By Matthew J. O’Malley | Attorney at Tressler LLP | June 1, 2020
With the start of June, we recognize Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month. The celebrations for 2020 will look much different, as the fests, happy hours, fundraisers, parades, and other events are being postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To still honor such an important month, I decided to write something about my story and Gay Pride with the support of my law firm, Tressler LLP.
I was born and raised on the Southwest side of Chicago. If you are not familiar with the area, it is predominately composed of a diverse working-class community with some of the greatest pizza in the country. Traditionally, its neighborhoods have ethnic regions with many residents belonging to that area’s religious place of worship. To this day, a common identifier for many “South-siders” is the parish they belong to. In that fashion, I was born into a household founded by Polish and Irish immigrants with a strong Catholic faith in 1988. During my formative years, I did not personally know anyone who at least identified as gay. LGBTQ visibility and awareness were much lower and less accepted in everyday life and the AIDS crisis was proliferating. The concept of being gay was not really on my radar; my limited idea of homosexuality was often negative portrayals in the media or by my peers.
As I began to mature, I focused my attention to my studies and friends. In high school and even college, I struggled to find a true romantic connection to the opposite sex. Something was off, but I did not quite know what it was. Looking back, I tried hard (and even prayed) to be straight, but it was clear that my sexuality was not going to change. I was born gay but given societal views, my awareness, and cultural framework, I swept any of those contemplations under the rug.
It really was not until my battle with anxiety and depression crippled me that I questioned the source of my own unhappiness. Something had to change. However, I still ignored the issue and spent my first year of law school preoccupied with my grades. The issue of my sexuality was not going away, but I had a good excuse to avoid and hide it. The solution was easier said than done: to be myself and to love myself. When I look back on that time in my life, I was terrified. I feared losing everything.
Ultimately and thankfully, I allowed myself to process my feelings without too much lasting damage. Coming to terms with my sexuality on my own was the worst part of this process. “The closet” paralyzed me but most of those negative feelings subsided shortly after I came out. This is because, for the most part, I have been accepted and loved by my family and friends. However, that only happened when I gave myself the chance to accept myself for who I am.
Now, I look back and I am proud of being a gay man.
While it has been nearly eight years since I have come out, I have been able to thrive. This is due in large part because I have surrounded myself with people who are accepting of who I am. I am fortunate that this includes all my family, friends, a faith community, and an employer that values and celebrates diversity. If you told me back in 2012 that I would now be engaged to marry a wonderful man, I would have laughed at you. Gay marriage has not even been legalized for five years.
Pictured: Matt O’Malley (right) and his fiancé, Sean Gillies (left).
Matt and Sean will be married in May 2021.
I am happy to work at Tressler - a law firm that values and celebrates diversity - in all its forms. Being a gay man does not define me and I have lived a good life, regardless of my sexual orientation. I do recognize that I am fortunate to live in a state that prohibits discrimination against the LGBTQ community and a country that recognizes marriage equality. Additionally, I have a supportive network of family and friends and work where the only thing that matters is the merit of my work product and my well-being. The truth is that many LGBTQ persons do not have it as easy.
One of the driving forces in pursuing a legal career has been the satisfaction I find in doing the right thing and obtaining justice for others. My personal adversity has provided me confidence to take command of a courtroom and advocate for my clients from all phases of litigation. I proudly represent clients from all walks of life, whether it be businesses seeking advice and protection, not-for-profits leading their charitable or educational goals, or individuals who have been wronged. As an LGBT+ lawyer, part of my mission is to ensure I am a reliable and safe resource. I strive to ensure the needs of my community are met, whether it is civil rights violations, discrimination, or anything in between.
We see in everyday life that discrimination occurs across this country. Minority groups have to worry about many things that most people do not realize. I do believe that our society needs to improve on how we respect and treat minority groups, including the LGBTQ community. I have certainly felt and seen discrimination. It is often implicit, but I frequently fear someone finding out that I am gay and my orientation somehow impacting that relationship. Personally, that concern is often most palpable when first interacting with someone.
As I reflect on this month, Gay Pride is the appreciation for being who I am, but more importantly, reverence for those brave people who took much greater risks than I ever needed to. It is those LGBTQ persons who sought to obtain the rights that I benefit from today. I am forever grateful to them.
Supporting the LGBTQ Community: How You Can Help
LGBTQ Pride Month also serves as an important reminder that we need to continue to strive to be better and remember that not everyone is as fortunate. I encourage you to join this effort personally and/or within your community. If you can, please support the various organizations that do this essential and admirable work daily. There are many local and national ones to choose from, but some of my favorites include:
The Night Ministry is a Chicago-based organization that works to provide housing, health care and human connection to members of the community struggling with poverty or homelessness. They provide these vital services to LGBT+ youth who are disproportionately impacted by poverty and homelessness often times because of unsupportive or even dangerous living environments. Click here to donate.
Equality Illinois is an organization that works to build awareness by advancing equal treatment and full acceptance of the LGBTQ community. Volunteering for them is made easy – click here to fill out an application.
Given some of the adversity I have faced, The Trevor Project is near and dear to my heart. It is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ young people. Click here to donate.
About the Author
Matt is a member of Tressler LLP’s Litigation Practice Group and advises his clients on litigation strategies, skillfully representing them through all phases of litigation. Matt has a track record of success in both bench and jury trials. He focuses on the client’s resolution goals, whether that is achieved through trial, settlement conference, mediation or arbitration. Matt serves his clients in a variety of complex litigated and non-litigated matters, including actions for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, indemnity and contribution, professional malpractice, personal injury, general corporate, LGBT issues, employment discrimination and civil rights violations. Matt is also an active member of Tressler’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee.
Tressler LLP is a national law firm headquartered in Chicago, with eight offices located in five states - California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Tressler attorneys are experienced counselors and advocates who appear in state and federal courts, and in governmental proceedings, throughout the United States. Many Tressler attorneys devote their practice to the representation of the insurance industry in coverage analysis and resolution, litigation, underwriting consultation, product development, claims management and reinsurance. Tressler attorneys also represent clients in commercial litigation, employment, local government law, corporate transactions and intellectual property law. Contact us to learn more. Contact us to learn more.