The terms LGBT and Islam mentioned together in a sentence rarely evoke positive connotations. Rather, LGBT and Islam are often considered inherently incompatible. While there is little evidence on which an inherent incompatibility can be claimed, persecution of LGBT people across the globe is routinely carried out in the name of Islam. Yet at its heart, Islam can be a powerful force acknowledging sexual and gender diversity. Of all the world’s great religions, Islam is arguably the most sex positive of all. Three main avenues provide understanding of sexuality and gender in Islam. First is the Qur’an, or the Islamic holy book. Second is hadith, which are the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. Third are fatwah, which are the rulings of religious leaders. Certainly, most of this literature positions sexuality as properly confined to heterosexual marriage between a gender normative woman and a gender normative man. However, it is often difficult to distill such an imperative from cultural aspects that inflect all readings of religious scripture. In other words, it is often not Islam per se that prohibits same-sex sexuality and gender diversity but rather cultural interpretations of religious aspects. Moreover, it is not uncommon for fatwah to contradict each other, and thus which fatwah are followed comes down to which imam or religious leader espouses it. A further difficulty with discussing sexuality and gender vis-à-vis Islam, or indeed any religion, is that terms such as sexuality and gender are inherently modern and were developed long after understandings of religion were culturally and politically enshrined. As such, particular understandings of the categories of woman and man within scripture exist in a state where interrogation is not possible. If Muhammad were alive today, he would have linguistic tools available to him to talk about sexuality and gender in a much more nuanced way. To thus discuss LGBT subject positions within Islam, given that Islam was largely developed before words like gender and sexuality were invented, is difficult. Nevertheless, such discussion is warranted and fruitful and shows that while many interpretations of Islam seek to vilify LGBT, many aspects of Islam and its practice are inclusive of sexual and gender diversity.
Islam, Sexuality, and Gender Identity
Sharyn Graham Davies
Europe’s LGBT Movement: France
David Paternotte and Massimo Prearo
Four moments can be identified in the development of LGBT activism in France: the tensions between private actions and acting publicly (1954–1974), the movement as an activist project (1974–1989), the first attempts of institutionalization (1989–1994), and the emergence of a space of LGBT activism (1994–2013). These moments are identified based on the nature of the collective action, the internal structure of the movement, the representativeness of national collectives, and the political plurality of the community of the LGBT movement. They show the nonlinear trajectory of the LGBT movement in France and confirm that the project of an LGBT movement, a structured and representative national organization, has never been fully achieved in the country. Two characteristics of the French political and social system contribute to explain this situation: a strong and inaccessible state that transcends civil society, and the impact of Republicanism. The closure of the French state, which restricts the opportunities available to activists, has had a significant impact on activism. It not only contributes to the individualization of protest, but also leads to a radicalization of activism, a limited duration of groups over time, and a lack of centralization, institutionalization, and NGOization of social movement organizations. This closure partly results from the Republicanist ideology, which requires the state to transcend civil society groups and the particular interests they would defend in favor of so-called general will. If the development of Republican ideas has historically facilitated the development of LGBT rights, Republicanism has more recently prevented LGBT activists from articulating a specific political identity.
Federalism and LGBT Politics and Policy in the United States
Jami K. Taylor, Donald P. Haider-Markel, and Daniel C. Lewis
The LGBT policymaking process in the United States is fragmented and LGBT citizens face different policy contexts depending on which local government and state they reside in. With a lack of national consensus on LGBT rights and the country’s federal political system, which allows states to have substantial policymaking authority, policymakers have created a diverse and decentralized set of policies. Indeed, this governmental system significantly shapes the opportunity structure for the adoption of LGBT inclusive policy. It allows for remarkable LGBT rights advances in some states and localities, but little to no progress in others. States in the Northeast and on the West Coast tend to have more LGBT inclusive policies than those in the South or Midwest. In some instances, localities in states that lack inclusive policies engage in compensatory policymaking to provide added LGBT protections. However, the ability of localities to do this is shaped by state law concerning home rule authority and whether the state legislature has decided to proscribe such action. When trying to advance LGBT rights policy, advocates must venue-shop for favorable policymaking circumstances. Favorable circumstances commonly include institutional control by Democrats or municipalities with greater diversity, higher education levels, and more people engaged in management, business, science, and arts occupations. Opponents to LGBT rights are engaged in venue-shopping as well, but they normally hold the defensive advantage of maintaining the status quo. Both proponents and opponents of LGBT rights have used the court systems of states and the national government to shape LGBT rights related policy.
