In this edition of Reader Beatdown, Sexist reader and sex activist Martin Quinones talks about how to come out—to law school admissions officers.

I was recently presented with the chance to come out in a way that was risky, honest, and productive. On law school applications, every school asks for a broad personal statement, using a prompt along the lines of “tell us something about yourself.” I decided to dump every egg at my disposal into one basket. Since December, the essay below has been read by my parents, most of my friends, and the admissions committees at thirteen top-ranked law schools:

To come out fully, in my case, requires three separate disclosures, each as potentially confusing and alienating as the last. I share them now for reasons that are political as well as personal: I am pansexual. When I say this I mean that I seek physical and emotional partnerships with people of all genders, including men, women, and transgender individuals. I am polyamorous. By this I mean that I see monogamy as one among many stable ways in which people are capable of forming romantic and familial bonds. I mean also that I find joy in my partners’ joy, including when that joy comes through companions and lovers other than myself. Lastly, I am a member of the BDSM community. When I say this I mean that I find fulfillment in consensual relationships and sensations that are not always soft and fuzzy, but can indeed be painful and challenging. Taken together, these three facts mean that I have found love and fulfillment in a wide spectrum of relationships and with a variety of people, and that this diversity of partners figures importantly into my identity.

They mean also that I inhabit a small, overlapping sliver of three poorly understood, largely invisible, and utterly unprotected sexual minorities. I am acutely aware that to share these details about myself represents a risk both personal and professional, and in some cases legal. But one reason I have chosen to out myself is to help legitimize my identity, and the identities of those I care about. It is my great hope that taking this risk openly and often will yield benefits both for me and for all those minorities who seek public recognition.

I am an activist, but I am no partisan, no bloodthirsty separatist. Instead of engaging intolerance and divisiveness, I have invested my energy in positively increasing the visibility of diverse sexual identities and normalizing the discussion of sexuality in my immediate environment. This is why I co-founded the Male Sexuality Workshop at Brown University, and for three years took the lead role in designing its curriculum and organizing its activities, affecting more than two hundred and fifty alumni of the program. It is also why I wrote a weekly sex advice and sexuality column for Brown’s student newspaper, why I currently work at Planned Parenthood, and why I have volunteered with the Boston chapter of the National Organization for Men Against Sexism over the past year. Most importantly, it is why I am applying to law school.

The communities I hope to support are at best underserved, at worst the victims of fierce and unchallenged discrimination. How best to contribute to their advancement, whether through labor or constitutional law, family or criminal law, is not crystal clear, and I will allow exposure and passion to guide as I move further into my career. But the larger society can and will come to a better understanding of the diversity of sexuality and gender expression it contains, and in the slow crawl toward that understanding, the first and most profoundly personal step I can take is to state unabashedly who I am: to come out.

The admissions committees, as expected, responded with months of stony, bureaucratic silence. Every school processed applications on a rolling basis, with the promise to “endeavour to have all admissions decisions returned by late April.” As the waiting drew on from December into January into February, existential panic replaced the more reasonable anxiety of the wait, and each day felt like a confirmation that I had made a bad decision. I was sure I had reached too far, I had been too polarizing. I would have to settle for a school that I had no interest in, and that had no resources for someone interested in gender, let alone sexual freedom. My career was poisoned, and I hadn’t even found it yet.

Finally, agonizingly, the risk I took paid off, and I was accepted for admission at the UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law. To date, this is the only school I have been admitted to, a fact more reflective of how many reach schools I applied to than how my essay was received. But even if I am rejected everywhere else, a superb legal education is in my future, along with a JD from one of the most respected schools in the country, thanks in part to my choice to come out.

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