Georgetown University

Thanking a legal hero: Vanita Gupta

In November I had the opportunity to deliver the thank you remarks for Vanita Gupta at an event hosted by Georgetown University’s LGBTQ Resource Center. Ms. Gupta is the Assistant Attorney General of the United States and the head of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, and she came to speak to Georgetown students about her work advancing the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

After I gave my remarks, Ms. Gupta gave me a hug and told me how moved she was by what I said. Ms. Gupta is one of my legal heroes so it was an honor to have a chance to meet her and thank her personally for how she’s inspired me to become a civil rights lawyer and work for the federal government. A special thanks to Julian Haas, the Assistant Director of Georgetown University’s LGBTQ Resource Center, for giving me this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Thank you, Ms. Gupta, for your hopeful remarks. As soon as I saw the OUTober flyer advertising your visit to campus, I quickly ran to the LGBTQ Center to tell Julian how much I admire your work and how excited I was to have the opportunity to hear you speak.

My dream is to become a constitutional and civil rights lawyer, and your work with the Department of Justice has been a source of inspiration to me. I look toward your public service as a model of how the government can be a force for social change.

I grew up in a small town in Mobile County, Alabama. I began questioning my sexual orientation as young as seven. My first crush was a boy in kindergarten, but I soon developed crushes on girls in my neighborhood. Before I even learned the words “bisexual” or “lesbian,” I had internalized the stigma associated with being LGBTQ. I didn’t know what I was experiencing, but I knew I was supposed to feel abnormal, inappropriate and morally wrong. My journey going from a confused, questioning young girl to a confident bisexual woman has been a long and difficult one, one I’m sure that many people here can relate to.

Our stories are not identical. You are a woman of color, born the daughter of Indian immigrants; I’m a white bisexual woman who grew up in rural Alabama. You have had to overcome obstacles that are far different than the ones I have had to overcome. But despite our differences, your strength and resilience to become the head of the Civil Rights Division has shown me that I have a path as a civil rights lawyer too.

Thank you for being here.