Political Attitudes and Behaviors of LGBT People in the United States
Despite the prominence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans and debates over LGBT rights in modern American politics, a substantial academic literature that examines their political attitudes has yet to develop. Prominent academic surveys have only relatively recently begun to ask respondent sexual orientation, though even the highest quality surveys that rely on random national samples still contain few LGBT respondents given their small share of the population. Further, questions about respondent gender identity are still largely absent in both academic and commercial surveys. As a result, systematic and deep knowledge about the contours of LGBT political attitudes and how they differ from those of non-LGBT Americans is understandably shallow. However, existing surveys can provide a descriptive overview of the American LGBT community and its politics. Demographically, those who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual in surveys as of the mid- to late 2010s tend to be younger, disproportionately female, less religiously committed, less likely to be white, and somewhat lower income and more highly educated than those who identify as heterosexual. Given how these demographic tilts map onto modern political divides, it should not be a surprise that LGBT Americans skew more liberal and Democratic than others in their political orientations. When differences emerge between LGBT and non-LGBT Americans in their issue attitudes, LGBT respondents in surveys consistently tend toward more liberal-leaning opinions. However, this leftward tilt does not always place LGBT persons on the liberal side of issues on average, nor does it mean that LGBT and non-LGBT survey respondents are necessarily in opposition in the aggregate as oftentimes the difference between them is their degree of collective liberalism. Thus, the nature of these intergroup differences depends on the issue or set of issues under examination. Existing data and research do have certain limitations that future research may improve upon. Given that most data on LGBT political attitudes comes from general population surveys of which LGBT respondents are only a small part, most current data do not strongly lend themselves to deeper analysis of subgroups within the LGBT community. Surveys specifically of LGBT people suggest important differences between gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals in how they view their identities as LGBT people and how they perceive how LGBT people fit into modern society, so future research may gather the data necessary to explore the consequences of these differences in political attitudes in greater depth. Also, there is substantial room for future research to explore the sources of LGBT political distinctiveness, and to what extent that distinctiveness stems from demographics, socialization, lived experience, psychology, or other factors.
Attitudes Toward LGBT+ People and Policies: Political Tolerance and Egalitarianism
Political tolerance and commitment to egalitarianism have long been examined as possible contributors to attitudes toward LGBT+ people and policies. Since the 1970s, American attitudes toward LGBT+ issues have changed drastically. During this period, public policy and measures of public opinion toward LGBT+ rights have focused on a variety of areas, such as nondiscrimination laws, gay military service, and family matters such as adoption and marriage. Interestingly, although support for equality has remained the same in the United States, individuals have become rapidly more supportive of LGBT+ people securing equal rights in a variety of domains. There are three primary reasons for this shift: elite messaging, attributions of homosexuality, and contact with members of the LGBT+ community, both direct and indirect. These factors have led to an environment in which the value of equality is more readily applied to LGBT+ issues, therefore increasing support for these rights over time. Elite messaging has played a key role in this shift. Across LGBT+ issues, equality frames are often countered with moral traditionalism, thus leading to an increased propensity for individuals to associate LGBT+ issues with these values. The effectiveness of equality frames has been bolstered by the growing belief that homosexuality is a fixed rather than chosen trait, which yields a greater reliance upon egalitarianism when evaluating LGBT+-related issues. At the same time, both direct and indirect contact with the LGBT+ community increased following the Stonewall Riots of 1969. Americans were first introduced to gay characters on television in the 1970s. LG characters gained more prominent roles throughout the 1990s on shows such as The Real World and Will and Grace. Following Stonewall, LGBT+ activist organizations also advocated that members of the community “come out of the closet” and reveal their sexual orientation to the people in their lives. Thus, the chances of Americans knowing—or at least feeling like they knew—an LGBT+ person increased. Consistent with Allport’s Contact Theory (1954) and Zajonc’s work on “mere exposure effects” (1968), affect toward LGBT+ individuals has generally grown more positive with greater interaction and familiarity. These various factors interacted with underlying predispositions to drastically move public opinion in favor of greater equality for LGBT+ people.
