and identity.38 Questioning individuals, by daring even to question – publicly or privately—their
sexual orientation, call into doubt society’s assignment of identity and status.39
The LGBTQ community must guard against falling into the trap of validating sexism by
clinging to sexism’s symbols of power. Some elements of the LGBTQ community do so by
enforcing a norm of “compulsory heteronormativity” by appropriating for itself—and
commanding adherence to—all of the communal trappings of heterosexuality.40 This is seen by
seemingly benign comments in personal ads, such as “straight-acting only” or “no femmes.” It is
seen in public discourse that excludes the more “flamboyant” individuals who “flaunt” their
difference: the seeming willingness to disassociate from the drag queens on the Pride Parade float
as casting “the community” in a “negative light.”41 It is seen in “erasure” of bisexuals42 and the
marginalization of trans individuals.43 If compulsory adherence to gender norms is sex
discrimination,44 then it is equally so if compelled by dominant society or by dominant society’s
deputy. A marginalized group cannot seek “acceptance” by dominant society without in some
manner conceding to the legitimacy of the dominant society’s authority and—by necessary
implication—its oppression. If one moves from “them” to “us,” the oppressive us-versus-them
binary still remains.
The American Dilemma45 and heterosexism are interrelated. Myths and horror stories
regarding black male sexuality were used to oppress African-Americans and to exercise
paternalistic, sexist control over all women.46 The African-American male as predator and the
[white] woman as prey,47as well as the “Jezebel image” of the African-American woman as a
hypersexualized “sexual temptress”48 were crucial justifications to deny rational choice and
38 See, e.g., Patricia A. Cain, Stories from the Gender Garden: Transsexuals and Anti-discrimination Law, 75 DENV.
U.L. REV. 1321 (1998) (discussing experience of trans individuals).
39 Cf. MacKinnon, supra note 32, at 529–32 (stating that “feminist inquiry” unmasks the “learned quality” of gender).
As to the relationship between gender and sexual orientation, MacKinnon writes, “Lesbians so violate the sexuality
implicit in female gender stereotypes as not to be considered women at all.” Id. at 530.
40 See, e.g., Porscha Yount, Denying Queer Realities: Scripting the Normative Homo (2009) (unpublished M.A.
thesis, East Tennessee State University), http://dc.etsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3244&context=etd
(discussing compulsory heteronormativity in the LGBTQ community).
42 Kenji Yoshino, The Epistemic Contract of Bisexual Erasure, 52 STAN. L. REV. 353, 395–99 (2000); Sari H.
Dworkin, Identifying as Lesbian vs. Bisexual: The Dilemma For Women, Paper Presented at the Annual Convention
of the American Psychological Association (Aug. 1991). This is often reflected in the notion that a bisexual “was
‘really’ a homosexual trying to disguise his aberrant tastes.” FRIDAY, supra note 37, at 364. In the words of a common
expression: “bi now, gay later.” For some, bisexuality is a transfer point, but for other it is the final destination.
43 See, e.g., Cain, supra note 38, at 1336–51.
44 Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228 (1989).
45 See generally GUNNAR MYRDAL, AN AMERICAN DILEMMA: THE NEGRO PROBLEM AND MODERN DEMOCRACY
(1944) (exploring race relations in the United States).
46 See BALOS & FELLOWS, supra note 26, at 378-93.
47 Id.; Deirdre Davis, The Harm that Has No Name: Street Harassment, Embodiment, and African American Women,
4 UCLA WOMEN’S L.J. 133, 164–66 (1994).