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LGBT (& Ally) Life at W&M Law

Below are statements by W&M Law students on the LGBT atmosphere. Contact us at lglawm@email.wm.edu if you have any questions or would like to talk personally to any students.

From a 1L LGBT student:

As a gay lady coming to the 'burg directly from a very progressive, LGBT-friendly (and, uh, LGBT in its population) campus, I was honestly very nervous about dating here, and it wasn't until recently that it started to feel a whole lot better.  First, this year a bunch of LGBT grad students got together and formed Spectrum, a club that basically functions to plan social events for LGBT grad students, including law students, from William & Mary. This group is responsible in many ways for me feeling like I'm not living in a desert here but that there are other young LGBT folks in Williamsburg! We've gone to Paul's (a bar) for Dollar Corona Night, done karaoke at the 415 Grill (another bar) and other smaller gatherings, like recently a night of Apples to Apples. Also, if you are under 25 (or maybe even pushing that) as I am, the undergrad campus has been such an incredible resource, both for events by Lambda (their LGBT group) but mostly for the number of queer folks I've recently met on the undergrad campus, who are very open to meeting law school students (and Spectrum often goes as a group to those events, which is really  nice). Finally, there's Richmond, which if you have a car is only 50 mins away and has lots of gay people and clubs/concerts/etc. I went and saw the Indigo Girls there this fall and you would not believe the number of lesbians out on a night in Richmond. 

Conclusion: Can't speak for the G or the T, but the population of the law school itself does leave something to be desired (as far as #'s go), for other gay/queer/bi women looking for other women, at least in my opinion. But I've been happily surprised so far by almost every other part of Williamsburg/Virginia so far. 

From a 1L Ally student:

As a straight, cis-gendered women who looks like a stock photo of "brunette with glasses", I can't really speak to the experience of being gay, transgender, or even a little "weird" here at William and Mary. But I can tell you why I came to William and Mary as a fierce LGBT ally instead of staying in the liberal bubble of New York City.  There's this line from "The Laramie Project" where one of the characters asks what would happen if more gay people stayed in small towns. I was thinking about it when I was choosing between Fordham in New York and W&M. Staying in New York meant that my ideas wouldn't be challenged and that I wouldn't be challenging anyone's in return. I was wondering what would happen if more allies lived in small towns, and how we could make being an ally normal and expected in the same way it is in most parts of New York City. Williamsburg is not New York. It's also not a conservative vacuum. It's somewhere in the middle and I hope that anyone who is considering coming to W&M will give it a shot. 

From a 1L LGBT student:

My impression of William and Mary is that it is a great school academically and socially that can be very accommodating at most times, but like most places has some issues that could be improved upon. Coming from a large, rather progressive school for undergrad, it seems obvious at first that many people in the class were not able to benefit from such diversity or become as comfortable with it as I was in my education thus far. There are definitely the immature guys (and occasionally girls) that can give you some grief or cross the line of comfort, but the majority of people here both mean well and understand how to properly behave. Fortunately, the staff seems knowledgeable about many issues affecting LGBTs and how to be respectful in dealing with them. While there can be the occasional comment in class that isn't inclusive, someone who isn't the most knowledgeable in social etiquette, or a somewhat conservative tone, there are definitely some perks to William and Mary. It isn't a huge school, which can allow you to develop close friendships with the people that you decide are close to you and your interests. The dating prospects of someone in the same sex or fully familiar with those issues LGBTS face can be kind of slim both in the school and Williamsburg area, but there are definitely many who are there in the ways they can be.

From a 2L LGBT student:

In law school, groups are a little different than they were in undergrad, with few, if any, general club "meetings." Mostly groups sponsor speaker events or have small social events. We advertise the group as, primarily, an educational tool for everyone, since LGBT law is starting to become part of every area of the law, from family to tax to government law. However, we also have social events throughout the year. You can check out our website so see the events we are doing each semester -http://wmpeople.wm.edu/site/page/lglawm. There is also a newly formed LGBT grad group that has periodic social events.

One fabulous characteristic of W&M Law is that everyone is incredibly nice. We have three openly transgender students at the law school and a bunch of openly gay students and they have had no trouble fitting in as part of the community. Personally, as a pretty vocal bisexual who has no problem advertising LGBT issues loudly in conservative areas, I love it here. I have met no one at the law school who would discriminate or be cruel to someone because of their sexual orientation. 

Williamsburg is not exactly a city with queens walking downtown or any gay bars, but I have been told that it has a thriving older-lesbian-couple community. It is conservative (this is Virginia, after all), but, like the law school, everyone in Williamsburg tends to be really nice, and I've never had a problem. 

In the end, there are a couple factors you should think about. First, is Williamsburg the type of area (the size of the town, lack of a big nightlife, etc) that you would like to be in for three years? For many of my friends at the law school who are gay, the biggest problem they have is that they would rather be in a city where they could go to gay bars and where there is more of a diverse population (other than students, old people, tourists, and a few artist-hippies). I personally fell in love with the area, but it depends on your personal preference. If you are from or near a big city and you like that, W&M may not be for you. However, we are an hour from Richmond, 2 hours from Charlottesville, 3-4 hours from DC, 20 minutes away from Newport News (which I do believe has a couple gay bars, according to a couple of my friends), an hour away from Norfolk, and an hour and a half away from Virginia Beach. If you have a car and really need the city, you can get to it.

The second major factor is whether you would like to date while you are in law school. The people I know who are happiest are those who came to the law school already in a relationship, because Williamsburg is not a great place to find a same-sex person to date. This could lead to some dissatisfaction. That being said, I went to a relatively conservative college, and my sophomore year the population of bisexual/lesbian/gay people on campus tripled. As the LGBT group on campus grows and the trend of more people being comfortable out of the closet grows, it is possible that gay couples in W&M law will increase. Also, law school kind of eats up your life, so a relationship starts to feel like a bad idea by your 1L spring semester. 

As I said, I personally love W&M and Williamsburg. However, be sure to visit so you know if you would enjoy the atmosphere.

From a 2L Ally/ Child of LGBT parents:

After growing up and attending school in two big, blue, northern cities, I wasn't sure what to expect from William and Mary. For the most part, the students here are very tolerant and accepting. The vast majority of students do not let personal opinions or politics get in the way of friendships and good working relationships. As a straight ally I cannot speak much to the LGBT social scene, but I can say that, in my experience, no one has been excluded based on their orientation. My friends here have been very accepting of the fact that I grew up with a gay father, and very supportive of my goal to work in advancing gay family rights. We may be in a conservative part of the country, but as is true of most institutions of higher education, our student body tends to be more liberal.