Russian LGBT Politics and Rights
Research on LGBT politics in Russia is a growing but still relatively small field. The current conditions of LGBT politics in Russia have been shaped by various historical processes. A key event was the 1933–1934 Stalinist anti-homosexual campaign and the recriminalization of sodomy; during this period a discursive frame was established that, to a large extent, continues to structure public perceptions of homosexuality: according to this framework, it is a political as well as a national transgression, associated with imagined attempts to undermine Russia by Western states. A near-total silence about homosexuality in the post-Stalin Soviet Union—where same-sex relations were regulated by criminal (in the case of men) and psychiatric (in the case of women) institutions—was broken during late 1980s perestroika, leading up to the 1993 decriminalization of sodomy. The Putin years have seen the gradual rise of a nationalist conservative ideology that opposes LGBT rights and stresses the importance of “traditional values.” The latter concept became state ideology after Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012, as manifested in the 2013 ban on “propaganda for nontraditional sexual relations” and the foreign policy profiling of Russia as an international guardian of conservatism. In neighboring Eurasian countries—the post-Soviet republics in Central Asia and the Caucasus—the rise of “traditional-values” discourses and proposed propaganda bans in the 2010s indicate the extent to which LGBT politics have become entangled in geopolitical contestations over identity and regional influence. In Russia, a first wave of gay activism in the early 1990s failed to develop into a vital and lasting political movement but established a queer infrastructure in larger cities. It was followed by a second generation of activists in the mid-2000s, for some of whom the organization of Pride marches have been the main strategy, leading to controversies that have increased the public visibility and politicization of LGBT issues. In scholarship on LGBT politics in Russia and Eurasia, two important subjects of discussion have been visibility and geopoliticization. The first includes a critique of identity-based visibility politics and how it has structured perceptions of queer life in Russia as well as LGBT activism itself. Researchers have examined the multiple and contradictory effects and meanings of public visibility in the Russian context and have pointed at alternative forms of activism and organizing. Second, researchers have explored the geopolitical underpinnings of sexual politics, mapping how LGBT issues are interwoven in complex negotiations over national and civilizational identity, sovereignty and regional domination, security, progress, and modernity.
Brazil’s LGBT Movement and Interest Groups
Jacob R. Longaker
Brazil has boasted a vibrant and creative LGBT movement since the late 1970s. Early organizing focused on consciousness-raising, the formation of a collective identity, and political opposition to the military dictatorship (1964–1985). These years saw transformations in understandings of individual and collective identity, publications in an early homophile press, and successful experiences organizing in homosexual gay and lesbian groups. In the late 1980s, with the advent of HIV/AIDS and re-democratization, the movement began a turn to institutionalized politics and public policy. Strategic engagement with the state as legally registered civil society organizations established a framework for a routine and cooperative relationship in policy and policymaking. This occurred first for HIV/AIDS service provision and later for LGBT citizenship. By the 1990s, the movement embraced identity politics and grappled with an explosion of advocacy on behalf of identity groups that make up the alphabet soup of LGBT politics, particularly lesbian and transgender rights groups that had been less visible in earlier years. Movement successes, such as same-sex partnership recognition, gender-identity recognitions, and policy programs against violence, have been accomplished primarily through engagement with the judiciary and executive, not the legislature (nor electoral politics). The legislature and electoral politics have failed to produce significant gains in LGBT-friendly policy at the national level; however, state and municipal LGBT-friendly policy exists. Moving forward, persistent challenges include divisive partisan [identity] politics within the movement, concerted opposition from conservative evangelical politicians, and volatility of the national political context. These challenges jeopardize policy successes that the movement has made through rather precarious executive and judicial avenues.
