Queerness in Law School
This article has been written by Sarthak Virdi (Batch of 2026). It is the first piece of our 'Pride Month' series. The cover picture was taken by the author at Namma Pride, 2021.
Law school can feel like waking up to blinding light, & then ten dozen people trying to make their way to a Zoom meeting on time. Or running through campus early in the morning. The point being, Law School means you’re continuously trying to catch your breath; continuously running from one thing into another. But in the blinding charm of a life as fast-paced as this, we forget to talk about queerness and what it means to be queer in spaces like these.
Being queer at Law School can mean a thousand things. In the beginning, it can mean the skin-biting confusion, the indecisiveness around coming-out. As if you’re bound to announce your presence to the world, as if you’re perpetually tied to offering explanation.
But more importantly, being queer in NLS can mean trying to get comfortable with your newfound liberty, the newness of freedom and the absolute joy of it. Coming from small towns/ bad towns, places that offered zilch safety and then somehow trying to ground your feet in this place that’s known for housing legacy. Feeling your insignificance/smallness and learning to believe in the possibility of a no-border, post-horizon world – the liberating potential of belief is what NLS can offer to queer people.
But sadly, that’s the thing about NLS, it wants you to take down your walls, be out there & imagine a world you’d want. But it takes your hand and leaves you midway. Elsewhere, it has been said ‘finding joy is the most radical thing you can do as a queer person’. What is often forgotten is being queer is being engaged in protest 24X7. The world would rather have you demonized, eliminated. But you somehow landed here, a place that is a mammoth when it comes to legal excellence. There’ll be a parade sometime & your friends will celebrate you. Tell you queerness is gorgeous. Absolute sparkle. But then boom & you’re back in the real world, in a class where you have to overlook that comment [the regular queerphobia behind a façade of wokeness]. Let the man speak, because men don’t take it well when they’re told to shut up. NLS offers the world to queer people, but we forget what the world is. Queerphobic at best, unabashedly violent at worst. NLS would have you believe in the infinite, in the non-existence of the glass ceiling, have you believe joy is no radical act. It’s destiny.
But this is a fragile belief. Being queer means being constantly engaged in the search for and the building of safe spaces. An exhausting project of running. NLS would have you stop, tell you you’re safe, you can stop. But this is until the bubble bursts. Until you go back to the real world, where queerness is dinner table jokes, a hush-hush topic, a coming out that ended in abandonment, a license to be bullied, a free pass for them to doubt and scrutinize, a persistent effort by them to push you into self-doubt. NLS would have you believe that your queerness is not what can restrict you, hurt you; but the real world is what it is – closets and violence.
To put it simply and without giving a free pass to the lack of strong institutional support for queer people on campus; what NLS offers is a space for self-expression and a lesson in belief; a space to be without the weight of fear – however briefly. This is to say that the most beautiful and the most devastating thing about NLS is the heartbreaking brevity of the safety it offers.