What takes an attorney from public defender to women’s advocacy work? For Jess Braverman, it very much aligns to why she wanted to become a lawyer in the first place. We talk with Braverman, the new legal director at Gender Justice, a St. Paul-based non-profit legal and policy advocacy organization devoted to addressing the causes and consequences of gender inequality both locally and nationally, about what her organization does, what brought her to the advocacy law she has practiced, and how her Judaism impacts her work, on this week’s Who The Folk?! Podcast.
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So you are the legal director here at Gender Justice. Tell us a little bit about what you do and what Gender Justice as an organization does?
So I do the lawyering, the litigating. Gender Justice is a nonprofit, we do legal and advocacy. So we advanced gender equity through the law. So in other words, we sue people. So we bring lawsuits where the basis has to do with some sort of gender discrimination or has that kind of angle. So we will sue school districts that don’t let trans students use the right bathrooms or locker rooms. We’ll sue employers who don’t let their employees pump or nurse with enough time. So we bring all kinds of lawsuits and we try to shape the law in a way that makes life more livable for people.
It feels like we’re in a better time, frankly, in terms of the idea of gender equality and inclusion in that way. How has the organization evolved with that?
I was a public defender for 10 years, and then I started here four months ago, but I did have some background on the organization. What they did was kind of unique because they’re not an LGBT legal nonprofit, which a lot of groups are. And what they do is if they’re representing, let’s say, women, they represent all women that includes cis women that includes trans women. What I love about this organization is it groups everyone together, we advanced gender equity: Cis, trans, however you identify, if there’s a gender angle to your issue, we’d like to help, we’d like to step in.
What led you to make the transition from the public sector, public defender world to this? This seems like a very different type of law and advocacy type of work.
Yeah. So I went into law school thinking this is what I would do. And then the recession hit, and there were literally no jobs. And I kind of stumbled into defending young people in family court. So if there was an abuse or neglect case, or if they were charged with delinquency, meaning like when a kid commits a crime – or if they were an adult, it would be considered a crime. They also get defense. So I represented kids. And then I that was in Brooklyn, New York. And then I moved here and I started representing adults and felony cases. And then Gender Justice reached out to me, they were looking for a legal director, and I thought, oh, my God, this is exactly what I wanted to do. You know, my internships were either trans- or LGBT-related. They had more to do with what I do here. So I loved being a public defender, but I am so excited to make that switch. It feels like a career change, though.
So what was it that brought you to the Twin Cities?
My wife tricked me. So she, she brought me here in the summer and said, “Oh, look at the bike trails and the kayaking.” And, you know, so we visited enough times and we could afford a house here. I started to really like it. Then we moved here and then winter hit. And I’m not full of regrets. But I am grumpy, like eight months of the year.
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