Public Opinion Toward LGBT People and Rights in Latin America and the Caribbean
Enrique Chaux, Manuela León, Lina Cuellar, and Juliana Martínez
Important changes toward more acceptance of homosexuality seem to be occurring in many countries around the world. However, large differences exist between individuals, societal groups, countries, and regions in attitudes toward homosexuality. Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LatAmC) are not an exception in either of these trends. More positive attitudes toward homosexuality in LatAmC countries and significant legal and political changes in favor of LBGT rights have been occurring in the region since the third wave of democratization in the 1980s. Nonetheless, there are important limitations to these advancements: they are highly uneven; they are fragile and likely to become targets of politically motivated public outrage; enforcement is irregular and often faces hostile resistance from the civil servants appointed to enact and uphold them; and LGBT individuals continue to face high levels of violence, making the region one of the deadliest for sexual and gender minorities, particularly trans women. Analyses from two large surveys, conducted periodically in several LatAmC countries, which include questions about homophobic attitudes (the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study, or ICCS, and the Latin American Public Opinion Project, or LAPOP) show a clear historical pattern of increased acceptance toward homosexuality in most countries. They also reveal large differences between countries with high (e.g., Uruguay) or low (e.g., Haiti) levels of acceptance of homosexuality. Multiple variables are associated with these differences. In almost all countries, women and more educated, less religious, and more politically active participants show more positive attitudes toward homosexuality than men and less educated, more religious (especially evangelical) and less politically involved participants. The analysis of attitudes toward homosexuality in LatAmC shows that (a) change in attitudes at a large scale is possible and is occurring relatively fast in LatAmC; (b) some countries are greatly lagging behind in these changes, especially in the Caribbean; and (c) policies and programs are urgently needed in the region, not only to facilitate changes in those countries where homophobic attitudes are still very common, but also to consolidate changes that have already been occurring.
LGBT Movements in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China
Travis S. K. Kong, Hsiao-wei Kuan, Sky H. L. Lau, and Sara L. Friedman
Although Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China broadly share common social and cultural norms rooted in Confucian values and culturally Chinese family ideals, they have developed distinct political and economic trajectories since 1949 that have created very different possibilities for LGBT movements. Coming from the conservative political, social, and moral milieu of the 1950s through the 1970s, in the 1980s and 1990s, these societies witnessed a blooming of sexually alternative, even queer, cultural productions, commercial venues, and political activism, together with distinctive “gay,” “lesbian,” or tongzhi identities, among other self-identification labels. By the late 20th century, flows of people, ideas, concepts, and relationships had grown increasingly salient for emerging terms of identification and modes of organizing in all three societies. The diverse combinations of democracy, socialism, authoritarianism, and postcolonialism have shaped the content and direction of sexuality-based identities and sexual rights movements in these three societies. How explicitly these communities pursued visibility and claimed sexually specific identities, however, varied significantly both internally and in comparison across the three societies. The shared histories have created significant commonalities across the region; yet the different degrees of physical and societal openness and the extent of access to domestic and foreign interlocutors in these three societies have produced striking differences in LGBT citizens’ ability to claim diverse rights and protections under multifaceted forms of sexual citizenship.
