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Article

LGBT Rights and Theoretical Perspectives  

Francis Kuriakose and Deepa Kylasam Iyer

The question of LGBT rights was first examined as part of gender and sexuality studies in the 1980s, predominantly in the United States. This was a result of the LGBT movement that had articulated the demand for equal rights and freedom of sexual and gender minorities a decade before. Since then, the examination of LGBT rights has traversed multiple theoretical and methodological approaches and breached many disciplinary frontiers. Initially, gay and lesbian studies (GLS) emerged as an approach to understand the notion of LGBT identity using historical evidence. GLS emphasized the objectives of the LGBT movement in articulating its identity as an issue of minority rights within the ambit of litigation and case law. However, the definition of LGBT identity as a homogeneous and fixed category, and the conceptualization of equality rights as the ultimate project of emancipation, was critiqued on grounds of its normative and assimilationist tendencies. Queer theory emerged in the 1990s as a counter-discourse to GLS, using the individual-centric postmodern technique of deconstruction as the method of analysis. This approach opened up scope for multiple identities within the LGBT community to articulate their positionality, and reclaim the possibilities of sexual liberation that GLS had previously obscured. Subsequent scholarship has critiqued GLS and queer theory for incomplete theorization and inadequate representation, based on four types of counter-argument. The first argument is that queer theory, with its emphasis on self as an alternative for wider social interaction, concealed constitutive macrostructures such as neoliberal capitalism, as well as the social basis of identity and power relations. The second argument highlights the incomplete theorization of bisexual and transgender identities within the LGBT community. For example, understanding bisexuality involves questioning the universalism of monosexuality and postmodern notions of linear sexuality, and acknowledging the possibility of an integrated axis of gender and sexuality. Theorization of transgender and transsexual rights requires a grounded approach incorporating new variables such as work and violence in the historiography of transgender life. The third critique comes from decolonial scholarship that argues that intersectionality of race, gender, class, caste, and nationality brings out multiple concerns of social justice that have been rendered invisible by existing theory. The fourth critique emerged from family studies and clinical psychology, that used queer theory to ask questions about definitions of all family structures outside the couple norm, including non-reproductive heterosexuality, polyamorous relationships, and non-marital sexual unions. These critiques have allowed new questions to emerge as part of LGBT rights within the existing traditions, and enabled the question of LGBT rights to be considered across new disciplinary fronts. For example, the incorporation of the “queer” variable in hitherto technical disciplines such as economics, finance, and management is a development of the early-21st-century scholarship. In particular, the introduction of LGBT rights in economics to expand human capabilities has policy implications as it widens and mainstreams access of opportunities for LGBT communities through consumption, trade, education, employment, and social benefits, thereby expanding the actualization of LGBT rights.

Article

Anti-LGBT and Religious Right Movements in the United States  

Clyde Wilcox

The Christian Right continues to oppose lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights, but the nature of this opposition has evolved over time—often in conjunction with changes in public opinion. From the formation of groups such as the Moral Majority and Concerned Women in America in the late 1970s through the late 2010s, Christian Right groups and LGBT rights groups have frequently responded to each other’s arguments, strategies, and tactics. The Christian Right of the 1980s used antigay themes and rhetoric to raise money and to motivate its members, but it was not effective in reaching individuals outside of its relatively narrow membership base. In the 1990s and 2000s, a number of more sophisticated Christian Right groups were active at the national level, and a number of state and local-level organizations formed to address LGBT issues specifically. Focus on the Family, for example, took a national approach. Its radio programs reached millions of listeners and its mailing list consisted of 2.5 million names. Focus on the Family’s efforts were aimed at converting sexual minorities and attacking both the “radical homosexual agenda” and the gay rights groups that promoted it. At the same time, Family Research Council (FRC) worked with state affiliates to distribute materials across the country. As public opinion shifted in support of same-sex marriage (SSM), and after the Supreme Court overturned state bans on SSM in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, the movement then worked to pass “religious freedom” laws. These laws would allow conservative Christians to refuse to provide services for SSMs, and in many cases allow far broader forms of discrimination. Although the Christian Right was successful in the realm of electoral politics (e.g., the Christian Coalition once claimed to control 35 state Republican Party committees), it has not been able to stop growing public acceptance of LGBT rights.

