Gay Lawyer Embraces His Identity In The Workplace And Thrives.

by Patrick Opdyke

I’m Patrick Opdyke and I’m from New York, New York.

I went to college at Georgetown in Washington, DC. So at the time that I joined the rugby team, I was out but I wasn’t necessarily the most comfortable with sharing it publicly, especially with strangers or people I had just met. So it was something that was not necessarily a secret, but it was still sort of closely guarded. I didn’t lead with it when I joined the rugby team, but it soon came out because I had no reason to necessarily hide it from these guys as I got to know them more. They were celebratory, in fact, of the fact that I was the gay guy on the team. And to the fact that – to the point where they are still some of my good friends these days. So from that point on, I felt a lot more comfortable being myself in public settings.

So shortly after college, I started working for Merrill Lynch in Washington, DC and I had a mentor there who was in charge of a lot of Bank of America’s LGBTQ outreach. I got invited to attend a Lambda Legal event. And Lambda Legal is an organization that does LGBTQ and HIV legal advocacy. I hadn’t really had many opportunities to interact with LGBTQ professionals. I had come out in college about the year before, but I still hadn’t really gotten headfirst into the community yet. This also happened to be around the time that I knew that I was probably gonna go back to go to law school and I decided to go to this event and meet a lot of the gay lawyers who were attending this event.

Met one gentleman in particular by the name of Tom Lane, who works for a firm called Winston & Strawn in New York. When I went to law school, I moved to Las Vegas, which is where my parents were living at the time. I stayed in touch with Tom, constantly reaching out to him just to touch base and, you know, say happy holidays or whatever else it was. I essentially was asking him to hire me and he kept postponing it, saying usually the firm doesn’t hire first year law students, which is typically the practice for large law firms.

As it happened, another firm – basically some attorneys from this other firm ended up joining Winston & Strawn. In December of my first year, I got an email from Tom saying, “We’ve decided to expand our summer class because we have these new attorneys, so send me your resume.” I sent him my resume on my birthday of all days. They sent me an email saying, “We’re gonna fly you out for an interview.”

So I actually flew out to Winston – to interview with Winston in New York on Valentine’s Day weekend of that year. I did the interview. I met with a couple of the gay attorneys at Winston. I was so impressed by the firm and its commitment to LGBT causes. So I was immediately impressed by this firm and wanted to work there. And then the waiting came.

So I went back to Las Vegas and was in class waiting and starting to make myself crazy waiting for a decision. And it probably was about a month before I got an answer. And Tom Lane had sent me a text message basically the effect of, like, “I’ve got it in committee right now. Sit tight.” I think I got it the next day and as a result, I was allowed to joined the firm in New York.

I had some family members that were a bit concerned about me self-identifying or doing LGBTQ networking just because they were afraid that it might either pigeon-hole me or put a target on my back and give somebody a reason to discriminate against me. Ultimately, I decided to still embrace it, both have it on my resume and to continue with LGBTQ networking. And thankfully, all worked out for me – I was able to join Winston & Strawn both as a summer and then full-time and this is where I work now.

Living in New York is pretty damn fantastic. I mean, it’s so welcoming, accepting to the LGBT community. You know, I have friends that live in Hell’s Kitchen, which is one of the major LGBT neighborhoods within the city. So I go there a lot and it’s fun to always see gay bars and pride flags and just everything is being not only accepted but celebrated.

Last year, I had the opportunity for the first time to not just observe the pride parade but actually to march and participate in it and it was a pretty cathartic experience. It was just utterly fantastic.

Thinking back on who I was before I came out and those early months after coming out, compared to who I am now and and how comfortable I am to the point where I was marching in the gay pride parade last year – I’m involved in a lot of the gay, the pride events within our firm – I almost probably wouldn’t recognize myself back then. It is staggering to think about just how much I have changed over those years. And I’d say in large part it was thanks to supportive friends, you know, just the the snowball effect, essentially, of confidence, finding friends that not only accepted me but celebrated me, finding work opportunities that, again, not only accepted me but celebrated me, and finding just support wherever I could, whether it was with my family my friends, my LGBT community, within the firm, – anywhere I possibly could.

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