Please enjoy this interview with the United States’ first openly bisexual judge – LGBT Bar member Judge Mike Jacobs. This interview with Judge Jacobs was conducted, compiled, and edited by Nancy Marcus.
Tell me a little about yourself.
“I am a judge on the State Court of DeKalb County, a trial court of original jurisdiction that hears civil cases and misdemeanor criminal cases and conducts jury trials. I was appointed to the bench in 2015 and re-elected in 2016. DeKalb County is located in the Atlanta metropolitan area. Prior to taking the bench, I served ten and a half years in the Georgia House of Representatives. I’m married to a wonderful woman and have three children. I’m bisexual.”
Why was coming out as bisexual important to you?
“I am happily married to the love of my life, my wife Evan. One of our close friends recently described us as “attached at the hip,” which is totally true. We have three awesome kids. Being an out bisexual person doesn’t detract from these aspects of my life – which are the most important parts of my life – in any way at all. It’s actually quite the opposite. In addition to being true to myself and honest with everyone, and showing our kids that they will be accepted for who they are, I’ve managed to find community. After coming out, I have come to know a lot of bisexual people like me, whereas before I knew almost none. Also, coming out made it possible for me to openly and actively participate in law-related professional organizations whose events I thoroughly enjoy, the National LGBT Bar Association, the International Association of LGBTQ+ Judges, and the Stonewall Bar Association of Georgia.”
What is the significance of a judge coming out as bisexual?
“It is becoming more common for bi+ people to come out, although we still lag behind the rest of the LGBTQ community in that regard. The lag is evident when you take stock of the fact that there were no bi+ identified judges, state or federal, trial or appellate, until Judge Vicky Kolakowski and I came out earlier this year. I identify as bisexual and Judge Kolakowski identifies as pansexual. She is a trial judge from California and past president of the International Association of LGBTQ+ Judges. What would later become the International Association of LGBTQ+ Judges was founded in 1993, but its membership only included bi+ identified judges starting in 2018. The other two branches of government already have out bi+ officeholders, including Governor Kate Brown in Oregon, Kyrsten Sinema and Katie Hill in Congress, and several state legislators. We’ve finally reached the judiciary. The reality is that bi+ people from every walk of life are starting to come out with greater frequency, and coming out as a judge is really just an extension of that.”
For readers who may not be familiar with the term, what do you mean when you say bi+?
“When I say “bi+” I am referring to a broader umbrella of bisexual, pansexual, and fluid people. We’re all part of the same community. The “bi+” terminology is just a way of expressing that the “B” in LGBTQ includes all of us.”
Who inspired you or helped you in coming out as bisexual?
“One of the reasons it has been less common for bi+ people to come out is the lack of role models. That’s changing, slowly but surely. Hearing other people tell their stories is what gave me clarity and helped me articulate my own truth, but the first time I ever heard other bi+ people tell their stories was in 2017. There’s a snowball effect to bi+ people coming out publicly that has only gained traction fairly recently. The people whose stories helped me were a couple of actors, Evan Rachel Wood and Sara Ramirez, and a state legislator from our local community, Renitta Shannon. What’s awesome is that I’ve been able to pay it forward and help others. I’ve already met two bi+ people who told me that they came out to people in their own lives because they heard my story. I’m sure there will be others like them in the future. It has been wonderful thus far to be able to walk in my own shoes, and it means so much to me to be a positive role model for others. That’s another reason I came out in the first place.”
You attended the Bi Law caucus at Lavender Law. What did Bi Law mean to you?
“I enjoyed being a part of the Bi Law caucus, which you helped to create, Nancy, during Lavender Law this year. That was the first time I had ever been in a large group meeting of bi+ identified people. It was very affirming to finally meet other people like me. There must have been 40 to 50 lawyers and law students in attendance who identify as bi+. It’s fair to say the Bi Law caucus at Lavender Law was the starting point for a lot of good things. We used a format similar to the Bi Law caucus for a Bi Visibility Day event that a local group of bi+ folks put together at the LGBTQ community center here in Atlanta, which was well-attended. That event is spurring additional events that will bring together the bi+ community locally. During the Bi Law caucus, I also met the Emory law student who will be my 2019 summer law clerk.”
Do you have any closing thoughts?
“I recently added a new plaque to one of the shelves in my office. It’s inscribed with an oft-quoted Gandhi saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” That quote summarizes a lot about this period in my life in which I learned to publicly articulate a part of who I am. The programs and inclusiveness of the National LGBT Bar Association have helped to show me that I am not alone, and enabled me to show other bi+ people that they are not alone either.”