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LGBT People as a Relatively Politically Powerless Group  

Andrew Proctor

As a group engaged in struggles for representation and inclusion, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people have vied for access to social and political power. There is little dispute that LGBT people are a relatively powerless group in society, but the extent to which the group is powerless is subject to debate in political science. Scholars disagree over the extent of powerlessness because the definition of power is contested among political scientists. As such, scholars have examined the powerlessness of LGBT people in varying ways and reached different conclusions about the success the group has had in achieving rights and visibility. LGBT powerlessness emerges from the group’s status as sexual and gender minorities. Over time, the boundaries that constitute the group have shifted in response to power asymmetries between LGBT people and cisgender, heterosexuals who control access to political and social institutions. In addition, power asymmetries have emerged within the LGBT community at the intersection of race, class, and gender as well as across subgroups of the acronym LGBT. Thus, the distribution of power and powerlessness vary within the group as well as between the group and dominant groups in society. These within- and across-group variations in power shape LGBT group boundaries, representation and public opinion, and voting behavior. The powerlessness of LGBT people must be understood in relation to these contingencies that define the group’s boundaries, and the ways in which power is distributed within and across groups.

Article

An International LGBT Movement  

Ryan Thoreson

As lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) advocates around the globe have fought to gain rights and recognition, their shared endeavors and coordinated activism have given rise to an international LGBT movement. Over the past century, advocates around the world have recognized common aims and collaborated in formal and informal ways to advance the broader cause of sexual equality worldwide. Advocates in different contexts have often connected their struggles, borrowing concepts and strategies from one another and campaigning together in regional and international forums. In doing so, they have pressed for goals as diverse as the decriminalization of sexual activity; recognition of same-sex partnerships and rainbow families; bodily autonomy and recognition for transgender and intersex people; nondiscrimination protections; and acceptance by families, faith communities, and the public at large. At times, the international LGBT movement—or, to be more accurate, LGBT movements—have used tactics as diverse as public education, lobbying and legislative campaigns, litigation, and direct action to achieve their aims. The result has been a gradual shift toward recognizing LGBT rights globally, with these rights gaining traction in formal law and policy as well as in public opinion and the agendas of activists working for human rights and social justice. The movement’s aims have also broadened, being attentive to new issues and drawing common cause with other campaigns for bodily autonomy and equal rights. At the same time, gains have triggered ferocious backlash, both against LGBT rights and against broader efforts to promote comprehensive sexuality education, access to abortion, the decriminalization of sex work, and other sexual rights. Understanding this advocacy requires consideration of important milestones in global LGBT organizing; how LGBT rights have been taken up as human rights by domestic, regional, and international bodies; and some of the main challenges that LGBT advocates have faced in contexts around the globe.

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Family Law and Policy for LGBTQ Individuals and Families: Adoption, Foster Care, Assisted Reproduction, and Parental Rights  

Naomi G. Goldberg and Amira Hasenbush

LGBTQ-headed families face a complicated legal landscape when it comes to legal recognition. The 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling , permitting same-sex couples nationwide to marry, substantially shifted the legal landscape for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) parents. Many families now have access to legal recognition through joint adoption, stepparent adoption, and the long-held legal presumptions of parentage for children born to married parents. Yet access to marriage has not fully created the necessary legal protections for the diverse ways in which LGBTQ-headed families form and live their lives. The patchwork of legal protections across the states means that many LGBTQ-headed families lack needed security, stability, and legal recognition.

Article

Courts, the Law, and LGBT Rights in Asia  

Holning Lau

Courts have played an integral part in advancing the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities in many parts of Asia. Yet courts in other parts of Asia have entrenched LGBT subordination. A vast expanse separates Asia’s most progressive LGBT judicial decisions from the most oppressive. This divergence stems from various factors, including differences among Asian courts’ judicial philosophies and cultural backdrops. Judicial developments in Asia have disrupted conventional narratives in Anglophone literature about LGBT rights. Conventional wisdom says there is a standard sequence for developing LGBT rights. It is commonly believed that countries will protect sexual orientation rights before gender identity rights; that they will legislate against discrimination before legalizing same-sex marriage; and that legal protections of LGBT rights begin in the West, and then the rest of the world subsequently imports these legal constructs. Developments in Asia have, however, challenged these narratives. While many Asian courts have galvanized reforms to protect LGBT rights, it is important to remember that these courts are nonetheless constrained in their ability to effectuate change. Case studies from Asia demonstrate that protecting LGBT rights often requires political branches of government to cooperate with courts. Political actors may resist implementing court-ordered reforms, especially if public opinion does not support the reforms.

