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My Pride Story
Washington, DC associate Erin McNamee shares her Pride story

Erin McNamee is an associate in our Washington, DC office and co-chair of White & Case's LGBTQ+ Spectrum network in the US. To help us celebrate global Pride month, she shares what Pride means to her and how she will be celebrating virtually this year.

What does it mean to be part of the LGBTQ+ community?
I feel like I've always had an internally complicated relationship with the LGBTQ+ community. As a bisexual woman, I have certainly felt erased at times and like I didn't belong. However, as I have gotten older, I've been able to be more honest with people and am more capable of owning my space within the LGBTQ+ community.

As a result of my growth, I have had an overwhelmingly positive experience. I have been able to create more honest and meaningful connections with other members of the LGBTQ+ community and have felt supported like never before.

What does it mean to be your whole, authentic self at work?
I was never not out at work; I just felt like my orientation didn't really come up. I was honest and open with anyone who asked me, but I wasn't broadcasting my complete self. That changed after I had a conversation at a networking event for lesbian and bisexual women where the group mentioned that it was so hard to find mentors, so hard to find other professional women who understood their experience.

It struck me that if another attorney in my office was looking for someone to come to, they wouldn't know they could come to me. It was then that I stepped up. I attended new associate and summer events as a Spectrum representative. I hung my rainbow ampersand. I spoke openly about my experiences. Being my whole self at work and trusting others to support me has been freeing.

What does the Firm do to foster a stronger sense of belonging for all?
One small thing we've done (with enormous impact) has been distributing rainbow ampersand window decals, which indicate that someone is a member of our affinity group, or an ally. Seeing all of these visual cues that I am entirely welcome and surrounded by support has been wonderful.

How does your experience as an LGBTQ+ person positively impact your work and your career?
I have been able to make the most amazing connections and have had amazing mentors. When I was a first-year, I had a great Firm-assigned LGBTQ+ associate mentor who really helped me find my feet. Then through the Spectrum network, I found another mid-level mentor who helped me find work and who taught me what it meant to be an associate at White & Case. I am reasonably sure that without these mentors, I wouldn't have made it past my first three years.

More recently, I have been able to make amazing personal and professional connections through LGBTQ+ events like Lavender Law and the LGBTQ+ Network. Sharing my experiences and true self to these other brilliant and accomplished people has helped me create strong relationships built on wanting to champion and support each other. I strongly believe that these relationships with mentors and friends will positively impact my career.

Why is being part of Spectrum important to you?
I love being part of Spectrum (especially now as co-chair) because it has given me support and community at work. I appreciate that it gives me a place to help make positive changes not only for my LGBTQ+ colleagues, but to help make the Firm as a whole a more equal and welcoming place.

What's your advice for the next generation of LGBTQ+ lawyers?
Never feel that your orientation is a side part of you, or that isn't relevant for your work. Bring your whole beautiful self to us. Your honesty and authenticity make you a better lawyer. You make deeper connections with clients and other attorneys when you are yourself and not some partial version of you.

How are you planning on celebrating Pride virtually this year?
I am looking for service opportunities. I think many in our community are hurting, and I'm hoping to find ways to help. I'm also excited to take part in the virtual events that the Firm and Spectrum Network have planned. I'm absolutely going to miss the parade, but will probably don my best rainbow attire and some face paint at home.