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Multidimensionality, Sexual identity oppression, Racial and class biases, Disempowerment, Same-sex marriage


The symbolic meaning of the phrase "tongues untied" has grown to identify a small, yet expanding, cultural, intellectual, and artistic "movement" aimed at revealing - or ending the silence around - the interactions of race, class, gender, and sexuality, what one participant in the movement described as "the transformation of silence into language and action." The work of this movement contrasts starkly with that of the "dominant" gay and lesbian culture and scholarship, where issues of racial and class subordination are neglected or rejected and where a universal gay and lesbian experience is assumed. The work of this movement highlights the need for an examination of racial, gender, and class subordination within gay and lesbian political discourse and legal theory. These concerns, however, remain largely outside of traditional legal fora.

This Article introduces the concerns of this movement into legal discourse in an attempt to initiate a dialogue around issues of race and class between those scholars presently engaged in the construction of gay and lesbian legal theories. Part II examines specific acts of violence and discrimination against gay, or perceived as gay, people of color, and the legal and political challenges to these acts, in order to demonstrate the ready interplay between race, class, and sexual subordination - or the multidimensionality of oppression. Part III contrasts the multidimensional nature of these gay and lesbian experiences with gay and lesbian legal theory and political discourse, which, by excluding issues of racial and class subordination from analysis, have a narrow and essentialist focus. In Part III, I argue that gay and lesbian essentialism negates and obscures the experiences of people of color and the poor, centralizes the experiences of race- and class-privileged individuals, renders inadequate the theories and solutions proposed to explain and confront sexual subordination, and fosters tension with antiracist political agendas and with people of color. In Part IV, I locate my racial critique of gay and lesbian legal theory and political discourse within the extensive and ongoing anti-essentialist debates in feminist legal theory and critical race theory. I also demonstrate how this Article develops and extends these debates. Finally, I invite gay and lesbian legal theorists and political activists to engage in a conversation around sexual, racial, and class inequality and to adopt a "multidimensional framework"- or multidimensionality - to analyze and challenge sexual subordination.

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Connecticut Law Review