an important part of yourself. Although some would disagree, I think it is quite relevant to your application as well. So, well done on getting accepted, and you have my respect for your courage and honesty.

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