Article

Historical Views of Homosexuality: Asia  

Timothy Rich, Andi Dahmer, and Isabel Eliassen

How does Asia compare to other regions in terms of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights? While Asia lags behind the West on typical metrics of LGBT rights, this fails to capture the diversity of tolerance historically in the region. At the same time, conservative backlashes to LGBT policies are evident across the region, often invoking traditionalist or religious opposition, as also seen outside of the region. Moreover, much of the literature myopically focuses on one or two countries in Asia, rarely attempting to make broad comparisons across East, South, and Central Asia. Part of this is due to terminology differences, where “homosexual” is commonly used in some countries as a catch-all term for members of the LGBT community, compared to others in the region countries, especially in South Asia, with a longer history of specialized terminology for transgendered people. Yet broader comparisons in the absence of terminology differences remain rare despite growing attention to LGBT issues in public opinion polls, news, and academic work and despite the fact that the legal avenues chosen by LGBT rights proponents often mirror those chosen in the West. State policies on LGBT policies also range considerably in the region, with only Taiwan currently recognizing same-sex marriage at the national level, but with decriminalization and antidiscrimination policies at the national and local levels increasingly common. However, a commonly overlooked trend is that of harsher LGBT policies enacted by local governments. Meanwhile, despite trends in the West of growing public tolerance on LGBT issues, far less consistency emerges in Asia, further complicating state efforts. It is important to highlight Asia’s diversity in terms of rights and tolerance, but it is equally important to integrate evidence from Asia into cross-national research on LGBT issues to understand what is unique about the region and what may have been ignored in other regions.

Article

LGBT and Queer Politics in the Commonwealth  

Matthew Waites

The Commonwealth is the international governmental organization of states that emerged from the British empire, and since 2000 it has emerged as a focus for contestation relating to the regulation of same-sex sexualities, gender diversity, and diverse sex characteristics. Following colonial criminalizations focused on same-sex sexual acts, and later formal decolonizations, there have appeared many national movements for decriminalization and human rights in relation to sexuality and gender. The Commonwealth has emerged as a site of politics for some significant actors claiming human rights in relation to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics. This has been led by specific organizations of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, increasingly with intersex people and allies, but it is also important to consider this in relation to queer people, understood more broadly here as people in all cultures experiencing forms of sexualities, biological sex and genders outside the social structure of heterosexuality, and its associated sex and gender binaries. A range of forms of activist and non-governmental organization (NGO) engagement have occurred, leading to shifts in Commonwealth civil society and among some state governments. This has required researchers to develop analyses across various scales, from local and national to international and transnational, to interpret institutions and movements. The British Empire criminalized same-sex sexual acts between males, and to a lesser extent between females, across its territories. In certain instances there were also forms of gender regulation, constraining life outside a gender binary. Such criminalization influenced some of those claiming LGBT human rights to engage the Commonwealth. Research shows that a majority of Commonwealth states continue to criminalize some adult consensual same-sex sexual activity. Yet the history of struggles for decriminalization and human rights within states in the Commonwealth has led up to such recent important decriminalizations as in India and Trinidad and Tobago in 2018. LGBT and queer activist engagements of the Commonwealth itself commenced in 2007 when Sexual Minorities Uganda and African allies demanded entry to the Commonwealth People’s Space during a Heads of Government meeting in Kampala. Activism has often focused on the biannual Heads of Government meetings that are accompanied by civil society forums. A particularly significant phenomenon has been the emergence of a “new London-based transnational politics of LGBT human rights,” evident in the creation from 2011 of new NGOs working internationally from the United Kingdom. Among these organizations was the Kaleidoscope Trust, which shaped the subsequent formation of The Commonwealth Equality Network as an international network of NGOs that became formally recognized by the Commonwealth. Significant developments occurred at the London Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in April 2018; Prime Minister Theresa May expressed “regret” for past imperial criminalizations while announcing funding for Kaleidoscope Trust and other UK-based groups to use in international law reform work. These developments exemplify a wider problematic for both activists and analysts, concerning how LGBT and queer movements should engage in contexts that are still structured by imperial legacies and power relations associated with colonialism, persisting in the present.

