How and Why I Decided to Come Out as Pansexual, Polyamorous, and Kinky on my Law School Applications

This article, The Pansexual, Polyamorous, BDSM Law School Application, was originally posted here. A much more personal story given as a presentation at KinkForAll Providence follows.

 

Her comes the intro:


 

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.

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.

How and Why I Came Out as Pan/Poly/Kinky on my Law School Applications – KinkForAll Providence. Transcription below.

Hi guys, I’m Marty. This is How and Why I Decided to Come Out as Pansexual, Polyamorous, and Kinky on my Law School Applications. That is, I came out to all of them. I applied to 13 schools, I sent them all a personal statement that said that. Originally I was hoping this talk would be a celebratory, yay I got into a bunch of school, and they are not discriminating against me, but (a) I haven’t heard back from most of the schools I applied to and (b) as I was writing it, it became much more clear it is a coming out story more than anything else.

I’ll give you some background on myself first. I’m Martin Quinones. I was Brown class of 2008. I’ve been doing sexuality stuff for a really long time. In high school I helped start a date rape awareness theater group that I was a part of. In college I helped found and helped run for 3 years the male sexuality workshop, which I think is still happening. I wrote a sex advice column for 2 and a half years I currently work at Planned Parenthood Boston, I’ve been volunteering for Men Against Sexism in Boston, so sexuality is really the number one thing in my life. That’s been true for a long time. I was a linguistics major at Brown, but it became very clear to me that there was no career that came out of linguistics that I really wanted to do. At the same time I’d been toying with law school for a while, and thought who needs lawyers more the gay people, trans people, and kinky people?

I was working for two years before I sent in my applications, and as I was working on the LSATs and deciding where I was going to apply I decided I was just going to put all my eggs in one basket and just say balls-to-the-walls this is who I am and this is why I want to go to law school.

I’m applying to BU, Columbia, NYU, USC, UCLA, Berkeley, Northwestern, UVA, Penn, Minnesota, Duke, and Michigan.

I tried many times to write this personal statement where I was like this is my shit; this what I do. It took a lot of drafts, and a lot of fragments to pull it together, and I eventually wrote it. After I wrote it my parents were like hey, can we read your personal statement? My parents have known for a long time that I was interested in sexuality stuff, but my parents are pretty private people. But I was like hell yeah you can read my personal statement.

I’ll read it now; this is what my parents read:

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 me 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.

Short and sweet and to the point; not fucking around. I recognize it’s not perfect. There are things I might change, even in the past three months since I wrote it. I think it gets the point across, and I think most of it is awesome.

So I sent this to my parents. Two days went by, and I didn’t get much response. My mom responded with an email which said “That’s really powerful, I think that’s a well-written easy, once I looked up what and found out those things mean, it’s not huge surprise, but you know I love you.”

I talked to my dad on the phone about it later. Well, I talked to my mom first, she reiterated over the phone, it’s really powerful, well-written, I love you. I talked to my dad, who said: “It’s a really powerful essay, it’s really well-written, but for an application I thinks it’s just awful.” Those were exact words he said “it’s just awful.” I think you didn’t talk enough about why you wanted to go to law school, you didn’t put it early enough, etc.. I think it was honest, but he wanted to talk about the content but didn’t.

A couple of weeks later, I went back, I went home, to Gloucester to vote. My dad had suggested I come home and I vote, and he’d drive me to work the next day. As we were in the car he said “I think there were things that went unsaid after I read your essay and responded to it, so I’d like it if the two of us could go out and have dinner and talk it.” So, I said, “yeah sure.” I was really nervous going into it.

Everything takes a left-hand turn here.

I assumed it was going to be all about me, and we were going to talk about me the whole time.

We went out to dinner and we started talking, and he said, you know, Marty, when I was your age, when I was little bit older, I was 24 and three months, my dad died. He was 47 and it did not occurred to me until significantly after his death that we, the two of us, had never had a conversation as two adults. We had never talked to each other as peers. I’m realizing that I’m 62. I’m not in bad health or that old, but I’m not that young either, and you’re not 13, and I don’t want to talk to you like you’re 13 years old. I don’t want to die without the two of us ever interacting as two adults.

