Disclosing invisible disability on diversity statement?

(BLS, URM status, non-traditional, GLBT)
brosephina
Posts: 9
Joined: Tue Jul 02, 2013 7:41 am

Disclosing invisible disability on diversity statement?

Postby brosephina » Fri Jul 05, 2013 9:21 am

Hi all,

I'm new to TLS and am applying for a September 2014 start date. I'm hoping to get into a school with national reach and a good public interest loan repayment program. I know I'm at a disadvantage with my numbers for this range of schools, so I want to make sure I'm doing everything I can in the application process to make myself as appealing as possible.

My question: is it ever to one's advantage to disclose a stigmatized mental health condition or invisible disability in one's application? (I've read some related posts on here already, but felt that my situation was slightly different, and so wanted to make my own.)

Stats:
-Graduated from an Ivy League a few years ago with a 3.76
-June 2013 LSAT: 165 (planning on taking it again and sure I can do much better; a stressful spring, including sickness and a death in the family, prevented me from focusing my study, and I had serious timing issues during the test)
-White, queer, mental health/invisible disability (more below)
- (what I think are) good softs: I speak Spanish and Portuguese, did lots of music, politics and writing-focused extracurrics in college, extensive public interest work, including direct advocacy, and diverse work history, including teaching abroad)

Here's the thing: I have an anxiety disorder that affects my sensory processing, and have struggled with clinical depression. Although my mental health has not stopped me from being successful, and I have it under control with treatment at this point, it has strongly affected my experience of the world, and is a part of my identity.

I have the idea of disclosing as a person with a mental health condition/invisible disability in my diversity statement, as I feel like it nicely compliments my experience as a relatively invisible queer person, and it is a significant part of my identity and my reasoning for going into law (I want to do impact litigation around disability and mental health issues, ideally.) Plus, there's enough "peer support" disability work on my résumé that even if I don't disclose, my résumé may disclose for me (and I'm not about to remove that work experience!)

At this point I'm pretty much totally "out" about my identities (I'm actually on record about them in several state legislative hearings) and ideally i would love to be a "visible" representation of a successful lawyer with lived mental health experience. However, I know that many bar C&F tests do ask about mental health issues, and I'm also cautious about giving schools another reason to reject me, as I know stigma is real.

Any tips or cautions? I've talked with a number of my friends in the disability community, who have recommended disclosing solely as "a person with a disability" in my statement, which allows me to talk about it from an identity point of view without making into a question of "will she or won't she be able to handle law school because she has an anxiety disorder."

(And in case anyone is wondering, yes I have thought about the fact that the stress of law school may very well affect my mental health. I'm pretty confident in my abilities to handle my anxiety, and am going to spend the next year building my support network and skills so that I'm extra prepared for 1L.)

Thanks for reading my rambling entry! I look forward to your advice.

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smus
Posts: 25
Joined: Fri Jun 14, 2013 7:32 pm

Re: Disclosing invisible disability on diversity statement?

Postby smus » Fri Jul 05, 2013 3:41 pm

Fellow 0L here.

IMHO, I think you should disclose as much as your statement would support / necessitate. Specifically dont let this sound like a gpa or softs addendum, when its a diversity statement. By that I mean, If you were hoping to explain some lower performance with your disability, I would recommend vagueness and discretion. But since you're talking about combating stigma, testifying for state legislature, becoming an advocate and visible successful lawyer with lived mental health experience, I think you should be specific in naming your disability and then move immediately into those points / your strengths. Obscuring your disability would dampen and distract from your point.
It sounds to me like you know exactly how to do this, but are just looking for confirmation about what you already know- that you have nothing to be ashamed of, and as long as you maintain that perspective and express it in your statement the adcomm wont see anything negative, either. Don't waste any space with apologies or hedging.

Also, I'm transmasculine with a complicated relationship to queer visibility (stealth in work/school), and I'm interested in how you identify your experience and or plan to pitch yourself re: queer invisibility. If you want to PM, or not talk about it at all, I understand.

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twenty
Posts: 3153
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2012 1:17 pm

Re: Disclosing invisible disability on diversity statement?

Postby twenty » Fri Jul 05, 2013 6:03 pm

Writing a PS/DS about being mentally handicapped does virtually nothing for you, though it probably wouldn't hurt you. I think you have better things to write about (i.e, your work history).

EDIT>

ideally i would love to be a "visible" representation of a successful lawyer with lived mental health experience.


I'm being blunt, but please understand I'm not being mean -- be ^ this person after you've graduated law school and you've been practicing for a bit. Do yourself a favor and don't go into the professional world with the attitude of, "I'm disabled and I'm going to be successful; like it or lump it." You're way better off pointing back to all your past successes somewhere down the road in light of your handicaps than trying to make future success despite the handicaps.

Just my two cents. :)

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Lacepiece23
Posts: 836
Joined: Thu Oct 27, 2011 1:10 pm

Re: Disclosing invisible disability on diversity statement?

Postby Lacepiece23 » Fri Jul 05, 2013 9:52 pm

twentypercentmore wrote:Writing a PS/DS about being mentally handicapped does virtually nothing for you, though it probably wouldn't hurt you. I think you have better things to write about (i.e, your work history).

EDIT>

ideally i would love to be a "visible" representation of a successful lawyer with lived mental health experience.


I'm being blunt, but please understand I'm not being mean -- be ^ this person after you've graduated law school and you've been practicing for a bit. Do yourself a favor and don't go into the professional world with the attitude of, "I'm disabled and I'm going to be successful; like it or lump it." You're way better off pointing back to all your past successes somewhere down the road in light of your handicaps than trying to make future success despite the handicaps.

Just my two cents. :)


Agreed 100%.




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