There are many things that make me proud to be a Jayhawk, but in honor of National Coming Out Day on October 11, I wanted to talk about why I think diversity has, and will, play an important part in my law school experience.
When I decided to come to KU Law, one of the things I was really concerned about was the general attitude toward LGBTQ people at the school. I had moved away from Kansas over 13 years ago, and I didn't really remember it being a bastion of liberal ideology. After my departure, I found the strength to come out of the closet and wasn’t especially stoked about the idea of going back in. What I encountered at KU has been the complete opposite. I found a school that not only welcomed diversity, but celebrated it.
I didn’t run through Green Hall screaming, “I’m gaaaaaaaaaay!”, but I didn’t feel like I had to hide it either. I found the culture at KU Law to be incredibly accepting, and I immediately felt comfortable just being myself. During the 1L boot camp, Dean Melanie Wilson pointed out that we are all professionals now, and there is no place for sexism, racism or homophobia in a professional environment. Within my first couple months at school, I had joined the OUTLaws & Allies organization and been invited to a diversity meet-and-greet. At the meet-and-greet, many of the diversity organizations that operate within the law school came together and reaffirmed KU Law’s pledge to diversity. It felt really empowering to know that I had the support of my classmates, the staff and the faculty at the school.
As LGBTQ media visibility continues to rise and waves of court rulings supporting marriage equality sweep the nation, you might be wondering if sexuality is even a relevant issue anymore. To that I say, “You bet it is!” Being exposed to a diverse student body can help prepare you for real life. As lawyers we never know which client is going to walk through our door or which case is going to land on our desk. We need to be able to put aside our personal prejudices and serve the needs of our clients the best we can.
In the classroom, I think diversity brings with it diverse ideas that help facilitate the learning process. Imagine sitting in a class where all of your peers mindlessly nod in agreement to everything someone says. There is no critical thinking there, no academic dialogue. I don’t know about you, but that sounds super boring to me, and so I embrace it when a spirited debate arises from two differing viewpoints. When you have a classroom full of people with different sexualities, religions, ethnicities, political beliefs, etc., you are given access to a wide berth of knowledge and experience that will help you grow personally and professionally.
I think it’s pretty awesome to have a found a place where I feel comfortable being out and being myself. It doesn’t matter if you’re coming out as gay, or as Republican, or just as a huge fan of Nickelback. KU Law has created an environment that feels safe and inclusive for everyone. Because of this, on National Coming Out Day, I didn’t find myself running back into the closet of which I had struggled so hard to come out.
— Travis Freeman is a first-year law student from Olathe, Kansas, and a KU Law Student Ambassador.