Publication Title

California Law Review

Document Type



This Essay explores the deep dissonance that exists today between the validation of American LesBiGays in the commercial marketplace and their devaluation in political and legal arenas, and questions the failure of legal scholars and civil rights activists to account meaningfully for this dissonance in their theories and practices. I

n America's popular culture, LesBiGay identities abound. In its political culture, however, they emerge more tentatively. The commercial and entertainment industries increasingly commodify and celebrate LesBiGay identities. The courts and legislatures generally discount and condemn them. Thus, there is a deep dissonance between the validation of LesBiGay identities in the economic marketplace of items and ideas, and their devaluation in the legal arena of rights and remedies. Such a dissonance fosters a fragmented sense of what LesBiGay identities are, and whether or how they are valued.

Surprisingly, this schizoid treatment of LesBiGay identity is largely ignored or misunderstood by legal theorists and practitioners. Typically, they look primarily to politics and law for the paths to LesBiGay self-realization and social inclusion. The academy and activists have yet to appreciate that consumer-driven corporatism, commercial entrepreneurship, and the fetishes and fantasies of the mass media are unleashing powerful cultural forces that will influence, for better or worse, the LesBiGay quest for liberty and equality. For if "the business of America is business," then surely the Americanization of the LesBiGay identity is business, too.



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