Dr Steven Vaughan launches world-first research on sexuality and the Bar
16 September 2017
Dr Steven Vaughan, Senior Lecturer at UCL Faculty of Laws, launched his world-first research on sexuality and the Bar with his co-author, Marc Mason (University of Westminster) on 25 September 2017.
The Rt.Hon. Maria Miller MP, Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, opened the launch, which was based on a 2016 survey of 126 barristers, QCs, pupils and students together with 38 associated interviews. The event attracted over 100 barristers, students, regulators, academics and members of the public.
Just over half of the survey respondents had experienced some form of discrimination at work or in their professional studies on account of their sexuality. One third had experienced some form of bullying or harassment. These data arguably suggest that homophobia is stronger at the Bar than in the general population.
The vast majority (over 80% in each case) of those surveyed were out with all or most of their family, friends, and other barristers in their chambers. However, just under half (46.8%) were out with all or most of their instructing solicitors and only a quarter (23.4%) were out with all or most of their lay clients.
Many of the interviewees were of the view that their personal and professional lives bore no connection with each other, an idea known as “bleached out professionalism” in the wider literature.
Vaughan and Mason wonder, however, whether the idea of the bleached out professional creates a canvas onto which heteronormative presumptions get painted. Here, 40% of survey participants had lied about their sexuality in a work context, and 58% had actively concealed their sexuality.
The research also suggests an increasing role for Bar-specific LGBT+ networks and the value of LGBT+ role models, both at the Bar and in the judiciary.