Staff Profile: Sharon McGowan

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Know the laws in your state that protect LGBT people and people living with HIV.
McGowan (left) with wife Emily Hecht- McGowan
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What do you do at Lambda Legal? I am Lambda Legal’s Director of Strategy, but I think that a better title might be “Leader of the D.C. front of the resistance!” I have a background as a litigator, so I will be working with Jon Davidson and our amazing lawyers to take those who discriminate to court, but I will also be working at the federal level to try and defend the gains that have made over the last eight years. We know that President Trump has surrounded himself with minions who will be looking for every opportunity to do harm to LGBT people and everyone living with HIV. So I will be working with other national LGBT organizations, but also non- LGBT specific organizations like the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, to stop everything that we can. For those things that we cannot stop, we will try to slow it down or mitigate the harm by doing public and behind-the-scenes advocacy to get information to those who care about our issues and might be able to make a difference. And if we can’t stop it or slow it down, then we will raise youknow- what. We will put a spotlight on every anti-LGBT action that we hear about and make sure that people aren’t lulled into a false sense of security and complacency by #alternative facts (a.k.a. lies).

What’s challenging about your job? I served in the Obama administration as both a career civil servant and as a political appointee for seven years. So many of the gains that we made during that time were issues that I worked on personally—marriage equality, antidiscrimination protections for LGBT people, expanded access to health care. As a result, it’s hard not to get demoralized when you see years of hard work swept away by people appointed to the administration precisely because of their anti-LGBT credentials.

Who inspires you in your personal journey? I have so many personal heroes, but in terms of my inspiration, I would have to say my daughters. My goal every day is to make the world a more just and loving place so that they can become their fullest, truest and most fabulous selves!

What are you most proud of? The work that I did at the United States Department of Justice. Being able to stand up to a podium as a queer woman and say “Sharon McGowan, on behalf of the United States,” was a tremendous honor and privilege. The work that I did while “on the inside” was always part of a larger team effort, but knowing that I helped our country move closer to the ideals of liberty, equality, dignity and justice for all will always fill me with a sense of pride.

What’s rewarding about your job? Being able to stand up and give voice to the concerns of our community, including those who are vulnerable and often unable to speak for themselves. I am so grateful to the supporters of Lambda Legal, without whom I would not be able to do this work.

How do you decompress? Bath time and story time with my girls is something that I try to do with them every night. Listening to them laugh at my silly voices, or splashing with them in the tub washes away so much of the stress of the day, and reminds me about what is most important in my life. Being a good mom, a good wife, a good friend. And never forgetting the importance of laughter in your life!