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Black lesbians are everywhere and nowhere all at once. Throughout history we have been made invisible. This invisibility serves as a constant reminder that our culture, and indeed our very lives are considered at best illegitimate. At the same time, our identity as Black lesbians has been made hyper-visible when we have tried to remain in the wings. In these instances hyper-visibility becomes a means of punishment-a penalty for not understanding or refusing to abide by societal mandates. The experiences of Black lesbians in law and society illustrate this seeming invisibility/hyper-visibility paradox. Yet the tools of invisibility and hyper-visibility serve the same purpose-the legitimation of dominant cultural control. Invisibility and hyper-visibility compliment each other. They act in concert, as a dual cultural strategy of distortion, suppression, and punishment. A consistent Black lesbian jurisprudence has emerged whereby Black lesbians and our rights are erased at the intersection of our race, gender, and sexual orientation. This Note is an attempt to explore the lives of Black lesbians, to uncover law and society's desire for us to remain seen or unseen depending on the context, and to provide a starting point for others to conduct future research.

Black lesbians are in a moment of collective self-recognition. A number of Black lesbian organizations have formed, Black lesbian literature is written with increasing frequency, and researchers are collecting archival materials focused on the lives and experiences of Black lesbians. Together these factors aid in combating our invisibility, and prompting our visibility through the process of naming our shared reality.

Various theoretical frameworks have been used to analyze the subordination of classes of people based on their sexual orientationl race, gender, and outsider status. These theories provide valuable insight into the societal and legal status of Black lesbians as well. Part II of this Note will discuss how these concepts and frameworks can be used to analyze Black lesbian jurisprudence. Part III documents the varied narratives of Black lesbians, with the goal of bringing our experiences to the forefront. Part IV will present evidence of a specific Black lesbian jurisprudence by analyzing two cases involving Black lesbians.


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7 Sep 2022
2.31 MB



  • Subject
    • Gender

    • Jurisprudence

    • Race and Ethnicity

    • Sexuality and Sexual Orientation

  • Journal title
    • Boston College Third World Law Journal

  • Volume
    • 18

  • Issue
    • 2

  • Pagination
    • 263

  • Date submitted

    7 September 2022