Justin Mendillo is a Connecticut College senior studying Government and American Studies. He works for Planned Parenthood and CT Equality, and is a GLAAD Campus ambassador.
I stood only 5’5 but I was still tall for my age. Weaving in and out of middle schoolers as I made my way to the library, I tried to make as little impression as possible. I was only 12 years old, but the signs of puberty already started its war on my body and mind. I was already out the doors when the school bell rang and I rushed into the public library within minutes. I slowed my pace, struggling to catch my breath as I made my way to the young adult section. I felt sweat drip from my forehead, and I looked around nervously as I let my fingers glide over the books labeled “sexual education.” I already knew that this section contained the few gay and lesbian books in the library.
Earlier that day we had a career session with some parents of my peers. I had been uninterested in all but one, a lawyer. She spoke about changing the world as she sat sternly in her pantsuit with a wide grin every time I excitedly asked a question. I was filled with new found inspiration.
Now here in the library I asked the librarian, who by this point must have assumed my sexuality by the litany of LGBTQ+ books I returned, “Do you have any books on gay lawyers?” My voice cracked. She smiled tightly and said “No I don’t think we do, but we have books on normal lawyers right over here.” With no malintent she impressed something into my young mind. Gay lawyers weren’t normal -- or even more concerning --perhaps they didn’t exist.
It would be years before I found LGBTQ+ peers also looking into becoming lawyers, because they wanted to become the role models we all felt missing. We bonded over our shared understanding of LGBTQ+ hardships. Each of us had hungrily scoured the internet, publications, YouTube videos to catch glimpses of LGBTQ+ lawyers, judges, or even legislators. All of us searching for a public face. All of us dreaming to become that face.
When Justice Andrew McDonald first came into the news, my friends and I all excitedly talked about what it would mean to have the first openly gay Chief Justice in the United States appointed in Connecticut. Read more via Glaad