With that said, as you know your mother got breast cancer in 2006 and we sort of deal with all that. You know she had surgery, and everything was fine, but then we went to Paris for a vacation, and she had to have another surgery in Paris, it ruined the whole vacation, it was terrible. Everything sort of went South; it was really though for both of us. During this a lot of stuff fell off the table and I started to really lose track of our responsibility while stuff happened.

So, skip to early 2008, your mom has been through chemo at this point, it’s early 2008, and I’m doing our 2007 taxes, and I come to find out that I owe $15,000 to the government that I do not have – my dad is self-employed, so these are normal business taxes. You mother loses it. She loses as much faith in me as if he had started drinking again – he has been in AA for over 20 years, and it was hugely damaging to our relationship. It was supper tough, it still is supper tough. So we spent a lot of time dealing with that.

Skip to early 2009, I’m doing our 2008 taxes, and I come to find owe another $15,000 of money I don’t have, we don’t have this money. It’s in our 401k, but that is supposed to be money we are supposed to live off of for the rest of our lives – we don’t have $30,000 to pay this. We are still kind of working through it, you mother has said she lost a lot of trust in me, and doesn’t have a timeframe for when it can come back. Again, I’m not a young guy, there is a distinct possibility that one of us could die before we ever get back on track. But, we’re not going to break up, we’ve been together for 40 years, our understanding is that we have is we have to find a way to work with this, because we are not going to split. Our relationship is going to continue, we just need to figure out a way to work with this. We are working though it.

So, this is me: [bomb noises].

I’ve had two beers at this point and I’m barely holding it together, I’m on the verge of tears, this is three years of family drama that I had not really any idea that was happening. My parents are pretty private people; they don’t really talk about this kind of stuff very much. He says don’t think I’m sharing this as sideways way to pry into your life, don’t think I’m trying to get you to open up. I’m like dad, this is exactly the opposite, there is all stuff I want to share with you, but I’m coming to find that there is all this stuff that you haven’t been sharing with me. I don’t know how to navigate this, I don’t know where to go.

In my head I’m thinking Dad, there is all this stuff I want to tell you about myself and my body, and the people I love, and all this stuff, but it turns out that there are other things out there that are really real.

So the end of the story is my Dad was like: I love you, I’m proud of you. Your essay was ballsy, I wouldn’t have written it, I’m not sure you should have written it that way, but I love you, and I want tonight to be a turning point, I want to start treating you like an adult. I want you to interact with me as if we are both adults.

So, I go home and I freak out over the phone to my girlfriend, I’m in my room panicking because all of this stuff is suddenly happening. My girlfriend really reasonably says it’s hard to talk to you parents about relationships, money, and sex – big surprise. So, that is still in the works, but I think it was kind of a turning point.

Getting back on track, a couple of weeks later I get a letter in the main from George Washington, I have it in my hand, and I think this is how this is how I’ll feel if this is an acceptance and this is how I’m going to feel if this is a rejection. I get that all set in my head, open it, and they waitlisted me. It’s frustrating, because, I don’t want to go to GW, don’t want to go there, but it’s the lowest ranked school I applied to, and it’s also the one I wanted to go to the least, so getting waitlisted there it is like I’m not going to get in anywhere. My girlfriend, again, very reasonably said maybe they just knew you didn’t want to go there; maybe they could tell.

That was on a Friday afternoon, so I spent the whole weekend being really morose all fatalistic about it. Then, on Monday I was accepted to UC Berkeley, which is a really highly regarded school that I would love to go to. I haven’t made a final decision yet, because there are other places I’m waiting to hear from, but at this point I could get rejected everywhere else, and be totally happy. San Francisco area university accepting of sexual diversity – surprise, surprise.

I’ve heard from three schools, I got waitlisted at GW I got accepted at Berkley, and then this Thursday, my girlfriend is applying for PhD programs right now, she is visiting Northwestern, and while she was at Northwestern, interviewing, on Thursday I got a rejection letter from Northwestern. And it was on my birthday, so Northwestern stole my girlfriend and rejected me on my birthday.

That’s all I know at this point. There are ten other schools I’m waiting on. I wouldn’t be surprised if it came down to the ideological, as you might expect. If say Duke, said yeah no thanks, but other schools might be more interested.

That’s my story so far.

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