Master Victoria McCloud, Queens Bench Master
Tell us about yourself and what you do?
I am a judge in the High Court in London, specifically I am a Queen’s Bench Master, however though that is my ‘day job’ I am quasi-academic in that I am also part time researching at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies in Oxford, at the University Law Faculty. I hope to expand my informal involvement with university research over time just because I enjoy it and can contribute.
I am also a chartered psychologist and in fact my doctorate was in Experimental Psychology well before I became a lawyer back in the mid nineties. My current research relates to internet social media manipulation in an electoral context. I am also a bit of a writer and speaker, just because I enjoy it. I think life is something we need to live several times over in one allotted span so as to make the most of it!
I was as far as I can tell the first trans judge at least in common law countries, when I was appointed part time in 2006 (I was appointed full time in 2010, at the time I was rather young for the judge and probably the youngest QB Master appointed, historically).
In your experience, what's it like being ‘out’ in the legal profession?
As a judge it changes the type of abuse one gets from some parts of the public, in that once I was ‘outed’ publicly some years ago the usual abuse/threats which judges get changed from heteronormative anti-judicial and anti-women abuse to abuse which also incorporated language relating to being trans. I don’t have any issues from colleagues (maybe one barrister once very early on) and never have had, ever since transitioning mid-career in the late nineties. Clients were uniformly nice as have been judicial colleagues. It is not an issue.
Were you ever advised not to disclose your sexuality or gender identity on an application form? Or were you ever afraid to?
Yes: back in the nineties (possibly early 2000s, I cannot recall) it was still made clear that one had to disclose being gay or lesbian on any application to be a judge. Being trans was simply not something even thought about but it would have gone without saying one had to disclose. However there was a sea change at some stage in the early 2000’s I believe and it was expressly stated that one was not expected to disclose being LGB, and by implication “T” either, which was a great relief and empowered me to feel I was not barred from applying. On top of that of course like many youngish people then and perhaps less now (I hope), one was personally wary of disclosure given that back then not everyone was as accepting as now. Being trans added an extra dimension and I was therefore in an even smaller minority (a minority of one at the Bar and then judiciary for a while, which has now changed and improved every year).
Were you ever anxious to come out in the workplace? Do you ever feel anxious about coming out to new people in the workplace?
I was indeed anxious, since coming out as trans is quite ‘dramatic’ if one has not disclosed privately to many people and it marks a sudden change in how people perceive you. Hence back in the late nineties naturally it was a big step, potentially career-ending in that era. Colleagues were fine, but before coming out yes it was an anxious time. I don’t find I ‘come out’ much these days since everyone knows by now.
Have you experienced any difficulties in your career because of your sexuality or gender identity? How did you overcome them?
Probably, but its hard to prove. Many failed job applications, in and outside the law for example may speak for themselves but then of course may be merited if I am not up to the job. One will never know.
Do you think the legal profession is doing enough to ensure support for the diversity & inclusion of LGBTQ+ employees? If not, what more could be done?
I’m sadly ill informed on the professions having been a judge full time for over a decade now. However the judiciary I think is trying and has become a welcoming place for LGBTQ+ people in my personal experience. There is much more appreciation not just of the importance of diversity but of the fact that it's just not something which has a downside. Judicial leadership at the top has been very positive and I believe genuinely committed to diversity, but there is still progress to be made, including not just LGBTQ+ areas but race, age and gender.
We finally achieved pension parity for many judges last year based on race, age and gender but it did need litigation against the MoJ for years to make that happen, much to my regret as lead claimant since it occupied time in my career which I could have used to progress professionally.
What are 3 pieces of advice you’d give to aspiring LGBTQ+ legal professionals?
1. Be good at the job
2. Help other people even those ‘below’ you: they will support you later.
3. Don’t let discrimination go unchallenged including where it affects others around you but not yourself.
I’d say that to anyone of course, not just LGBTQ+ people but my point really is that if you do those things you will also be shining with confidence as an out LGBTQ+ person, and that will be reflected back in others around you.