Most nonheterosexuals want to be guaranteed civil rights without regard to sexual practices; nevertheless, quite often, gay and lesbian activists formulate demands in ways that de-emphasize practice and emphasize identity. For example, instead of saying, "My having sex with women is irrelevant to the question of whether I should have custody of my child," a lesbian activist might say, "My lesbian identity is as moral and healthy as heterosexual identity and therefore should not prevent me from having custody of my child." The general claim is that lesbian or gay personhood is as good as heterosexual personhood, so lesbians and gays should have equal rights; our political system should recognize and protect a plurality of identities. There are obvious reasons why demands get articulated as support for identities rather than allowance of practices. Many people are much more willing to love the "sinner" if they are still allowed to hate the "sin," so gays and lesbians have formulated appeals in the ways most likely to be supported by heterosexuals. But, when pluralism of this sort is taken as the goal the powers supporting heterosexism go unchallenged and are even reinforced in some fundamental ways. In other words, pluralism as a political ideal may serve to oppress precisely those disprivileged or marginalized groups who might be expected to gain most from its realization. To make this argument, I will draw on the work of Michel Foucault.

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Copyright © 1998, State University of New York (SUNY) Press. This chapter first appeared in Reinterpreting the Political: Continental Philosophy and Political Theory.

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