It remains to make good on two promissory notes from the previous chapter. As I mentioned at the outset of that chapter, lesbian feminists have constructed extensive and pointed arguments against lesbian marriage, motherhood, and family. Because those arguments are so compelling from a feminist perspective, they need to be addressed at length. Second, the previous chapter invoked, without defending, the thesis that being unfit for marriage and family has occupied a central position in the social construction of what it means to be gay or lesbian. Because putting the family at the center of lesbian and gay politics looks, on the surface, reactionary rather than revolutionary, some hefty evidence that the subordinating construction of gay and lesbian identity centers around their being family outlaws is in order.
In sections I and II , I summarize feminist and lesbian feminist critiques of family, marriage, and motherhood. In section III , I critique lesbian feminist reasons for eschewing a political agenda that endorses family, marriage, and mothering. There, I will pick up a theme central to Chapters 2 and 3 . In lesbian feminist arguments against lesbian marriage, motherhood, and family, lesbians' difference from heterosexual women persistently drops from view because feminism has under-theorized lesbian and gay subordination as an axis distinct from gender oppression. In section IV , I trace the historical construction of lesbians and gays as outlaws to the family. There, I will suggest that heterosexuals' claim to be naturally fit for family life was purchased by promoting the view that gays and lesbians have in excess the very traits that threaten heterosexuals' abilities to maintain a family. Because the idea that lesbians and gay men are unfit for family is so central to the ideological construction of lesbian and gay identity, family issues belong at the very center of lesbian and gay politics. In the concluding section, I will argue that making family a political priority is not, as is sometimes argued, a conservative move. What is at stake is not the right to participate in a traditional form of family life but the right to define what counts as a family.
Feminist analyses of the family, marriage, and mothering have been driven by a deep awareness that the family has been a primary site of women's subordination to and dependence on men. Feminist analyses have also been driven by