Arguing that America's civil rights legislation contains sections that tacitly apologize for difference from the white, male, straight norm, Yoshino outlines a new paradigm for the field. The law, he says, should defend one's "right to say what one is," so that no one can be forced to "cover" their true self, at work or at home.

Autobiography is a major component of Covering. Though you are openly gay in your professional life as a Yale law professor, was this still, personally, a difficult book to write?

Extremely difficult, actually. I think that it was hardest for me because I was trying to break convention about how legal issues are written about. The style of the book is very unusual—a memoir in the service of an argument. I kept coming back to this idea that Nietzsche once had that all philosophy is ultimately unconscious biography. And given that the book is about the importance of honesty and authenticity, I thought I had to risk some of that on my own to properly prosecute the argument.

How would you define "covering" to someone who hasn't read your book?

Sometimes we're willing to articulate that we have an identity and willing to let that be broadly known—but we, nonetheless, make a huge effort to downplay it or mute it.

Coercion seems to be the key component.

Exactly. What I'm really concerned with is the covering demand, not the covering performance. Because, oftentimes, people are just being themselves. We should never assume that the African-American who isn't wearing cornrows is covering, because she may just not want to wear cornrows. But if she does wear cornrows, and the employer says, "don't do that," then I have a problem.

If you could spell out new legislation you would want written, what would it say?


would first take note that many Americans today are exhausted with identity politics. I share, not the exhaustion, but the worry that we're increasingly spinning apart into these different identity groups, each clamoring for protection. I think the question is, "how do you adapt a progressive agenda for a pluralistic society?" My answer is that we should focus on the universal rights held by individuals, rather than an equality analysis that focuses on groups. [It] would focus more on what we all have in common as Americans, rather than what drives us apart.