An incoming UC Irvine law student, Jordan Aiken, was recognized as the first recipient of the M. Katherine Baird Darmer Equality Scholarship at the third annual anniversary party of the Orange County Lavender Bar Association on July 10.
Aiken, who received her bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley, hopes to focus on issues of gay inclusion and gender identity in the legal spectrum while studying law.
“I think people are making amazing strides in that field, but there is a lot more to do,” said Aiken. “That’s what most excites me right now.”
The Darmer Equality Scholarship recognizes a current or incoming law student affiliated with Orange County who shares the same vision of the late professor Darmer, a well-known advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgenderequal rights and former Chapman University professor. Darmer committed suicide in 2012.
Darmer, who lived in Newport Beach with her husband, was a regular commentator on U.S. torture policies and marriage equality, specifically regarding Proposition 8. She was a founding board member and chair of the legal committee of the Orange County Equality Coalition and a founding board member of the Orange County Lavender Bar Association.
Aiken was chosen to receive the $5,000 scholarship sponsored by the Orange County Lavender Bar Association, the Orange County Equality Coalition and private donors based on her demonstrated commitment to advocate for LGBT equality.
“I’m just really grateful to have a community that is supporting me and that I have to go to as I start my career and move to Orange County,” said Aiken.
Francine Lipman, a former colleague and friend of Darmer and member of the Orange County Equality Coalition, said that Aiken is a “mover and shaker” in the LGBT community.
“She just rolls up her sleeves and gets things done,” Lipman said. “That’s what we need in Orange County. She’s a doer and a problem solver…she does very much what Katherine was doing.”
Aiken previously worked in New Orleans for several years as an advocate for nonconforming gender equality. While working at a New Orleans women’s homeless shelter, Aiken came across trans-women who were not allowed access to men’s or women’s shelters in the area.
“The shelter didn’t have a policy to allow trans-women,” said Aiken. “That was something that really frustrated me because it was sort of blatantly highlighting the inequality that I was seeing and what could happen if you didn’t have resources…a lot of (trans-women) were ostracized in their communities or families.”
Aiken took a job at the Louisiana Civil Justice Center where she continued to see legal issues involving the trans-gender community, which sparked her interest to study law.
“I feel really lucky to be a queer activist who is emerging more professionally in the last few years and gets to reap the benefits of so many people’s hard work and extreme dedication…We’ve come a long way and I think that it’s exciting. Hopefully it will just propel us to keep going and build momentum.”
As a law student at UC Irvine, Aiken hopes to work with the School of Medicine to develop a program to help underserved trans-gender people obtain medical resources.
Aiken is also the recipient of a Public Service Fellowship from UC Irvine, which will cover tuition and fees at the law school.
For additional information about the Darmer Equality Scholarship, go to: oclba.org.