Monday, 20 August 2012

Barrister changes gender

This story bubbled up last week, and I thought it deserved a brief mention.

Respected barrister David Stokes is now identifying as Heather Stokes, and is continuing to practice as a barrister. She has applied for a practising certificate in her new name.

David Stokes:

Heather Stokes:

I just want to say a few things about this.

Firstly, congratulations to Heather for going ahead and doing this. It must take an amazing amount of soul-searching to make a decision like this, and kudos for sticking with it. I don't know what might motivate someone to change their gender, (although I know a few people who identify with genders other than their originals) but the stigma associated with this is massive. Well done, and best of luck to you.

Secondly, I would like to draw attention to this comment from Ralph Bonig, as quoted in that article.

"Law Society of SA president Ralph Bonig said there was "no question" Ms Stokes enjoyed her peers' support and respect. 
"Her ability to practice law has not changed from last week to this. As such, the society is as supportive of her this week as it was last week," he said."

Bravo. Such a wonderfully expressive statement that cannot possibly offend anyone, yet offers complete support to Heather. I think that Mr Bonig has struck gold in his response to this issue, and dealt with it very appropriately.

I have worked with Mr Stokes a few years ago, and I was struck by his professionalism and experience. I would not hesitate to rely on his judgement in criminal matters, whether before or after this change.


  1. Well said. I completely agree.
    And yes, Heather is a damn good criminal barrister.

    1. Thanks Kristie. I have more recently had the pleasure of working quite closely with Heather on a file, and nothing has changed in the way I work with her.