Name: Sruti J. Swaminathan
Job Title: Staff Attorney for Youth
Pronouns: they/them, she/her
Location: New York (H.D.Q.)
For years, the nation’s best and brightest legal minds have put their skills and passion to work for carrying forth Lambda Legal’s mission to advance the civil rights of LGBTQ+ people and everyone living with H.I.V. In this series, you’ll get to know the people at the heart of what we do.
In this edition of “Meet Our Lawyers,” we will be highlighting Sruti J. Swaminathan. Since joining Lambda Legal in 2021, Sruti has hit the ground running advocating on behalf of LGBTQ+ youth through impact litigation, education, and public policy work. As lead counsel for Becky Pepper Jackson in B.P.J. v. West Virginia Board of Education, a federal lawsuit challenging West Virginia’s law banning girls and women who are transgender from participating in school sports, Sruti was key to an important victory that not only allowed Becky to join her school’s cross-country and track teams, but also helped affirm her identity. Sruti’s energy and dedication to Lambda Legal’s work has been a bright spot for everyone that works with them and inspires us all to never stop fighting.
What brought you to work at Lambda?
I joined Lambda Legal as the nation began experiencing a heightened wave of harmful anti-trans legislation targeting transgender and non-binary youth. These attacks have doubled in the last year, and the war on trans bodies has been relentless. I wanted to work alongside my incredible Lambda Legal colleagues in the fight to protect trans kids and uplift the voices of Black and Brown LGBTQ+ youth. My work now focuses on litigating against the dangerous health care bans, sports bans, and “Don’t Say Gay and Trans” legislation and increasing state and federal nondiscrimination protections for systems-impacted LGBTQ+ youth.
Looking at the cases you have worked on during your time at Lambda, which one had the most significant personal impact on you and why?
I serve as lead counsel in B.P.J. v. West Virginia State Board of Education, a lawsuit challenging the unconstitutionality of a categorical ban on transgender girls and women participating in girls’ and women’s sports teams in West Virginia. My client is 12-years-old and was able to run on her cross-country and track teams at school due to the preliminary injunction we won in July of 2021.
This case has particularly impacted me because I witnessed my brave, articulate, and brilliant client sit through a seven-hour deposition and educate every single person in the room about what it means to know who you are, stand up for who you are, and be unapologetically authentic. I’m in awe of all the transgender and non-binary kids leading the fight for equality and recognition under the law. I’m so proud to be their attorney and listen to and advocate on behalf of their needs.
How have you seen the rights for LGBTQ+ folks advance in your lifetime? What work do we need to see?
Although I’ve witnessed quite a bit of progress within the LGBTQ+ rights movement, much more work needs to be done. We are up against a force trying to erase our identities, invalidate our existence, ostracize our community, and criminalize our care. These attacks are well-organized, well-funded, and relentless, and every single attorney and client in this movement is giving all they can to protect queer and trans lives. What I’d like to see going forward in our movement is a prioritization of Black and Brown queer and trans bodies and taking an intersectional approach to our work. We know that these laws have disproportionate impacts on marginalized communities, and I want our plaintiffs and our challenges to reflect the realities of those whose voices are typically silenced and excluded from the conversation.
Let’s learn something fun about you: What’s a movie you can watch again and again?
I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter movies—I have seen all eight movies, at minimum, 25 times each, and I am a proud Slytherin. Regardless of the TERF behind the story, the magic and queerness that I found in the Harry Potter books and movies have gotten me through the most challenging times in my life. And that cannot be taken away from me: “Light can be found even in the darkest of times if only one remembers to turn on the light.”