master. Please note the four differences that this Article discusses are not an exhaustive list. Other
differences and sources of discrimination include religion29 and region.30
A. Sex and Gender
Sexism and heterosexism are closely connected and mutually reinforcing.31 According to
Catherine MacKinnon, “Sexuality, then, is a form of power. Gender, as socially constructed,
embodies it, not the reverse. Women and men are divided by gender, made into the sexes as we
know them, by the social requirements of heterosexuality, which institutionalizes male sexual
dominance and female sexual submission.”32 Anything that transgresses gender norms, through
self-realizations rather than socially imposed expressions of sexual orientation or gender identity,
challenges male dominance and all privileges that flow from that dominance.33 That dominance
must be maintained and threats to it countered.34 Verbal and physical violence against LGBTQ
persons enforces “compulsory heterosexuality,”35 which is the key to male domination.
Bisexual, transgender, and questioning individuals similarly challenge sexist society in
complex ways. Bisexuals challenge sexism by stepping beyond the false binary construct of
sexuality as gay-or-straight,36 which is essential to the “us-versus-them” mindset required to
maintain sexism. They also challenge sexism by denying the need to be identified as
heterosexual.37 Transgender individuals challenge sexism by stepping out of confines of the
social construction of sex and by asserting through the process of self-realization and public
identification as trans. Gender and gender expression are imposed by society and subject to social
regulation, rather than realized and expressed from within as a personal declaration of existence
29 CHILD WELFARE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, supra note 2, at 16; GETTING DOWN TO BASICS, supra note 1, at 25–27.
30 See generally WILL FELLOWS, FARM BOYS: LIVES OF GAY MEN FROM THE RURAL MIDWEST (1996) (collecting
personal narratives of gay men growing up in a rural environment); Colleen S. Poon & Elizabeth M. Saewyc, Out
Yonder: Sexual-Minority Adolescents in Rural Communities in British Columbia, 99 AM. J. PUB. HEALTH 118 (2009)
(discussing challenges of rural LGBTQ youth).
31 See, e.g., Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228 (1989) (discussing the idea that sex stereotyping, including
comments that a female partnership candidate was too “macho” and needed to take “a course at charm school” may
violate Title VII’s ban against sex discrimination). For an insightful discussion of this case, see Ronald Turner, The
Unenvisaged Case, Interpretative Progression, and the Justiciability of Title VII Same-Sex Sexual Harassment
Claims, 7 DUKE J. GENDER L. & POL’Y 57 (2000).
32 Catherine A. MacKinnon, Feminism, Marxism, Method, and the State: An Agenda for Theory, 7 SIGNS 515, 533
(1982). For a critique of MacKinnon’s work, see Harris, supra note 11. Harris asserts MacKinnon and Robin West
engage in “gender essentialism – the notion that a unitary, ‘essential’ women’s experience can be isolated and
described independently of race, class, sexual orientation, and other realities of experience.” Id. at 585.
33 MacKinnon, supra note 32, at 542–43.
34 See, e.g., Mayes, supra note 2, at 649.
35 Adrienne Rich, Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence, 5 SIGNS 631 (1980).
36 See, e.g., Shane Town, Is It Safe To Come Out Yet? Paper Presented at the 77th Annual Meeting of the American
Educational Research Association 3 (April 8-12, 1996) (discussing the false gay-straight binary).