Article

Spain’s LGBT Movement  

Kerman Calvo and J. Ignacio Pichardo

The LGBT movement has been successful in improving the legal and social standing of sexual minorities in Spain; this includes the recognition of same-sex marriages, joint adoption, and the right to change identification in public registers. The movement has also contributed to a wider acceptance of LGBT diversity at the societal level. LGBT mobilizations in Spain started in the 1970s, with the transition toward democracy. The first political generation of activists believed in gay liberation, supported revolutionary ideas, and defended street protesting. This did not prevent activists from seeking collaboration with the state, as urgent legal action was required to end the criminalization of homosexual relations. After a decade of demobilization, a new generation of activists revamped LGBT activism in Spain during the 1990s, again with a well-defined political agenda: reacting to the devastation caused by AIDS, and also to the changes taking place in the international stage, the new “proud” generation demanded not only individual rights, but also family rights. The legalization of same-sex marriage (and joint adoption) in 2005 was the outcome of a vibrant cycle of mobilization. Contrary to some expectations, the Spanish LGBT movement has not become the victim of its own success. By shifting its attention toward the goal of substantive equality and by reaching out to new communities, the movement remains influential and vigilant against threats posed by the consolidation of new forms of conservative countermobilization.

Article

The United Kingdom’s LGBT Movement and Interest Groups  

Daryl Leeworthy

The LGBT movement in the United Kingdom has had considerable success in its campaign for equal rights and legal protection, in common with LGBT movements across the world. Early organization took place in secret in the late 19th and early 20th centuries before the heyday of LGBT political campaigning in the 1960s and 1970s. Key organizations in the United Kingdom included the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, the Gay Liberation Front, the Scottish Minorities Group, the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association, and the lesbian groups Kenric and Sappho. In the 1980s, the LGBT movement responded to the twin threats of HIV/AIDS and the Section 28 (or 2A in Scotland) legislation through a renewed campaigning vigor. The 21st century ushered in a period of celebration and commemoration through the advent of Pride and the establishment of heritage projects and academic research, although significant political and policy challenges remain, particularly for trans* people and for immigrants and asylum seekers.

Article

North American and Australian LGBT Movement and Interest Groups  

Barry L. Tadlock and Christopher Glick

A study of the LGBT movement within Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Australia reveals the movement’s youth and vitality. Only since the mid-1900s has there been what one might identify as an organized social movement within any of these four countries. A key similarity across the social movements in these four countries has been the formation of associated interest groups. These groups have transformed the LGBT movement. Scholarly research regarding the movement and its attendant interest groups reveals decades of growth and development. These changes over the years allow scholars to investigate topics such as how the LGBT movement compares to other social movements, how various sexual and gender minority communities have been incorporated into the larger movement, and how movement groups have utilized various strategies in pursuit of movement goals. In the United States, the gay rights movement was one of a few distinct movements included within a larger new social movement. These various movements shared the fact they were organized around a goal of identity expression. (The extent to which a gay rights movement morphed into a broader LGBT movement is also an important part of the U.S. story.) In Canada, the modern movement for LGBT individuals exemplified a gradual process rising out of the post–World War era; it was attached to a rise in Quebecois nationalism and the growth of First Nations peoples’ rights movements. Conversely, Australia has seen a slower progression than Canada or the United States, in part because Australia has had a relatively inactive set of social rights movements over the same period. (There is evidence that Australian social rights movements came to consciousness more from a global than a domestic narrative.) Finally, with respect to Mexico, one might assume that LGBT successes there have lagged behind those in the United States because of a more vibrant social movement community in the United States and also because Mexicans are assumed by some to be more religious than residents of the United States. However, there is evidence that the LGBT movement has had greater electoral and policy successes in Mexico. This could in part be due to a history in Mexico of LGBT activists identifying with other revolutionary agents who sought broad structural changes in that country.

Article

Hate Crimes Against LGBT People in the United States  

Liz Coston

Hate crimes (or bias crimes) are crimes motivated by an offenders’ personal bias against a particular social group. Modern hate crimes legislation developed out of civil rights protections based on race, religion, and national origin; however, the acts that constitute a hate crime have expanded over time, as have the groups protected by hate crimes legislation. Anti-LGBT hate crimes, in which victims are targeted based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBT people are highly overrepresented as victims of hate crimes given the number of LGBT people in the population, and this is especially true of hate crimes against transgender women. Despite the frequency of these crimes, the legal framework for addressing them varies widely across the United States. Many states do not have specific legislation that addresses anti-LGBT hate crimes, while others have legislation that mandates data collection on those crimes but does not enhance civil or criminal penalties for them, and some offer enhanced civil and/or criminal penalties. Even in states that do have legislation to address these types of hate crimes, some states only address hate crimes based on sexual orientation but not those based on gender identity. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act gives the federal government the authority to prosecute those crimes regardless of jurisdiction; however, this power has been used in a limited capacity. Hate crimes are distinct from other crimes that are not motivated by bias. For example, thrill seeking, retaliation, or the desire to harm or punish members of a particular social group often motivates perpetrators of hate crimes; these motivations often result in hate crimes being more violent than other similar crimes. The difference in the motivation of offenders also has significant consequences for victims, both physically and mentally. Victims of hate crimes are more likely to require medical attention than victims of non-bias crimes. Likewise, victims of hate crimes, and especially anti-LGBT hate crimes, often experience negative psychological outcomes, such as PTSD, depression, or anxiety as a result of being victimized for being a member of an already marginalized social group.

Article

Children in LGBT Political Discourses in the United States  

Patrick McCreery

The role of the symbolic child figure has shifted substantially within discourses of LGBT politics and activism in the United States since World War II. From the 1950s well into the 1980s, the putatively heterosexual child was portrayed as the potential victim of homosexuality—victimized by influence, predation, and infection. By the early 21st century, the child had become a figure who was often represented as benefiting from LGBT civil rights—either as the child of lesbian or gay parents whose union was strengthened by the acquisition of civil benefits and protections or as a young gay or trans person struggling to accept a non-normative identity. This cultural shift both reflected and helped generate specific governmental and institutional policies—from the sexual psychopath laws of the 1950s, to the emergence of school-based Gay-Straight Alliances in the 1990s, to the central role of the child in debates over same-sex marriage in the 2000s.

Article

Transgender Law and Policy in the United States  

Shannon Gilreath

Transgender people have a complicated history in U.S. law and policy. Once thought of as a symptom of homosexuality, gender nonconformity has long been the subject of social disapprobation and legal sanction, including criminalization. Beginning in the 1950s, an emergent interest by the medical community in individuals suffering from “gender dysphoria” precipitated an identity politics primarily organized around a goal of access to competent medical care and treatment for transsexual individuals. In ways both significant and ironic, this medicalization both promoted a binary ideology of gender, most obvious in concepts like male-to-female or female-to-male transsexualism, and created space for more transformative concepts of gender fluidity and transgender identity to emerge. Long conceptualized as a kind of subsidiary of the gay and lesbian rights movement in the United States, a status that entailed considerable turmoil, the transgender movement, especially since the 1990s, has emerged as a vocal and relatively effective rights lobby in its own right. The advent of the Trump administration presents a pivotal moment that will likely test not only the durability of recent policy gains but also whether those gains can be expanded in any significant measure.

Article

Queer International Relations  

Melanie Richter-Montpetit and Cynthia Weber

Queer International Relations (IR) is not a new field. For more than 20 years, Queer IR scholarship has focused on how normativities and/or non-normativities associated with categories of sex, gender, and sexuality sustain and contest international formations of power in relation to institutions like heteronormativity, homonormativity, and cisnormativity as well as through queer logics of statecraft. Recently, Queer IR has gained unprecedented traction in IR, as IR scholars have come to recognize how Queer IR theory, methods, and research further IR’s core agenda of analyzing and informing the policies and politics around state and nation formation, war and peace, and international political economy. Specific Queer IR research contributions include work on sovereignty, intervention, security and securitization, torture, terrorism and counter-insurgency, militaries and militarism, human rights and LGBT activism, immigration, regional and international integration, global health, transphobia, homophobia, development and International Financial Institutions, financial crises, homocolonialism, settler colonialism and anti-Blackness, homocapitalism, political/cultural formations, norms diffusion, political protest, and time and temporalities

Article

Homosexuality and Political Scandal Until 1919  

Anna Clark

Same-sex scandals often had political implications both on a superficial level of political rivalries and the larger level of political ideas. Scandals gain traction when sexual misbehavior becomes a metaphor for larger political misbehavior, for instance, mixing up one’s personal interests with governmental actions. Pre-20th century scandals were different than later ones because the notion of homosexuality as a fixed identity had not emerged. As historians have long shown, in the past same-sex desire was defined in very different ways, and not as a fixed, exclusive sexual orientation. In ancient Greece and Rome, politicians accused enemies of sexually submitting to other men to undercut their claims to citizenship even though it was acceptable for men to sexually dominate male slaves, foreign men, and non-citizen youths. In the early modern period, enemies could accuse politicians, aristocrats, or monarchs of indulging in sex with both men and women. In doing so they undercut the acceptability of a political structure based on dynasties and personal patronage. In the period up to World War I, radicals used same-sex desire not just to challenge individual politicians, but to challenge the militaristic, aristocratic dominance. Same-sex scandals could also justify imperial interventions, or conversely, undercut white pretensions to superiority. By the late 19th century, same-sex scandals also emerged out of larger controversies over police regulation of prostitution. Only at the very end of this period did the sexological notion of the homosexual as a distinct personality emerge as a (minor) factor in political scandals.

Article

Elections and the Role of LGBT Issues in the United States and Abroad  

Gabriele Magni

LGBT issues have played an important role in elections. They have been the focus of direct democracy, that is referenda and ballot initiatives in which citizens voted on LGBT rights. The issues considered evolved over time from nondiscrimination ordinances in the 1970s to same-sex marriage bans in the 2000s and transgender rights in the 2010s. Religiosity, partisanship, and ideology generally predicted electoral outcomes. While supporters of LGBT rights have often been defeated at the ballot box, the tide started to change in the 2010s. Beyond direct democracy, LGBT issues have played a role in general elections. The religious right exploited them to mobilize the conservative electorate or to persuade voters to reconsider their party loyalties. The 2004 US presidential election, when same-sex marriage bans were on the ballot in several states, offers an important case study. LGBT actors are also important in elections. LGB voters have generally been more progressive and more supportive of the Democratic Party than the general population. Additionally, the number of openly LGBT candidates has significantly grown over time. In the early years, gays and lesbians running for office faced an electoral penalty but made up for their disadvantage by strategically competing in more favorable districts. By the late 2010s, however, large subsets of the electorate, including Democrats, progressives, nonreligious voters, and people with LGBT friends no longer penalized gay and lesbian candidates. The penalty remained stronger for transgender candidates. LGBT issues have also been important outside the United States, as shown by same-sex marriage referenda in Europe and beyond and by the increasing success of lesbian and gay candidates in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Future research should explore issues concerning minorities in the LGBT community, the shifting position of right-wing parties on LGBT rights, and the role of LGBT issues and candidates in elections outside the Western world.

Article

U.S. Military Service and LGBT Policy  

Marissa Reilly, Elizabeth L. Hillman, and Elliot Koltnow

Examining the evolution of U.S military policy reveals how debates about the rights and opportunities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people have been shaped by military personnel policies, federal laws, and cultural practices within military units. LGBT individuals have experienced U.S. military service through regulatory regimes that have often defined them as burdensome deviants and denied them civil rights enjoyed by other service members. LGBT people have served as volunteers and conscripts, openly and in the closet. Key periods of U.S. military history for LGBT service include World War II, the Cold War, as well as the Vietnam War era, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) regime (1994–2010), and the post-DADT period (2011 and beyond). During these periods of time, the armed forces and the United States reassessed the regulation of the service of LGBT service members and implemented changes that affected the rights, opportunities, and safety of LGBT military personnel and potential recruits. Those changes traced a path from outright exclusion of open service by LGBT persons to exemption, under which LGBT persons may serve under certain conditions, which often included the threat of expulsion, punishment, and extra-legal violence. In the post-DADT period, inclusion, or open service by some, but not all, LGBT groups, was made legal and safer through changes in law and military regulations and training that protected against some types of gender-identity and sexual orientation discrimination. Because serving openly in the military is a sign of full citizenship in the United States as well as a means of achieving economic security, eliminating limits on LGBT military service has long been a focus of advocates for civil rights. Military service has been perceived as proving a citizen’s loyalty and patriotism as well as offering material and social advancement. With many LGBT people at greater risk of unemployment, homelessness, and premature death as a result of violence and social ostracism, military service has been an especially critical opportunity for political and economic advancement. Honoring this history and identifying existing trends can help the United States, other nations, and international organizations to adapt their policies in recognition of gender and sexual diversity. Even when excluded by formal policy, people have found ways to serve, sometimes at great personal risk. Although their labor is officially lauded as an asset, their contributions and needs have not been fully recognized or appreciated by the state they pledged to serve. As the nation’s largest employer and provider of structural resources, the U.S. military’s support of LGBT military personnel and veterans matters greatly to social equity for a still-vulnerable LGBT population.

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LGBT Candidates and Elected Officials in North America  

Joanna Everitt and Manon Tremblay

The representation of LGBTQ individuals has improved substantially in Canada, Mexico, and the United States in the past few decades; however, the numbers holding elected office are still quite small. Several factors have contributed to the level of success of these candidates, including: changes in public opinion toward LGBTQ individuals and LGBTQ candidates in particular, their own levels of political ambition, their alignment with different political parties and the support that they receive from these organizations, media coverage of their candidacies and their policy positions, and finally their support from institutions of civil society such as political action committees or other social movement organizations. It is clear that in all three countries these candidates, when elected, contribute symbolically, through serving as role models to other LGBTQ individuals and increasing levels of acceptance among their non-LGBTQ colleagues. They also promote substantive representation through their support and promotion of policies that address LGBTQ issues and concerns.

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Litigating Transgender Employment Rights in the United States  

Susan Gluck Mezey

Discrimination against transgender or gender nonconforming individuals in the workplace affects hiring, firing, promotions, salaries, and benefits. Most states have no laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on gender identity, and, in the absence of federal law, transgender workers have turned to the courts to seek equal rights on the job. Transgender plaintiffs often file suit under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the law prohibiting sex discrimination in employment. The defendants argue that since the statute does not explicitly ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity, Congress did not intend to include transgender or gender nonconforming individuals as members of a class protected by Title VII. The cases revolve around the question of whether the ban on sex discrimination in the law should be narrowly construed to apply to men and women as determined by their biological status or whether it should be broadly construed to prohibit discrimination against individuals because of their gender identity or gender expression. Prior to 1989, suits brought by transgender plaintiffs were dismissed by judges who agreed with employers that Congress did not intend Title VII to guarantee their employment rights. In Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins (1989), the Supreme Court held that the statute forbids an employer from making a negative employment decision because an employee’s behavior does not conform to stereotypical norms of behavior. Hopkins set the stage for the next several decades of litigation over the employment rights of transgender employees, and, although the courts were initially reluctant to allow transgender plaintiffs to benefit from Title VII, within a few years, most broadened their interpretation of the law. Over time, the courts adopted two theories: first, the gender nonconformity approach in which discrimination based on sex stereotyping violates Title VII; second, the per se approach in which discrimination on the basis of gender identity is equated with discrimination under Title VII. In 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) adopted both theories of Title VII in Macy v. Holder (2012). In 2014, the Justice Department formally committed itself to interpreting Title VII to apply to gender identity. In October 2017, the department shifted its position on Title VII, negating the per se theory of gender identity and emphasizing that the statute only applies to employer actions based on biological differences between men and women. In addition to Title VII claims, transgender plaintiffs have filed job discrimination actions under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the law prohibiting discrimination against individuals because of their disabilities. Although the statute explicitly excludes gender identity disorder, two federal district courts have interpreted it to cover transgender persons with disabilities, with a third disagreeing. Tying claims to the ADA has benefits as well as drawbacks.