Homosexuality Under Socialism in the German Democratic Republic
In general, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) did not treat its gay and lesbian citizens very favorably. Although the legal situation was more liberal than in the Federal Republic (West Germany) and other Western European countries, most homosexual East Germans lived in a state of invisibility at best, or suffered direct homophobia at worst, often at the hands of the government. In the mid-1980s, the public and government stance toward homosexuality liberalized slightly, leading to small improvements in the lives of gay East Germans. However, gay East Germans never experienced many of the same freedoms or opportunities that their West German, other Western European, or American counterparts enjoyed. Gay East Germans occupied a difficult position within the socialist ideology of the GDR. In theory, each East German was equal, enjoying universal rights and opportunities, and living free from discrimination. At the same time, however, the smallest building block of the society was the heterosexual, reproductive, married couple: a model into which same-sex desiring people could not fit. This doctrine of supposed equality probably contributed to the fact that homosexuality was decriminalized earlier in the GDR than in the Federal Republic, but it was also used by the SED (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands: the ruling, dictatorial party) as an excuse not to engage further with the specific needs of gay citizens until the mid-1980s. The GDR saw some limited gay activism in the 1970s in the form of the Homosexuelle Interessengemeinschaft Berlin (HIB); however, the group’s activities never really extended outside of East Berlin and did not lead to significant political or social change. More impactful activism occurred in the 1980s under the aegis of the Protestant Church as the only organization in the GDR that operated largely outside of state control. The SED eventually yielded to some of the demands of gay activists—by sanctioning publications and meeting spaces, for example—but did so primarily to draw gay activists out of the protection of Church structures and in order to be able to monitor and control them more easily. There are few East German literary or artistic works that engage with homosexuality, although a number of relevant literary works were published in the 1980s. These contributed to a fledgling discourse around homosexuality, shifting the issue from a taboo topic to one more acceptable for discussion in the public sphere. However, when East German audiences viewed Heiner Carow’s Coming Out in 1989—the first and only East German feature film to depict homosexual relationships—many claimed that it was their first exposure to homosexuality. And, since the GDR ceased to exist as a state fairly abruptly in 1990, one will never know how the trajectory of gay rights activism may have continued.
African Attitudes Toward Same-Sex Relationships, 1982–2018
Kim Yi Dionne and Boniface Dulani
One significant barrier to sexual minority rights in Africa is the generally negative attitudes ordinary Africans have toward same-sex relationships. Yet since 1998, there has been notable progress in terms of legalizing same-sex relationships on the continent, with Botswana the most recent African country to do so, in 2019. Botswana joins Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Lesotho, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe, Seychelles, and South Africa, among countries that have decriminalized same-sex relationships. Publicly available cross-national survey data measuring citizen’s attitudes toward homosexuality in 41 African countries from 1982 to 2018 shows that, on average, Africans hold negative attitudes toward same-sex relationships, which is consistent with previous reports. However, there is variation in these attitudes, suggesting greater tolerance of sexual minorities among women, people who use the Internet more frequently, and urban residents. One key finding is that homophobia is not universal in Africa. In light of recent policy and legal developments advancing sexual minority rights, and given findings in existing scholarship highlighting the influence politicians have in politicizing homophobia, the literature questioning the generalized notion of a “homophobic Africa” is growing, and there are calls for more research on the factors influencing decriminalization.
Party Politics and LGBT Issues in the United States
Melissa R. Michelson and Elizabeth Schmitt
Political parties are a core feature of the American political system, and partisan identification is a major determinant of both individual attitudes and political behavior. Since the beginning of the 21st century, the major political parties in the United States have become increasingly polarized, and partisan affect has intensified, with individuals more hostile toward the opposing party. This increased polarization and tendency to follow elite cues has also affected LGBT politics. Among openly LGBT candidates for political office, almost all have run as Democrats. In June 2018 only 2.9% of openly LGBT elected officials in the country were affiliated with the Republican Party. Outreach to LGBT voters by Democratic candidates has increased over time; in contrast, Republican candidates have been generally hostile to LGBT people and issues. This growing gap in outreach is reflected in vote choice patterns. Since 1988, at least two-thirds of LGBT voters have supported the Democratic nominee for president. In the 2016 election, 78% of LGBT voters supported the Democratic nominee for president, Hillary Clinton, while only 14% supported Republican Donald Trump. In the 2018 midterm elections LGBT voters favored Democratic candidates by a margin of 82% to 17%. LGBT interest groups also tend to be affiliated with the Democratic Party, with the notable exception of the Log Cabin Republicans. Until the 1990s, most straight Americans were not interested in or aware of LGBT public policy issues, but today the members of both political parties reflect the increased partisan polarization of the country. Democrats are more likely to support same-sex relationships and marriage, laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination, transgender rights, and other supportive policies; Republicans, in contrast, are more opposed to those policies and support religious exemptions from antidiscrimination laws. This increased sorting among the LGBT public reflects an increasingly salient national divide between the two major political parties, including their understandings of LGBT identity. Democrats have for several decades understood LGBT identity as permanent (that people are born that way) and thus deserving of maximum legal protection. In contrast, many more Republicans understand LGBT as a choice or as a result of one’s upbringing and environment and thus not a basis for claims for equal rights. This represents a shift over time; in 1977, only 13% of Americans believed that homosexuality was something that people were born with. As more Americans became familiar with the science demonstrating that being gay is genetic and not a “lifestyle choice,” a partisan split emerged. Scholarship suggests partisanship is likely driving acceptance of the science. Regardless of the cause of the partisan split on the nature vs. nurture debate on LGBT identity, that split is reflected in the increasingly large differences between representation of LGBT people in elected office, in party support for LGBT policies, and in LGBT partisanship.
Attitudes Toward LGBT People and Their Rights in Europe
Attitudes toward LGBT people have changed in Europe since the 1990s; there is generally much more tolerance and acceptance. Evidence drawn from surveys and research projects including the European Social Survey, European Values Study, and Pew Research Center illustrate the types of attitudes that have changed, and in which European countries change has occurred. A comparison of attitudes and tolerance across Europe indicates that some countries and groups of countries are more accepting of LGBT people. North-western European nations appear high in the tolerance rankings of trend surveys, while more easterly European nations have not always followed this progression. Indeed, in cases such as Russia and Chechnya, “propaganda laws” have denied LGBT people basic human rights. Hostility toward and violence against LGBT people is perpetrated with seeming impunity in these areas. Factors that influence attitudes toward LGBT people and their rights include democracy and economic development, religiosity, global forces, and degrees of contact. There is a clear link between legislation and attitudes; in countries where legislation is in place and, for example, where same-sex marriage is legal, surveys overwhelmingly show a higher acceptance of LGBT people. Legislation is a powerful influence in shaping social attitudes, so it is important to consider the legislation adopted by various European countries. Institutions such as the European Union are effective in providing protections for LGBT citizens as well as leading on areas such as the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). There has been “pushback” in terms of change and one of the more contested areas is same-sex marriage. While the trend since the late 20th century has seemed to be toward introducing same-sex marriage, a number of countries, largely in Eastern Europe, have introduced constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, defining marriage as solely between a man and woman. The position of trans and non-binary people is particularly perilous since there is very little legislative protection in place for them. There has been a positive change in attitudes and legislation across Europe which has enhanced the lived lives of LGBT people; these changes, however, have not been even or uniform across the area.
Global Anti-LGBT Politics
Barry D. Adam
Anti-LGBT politics around the world have undergone a major transformation over the last half century. While European powers once held themselves up as defenders of Christian morality and patriarchy, characterizing Asia, Africa, and the Americas as locations of sexual disorder, in the 21st century many of the countries of the Global South construct LGBT sexualities as pathological, threatening, or criminal, while many countries of the Global North incorporate sexual orientation in a discourse of human rights, democracy, and individual freedom. Many of the social forces of nationalism and populism of the early 21st century place the well-being of LGBT citizens in jeopardy, and conflicts between these divergent visions of the good society continue to have grave consequences for LGBT people around the world.
Queer as Materialism
Sophie Noyé and Gianfranco Rebucini
Since the 2000s, forms of articulation between materialist and Marxist theory and queer theory have been emerging and have thus created a “queer materialism.” After a predominance of poststructuralist analyses in the social sciences in the1980s and 1990s, since the late 1990s, and even more so after the economic crisis of 2008, a materialist shift seems to be taking place. These recompositions of the Marxist, queer, and feminist, which took place in activist and academic arenas, are decisive in understanding how the new approaches are developing in their own fields. The growing legitimacy of feminist and queer perspectives within the Marxist left is part of an evolution of Marxism on these issues. On the other side, queer activists and academics have highlighted the economic and social inequalities that the policies of austerity and capitalism in general induce among LGBTQI people and have turned to more materialist references, especially Marxist ones, to deploy an anticapitalist and antiracist argument. Even if nowadays one cannot speak of a “queer materialist” current as such, because the approaches grouped under this term are very different, it seems appropriate to look for a “family resemblance” and to group them together. Two specific kinds of “queer materialisms” can thus be identified. The first, queer Marxism, seeks to theorize together Marxist and queer theories, particularly in normalization and capitalist accumulation regimes. The second, materialist queer feminism, confronts materialist/Marxist feminist thought with queer approaches and thus works in particular on the question of heteropatriarchy based on this double tradition.
Africa’s LGBT Movement and Interest Groups
Oluwafemi Adeagbo and Kammila Naidoo
The dominant belief in Africa is that same-sex intimacy is a child of modern civilization and Western culture. Hence, we see a high level of homophobia and continuous policing of same-sex relationships in most African countries, including those that have decriminalized them. Over time, different scholarly discourses have emerged about homosexuality in Africa. Although some writers believe that same-sex intimacy is fundamentally un-African, others argue that same-sex intimacy is inherent in African culture. Arguably, the introduction of Western religion, such as Christianity, which forms part of the colonization agenda, favors the monogamous, heterosexual relationship (the basis of the “ideal family unit”) as the acceptable natural union while any relationship outside it is regarded as unnatural. Given deteriorating socioeconomic and political situations in Africa, political leaders often find it expedient to use religious-based homophobic narratives to distract their impoverished citizens and muster popular support. Put together, this has led to the criminalization of same-sex unions in most African countries. Modern discourses in Africa on gender equality and sexual freedoms reveal more liberal attitudes, but the same cannot be said about how same-sex desire is viewed. Toleration of same-sex intimacy is seen as a threat to the dominant African definition of marriage, family, and patriarchal gender and power relations. Despite the prevalence of homophobia, the establishment of gay networks and movements that championed the liberation struggles of sexual minorities in South Africa from the apartheid to postapartheid era have sharpened the sense of belonging of LGBTIA groups. While some countries (e.g., South Africa, Lesotho, Cape Verde, Rwanda, Mali, and Mozambique) have abandoned sodomy laws that criminalized same-sex relationships (often after much pressure was exerted), others (e.g., Chad, Sudan, Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt, Tunisia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Mauritania) have upheld the laws with stiff punishment—prison terms up to 14–30 years or death sentences for the crime of being homosexual. The first half of 2019 raised some hopes about LGBTIA rights in Africa when Angola (January 2019) and Botswana (June 2019) decriminalized homosexuality. However, Kenya, which had previously shown a “glimmer of hope” in decriminalizing same-sex relationships, upheld laws that criminalize homosexuality in May 2019. Currently, more than 30 of the 54 recognized African countries still have laws (with harsh punishments or death) that outlaw consensual same-sex relationships. Both theoretical and empirical insights into the current state of Africa’s LGBTIA rights and scholarship are discussed.
HIV Law and Policy in the United States: A Tipping Point
The fight to effectively treat and stop the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has made meaningful progress both in the United States and globally. But within the United States that progress has been uneven across various demographic groups and geographic areas, and has plateaued. While scientific advances have led to the development of medicine capable of both treating and preventing HIV, law and policy dictate who will have ready access to these medicines and other prevention techniques, and who will not. Law and policy also play a crucial role in determining whether HIV will be stigmatized, discouraging people from being tested and treated, or will be identified for what it is—a preventable and treatable disease. To make further progress against HIV, the United States must address healthcare disparities, end the criminalization of HIV, and devote additional resources toward combatting HIV stigma and discrimination.
The Special Role of Religion in LGBT-Related Attitudes
Abigail Vegter and Donald P. Haider-Markel
Religious tradition and religiosity affect attitudes toward LGBT people, their rights, and their position within religious communities. There is significant variability within the American context concerning how religious traditions approach issues related to sexuality and gender identity, with monotheistic religions holding more conservative positions. These positions and the elites who hold them often influence the attitudes of their congregants, but not always, as some congregations diverge from the official positions of their denominations in terms of attitudes toward LGBT rights, religious leadership, and congregational membership. As the religious landscape is consistently changing in terms of attitudes toward sexual minorities, understanding the special role of religion in LGBT-related attitudes remains important and an area ripe for future scholarship.
The Political Economy of LGBT Rights
Scott N. Siegel
Equal treatment for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community has improved at a rapid pace around the world since the gay rights movement first rose up to become a salient global force for change. With important regional exceptions, laws criminalizing same-sex sexual relations have not only come down in multiple countries, but same-sex couples can now also construct families in many advanced industrialized countries. Public acceptance of homosexuality, even in some non-Western countries, has increased dramatically. Yet, within those general trends hides the remarkable unevenness in the spread and adoption of policies fostering legal, social, and economic equality for LGBTQ communities around the world. Policy change toward more equal treatment for sexual minorities is concentrated in the developed world and within the cisgender gay and lesbian communities in particular. The existing literature in policy change shows the importance of transnational activists, changing international norms, and increasing levels of secularization have made this possible. But the effectiveness of these factors rests on an underlying foundation of socioeconomic factors based on economic and social development that characterizes advanced industrialized states. There is an uneven distribution of resources and interests among pro and anti-LGBT activist groups alike, and the differing levels of economic development in which they operate that explains the decidedly uneven nature of how LGBTQ human rights have advanced in the past 50 years. In addition, new political parties and activist organizations have emerged to lead the backlash against LGBTQ rights, showing progress is neither inevitable nor linear. In addition, serious gaps in what we know about LGBT politics remain because of the overwhelming scholarly focus on advanced industrialized states and policies that benefit the cisgender, gay and lesbian middle class in primarily Western societies. The study of LGBT politics in non-Western and developing countries is woefully neglected, for reasons attributed to the nature of the research community and the subject area. In the developed world, greater attention is needed to inequality within the LGBTQ community and issues beyond same-sex marriage. Finally, issues of intersectionality and how different groups within the LGBT community have enjoyed most of the benefits of the gay rights movement since its takeoff more than 50 years ago.
Theoretical Perspectives on LGBT Representation and Party Politics
LGBT people have gone from being a “politics” to a “people” from the end of the 20th century to the beginning of the 21st. They were mostly excluded from public life, and reduced to their sexuality. And when they weren’t reduced, they were restricted. Legislatures, not only failed to protect LGBT people from discrimination, but created new barriers for them under the guise of “protecting” the presumed heterosexual and cisgender basis of society. In America, the Defense of Marriage Act, (DOMA) and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) are the most consequential examples of legislative action that treats LGBT people as morality issues rather than citizens. As LGBT people have gone from the margins to the center of public life, however, their political status changed. LGBT people are no longer a sexuality—but a constituency. There is an undisputed electoral connection. Legislators act on behalf of LGBT constituents in symbolic and substantive ways ranging from membership in LGBT caucuses in their chambers, to voting for bills that clearly help LGBT citizens in specific ways. They also exert pressure on representatives for whom they share no electoral connection, and who are not themselves LGBT. These allies act for LGBT citizens because they it aligns with ideological beliefs in justice and equity. This growth in activity has not only been limited to the US Congress, but has also occurred in US state legislatures and around the world. Activity has not always been synonymous with success, as the US Congress’s long struggle to pass an Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that is inclusive of all aspects of the “LGBT” umbrella demonstrates. Nevertheless, LGBT voters are no longer “an issue”, but a part of the polity. Now that “LGBT” is an established political group there are serious questions that need to be addressed about what is being represented—and why it matters.