Then to Now - A look at my experience and why I support organizations that support us
Van Wey, Presby & Williams, PLLC, is proud to support LezTalk Dallas. Events like this, bringing together women from the LGBTQ+ community, shows that we live in a society that is changing. I could talk about how things have changed for me professionally from being absolutely terrified that anyone would find out about me to now feeling mostly “safe” to be who I am. I have always had an “outsider” mentality, fighting for what I believed to be right, but I never let my own personal pain get in the way of doing my job. If anything, it has made me stronger. I fight for the little guy, because I am one.
At one point, I was hiding myself. I was engaged to be married, I was the first woman, and youngest person, that had ever been appointed Special District Judge in Lawton, Oklahoma, and I had tried nearly 100 jury trials. Then I met a girl, whoopsie, and moved to Dallas. I had to start back at the bottom. I worked for an attorney who had never tried a case in his life, who would call me from the golf course on Friday afternoons to make sure I was in the office, and I lived in constant fear of being found out.
Over the years, a few things happened that slowly made me realize living my life as myself, even with the backlash, was more important than hiding while other people got hurt. I tried a case for an openly gay plaintiff. During voir dire (examination of a jury), I asked the jury about their views of homosexuality and how it might impact their decisions. I had to sit there and smile politely as people told me to my face and my client’s face that its wrong and he was going to hell. We had to strike many, many jurors for cause because they said the fact that my client was gay would prevent them from being fair. #hurtful.
Another case I remember, I was representing a lesbian. She was one of 9 people who were seriously injured by a cocaine addicted spine surgeon (before Dr. Duntsch) and when I presented her for deposition, the defense lawyers tried to bully and embarrass her until I, of course, stood up for my client. The attorneys had been very polite to all of the other plaintiffs so it was obvious to me that they felt comfortable beating up on her because of her orientation.
I think, especially for those of us who are older, we wear a mantle of shame, knowing there are certain people out there who will not like us, who will judge and condemn us. One attorney went so far as to sue me, then attempt to extort money from me because he thought I would pay to keep my personal life from coming out in court. I filed a motion and told the judge what was going on. The judge, thankfully, didn’t allow it.
Now, I am the happiest and luckiest person around. I am very happily married and have two almost perfect and wonderful sons. I have my own firm and I get to do a job I love. And I get to fight for what I believe in, fighting for the little guy, protecting patients from dangerous doctors and advocating for them when something goes wrong. But mine is one of many inspiring stories that will come together to empower women at the Lez Talk Dallas Conference. We can’t wait to see you there.