The Candy Palmater Show

Lawyer barbara findlay shares the personal roots of her advocacy

Queer rights lawyer barbara findlay discusses some of the discrimination she herself faced in her personal and professional journey.
(Photo courtesy of barbara findlay)

Vancouver lawyer barbara findlay has been fighting for the rights of people in British Columbia's LGBT community for decades. She spoke with Candy about her career inspirations and the role of feminism in her personal journey. 

barbara attended university in the early seventies, where she lived in what she described as "a glass closet." When she barbara was barely 17 years old, the student psychiatrist found out she had feelings for women. The doctor admitted barbara to a psychiatric facility—something that happened to many people of that generation because being gay was, by definition, a mental illness at the time.

"As I said to my psychiatrist, 'Either there's something wrong with me or there's something wrong with the world. And I'm hoping it's me, because that'd be easier to fix'," barbara told Candy. "I was wrong; it was the world."

barbara said that feminism saved her life during that difficult period: it offered an explanation not only of her situation, but also what other women were going through. While studying at the University of British Columbia, barbara met sociologist Dorothy Smith, who became a big role model in the lawyer's life and law practice.

barbara became an advocate for the queer community at a time when the gap between the legal profession and the LGBT rights movement couldn't have been wider. 

"At some point, after I graduated from law school, I realized that I was kind of standing on two icebergs and they were floating apart: one was 'lesbian' and one was 'lawyer'. But I knew that if I was going to survive, I was going to have to be a lesbian lawyer. So I announced myself to everybody in that way," barbara told Candy.

Now, barbara has her own legal practice, where she specializes on advocating the rights of the queer community in British Columbia. Over the course of her career, barbara has made significant contributions to family law in B.C., particularly cases that deal with child custody for same-sex couples.

"I have the privilege of being a lawyer, and I feel like it's my responsibility to spend some of that privilege by being visible as a dyke," barbara explained. 

After being the voice of so many people in her legal practice, barbara shares her own journey in a new documentary. In particular, barbara findlay explores the discrimination she herself faced in becoming a self-described queer feminist lawyer.

Watch the trailer for In Particular, barbara findlay: