Second, each child’s sexual orientation and gender identity, whether or not that child
identifies as LGBTQ, is uniquely related to the other attributes that make the child who she is.20
According to one authority, some “LGBTQ youth are very outspoken about their identities and
feel that this is a defining part of who they are, while others might not give it much thought at
all.”21 Moreover, and regardless of the weight they are given, a child’s sexual orientation and
gender identity may interact in different ways with other ways of lived reality, including but not
limited to, race, ethnicity, religion, class, sex, or presence or absence of a disability.22 This Article
explores how four of these various differences intersect with sexual orientation and gender
identity23 and considers in Part II how these intersections may inform child welfare law.24
Understanding intersectionality is essential to minimally adequate programming for LGBTQ
youth in care. As the Author wrote in another context, “Any program design must adequately
account for the diversity of experiences and world-views among” LGBTQ youth.25 Any service
provider who adopts a strategy to address the needs of LGBTQ children and youth, but who does
not analyze the strategy to see how it may reinforce other ways of dominance, risks (1)
inadequately addressing the needs of LGBTQ children and youth and (2) furthering future
I. SEXUAL ORIENTATION, GENDER IDENTITY: DIFFERENCE AND INTERSECTIONALITY
This Article now turns to a brief survey of four ways of difference and how they intersect
with sexual orientation and gender identity: sex and gender, race, ability and disability, and class.
If one focuses on a single attribute, one errs. The various attributes form the multiple dimensions
of a society of oppression.26 When there is focus on a single attribute, the “dichotomous,
hierarchical,” us-versus-them mindset inherent therein, is “used to support and reinforce
domination.”27 Marilyn Frey uses the cage as a metaphor to explain this phenomenon.28 If the
bird had only one wire to fly around, the bird could easily go free; however, the bird is surrounded
by an interlocking network of restraints—encaged and subject to the whim and the will of its
20 Cf. Wing, supra note 11 (discussing the importance of intersectionality to personal identity).
21 GETTING DOWN TO BASICS, supra note 1, at 12.
22 Mayes, supra note 2, at 667. See also Karen Aileen Howze, Cultural Context in Abuse and Neglect Practice: Tips
for Attorneys, in CHILD WELFARE LAW AND PRACTICE: REPRESENTING CHILDREN, PARENTS, AND STATE AGENCIES
IN ABUSE, NEGLECT, AND DEPENDENCY CASES 139, 158-59 (Donald N. Duquette & Ann M. Haralambie eds., 2d ed.
23 See infra notes 26– 94 and accompanying text.
24 See infra notes 95–147 and accompanying text.
25 Mayes, supra note 2, at 667.
26 In the words of Balos and Fellows, these are interlocking “systems of oppression.” BEVERLY BALOS & MARY
LOUISE FELLOWS, LAW AND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: CASES AND MATERIALS ON SYSTEMS OF OPPRESSION 45
28 Id. at 49 (quoting MARILYN FRYE, Oppression, in THE POLITICS OF REALITY: ESSAYS IN FEMINIST THEORY 1, 2–
14 (1983)). Marilyn Frey was, until her retirement, University Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Michigan
State University. Marilyn Frye, MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY,