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Article

Islam, Sexuality, and Gender Identity  

Sharyn Graham Davies

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.

Article

Public Policies Toward LGBT People and Rights in Latin America  

José Fernando Serrano-Amaya, Manuel Alejandro Rodríguez Rondón, and Natalia Daza-Niño

In the last 20 years, several countries in Latin America have sought uneven and disparate legal transformations affecting the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals and collectives. These new legal measures have taken place simultaneously, with deepening structures of social, gender, and sexual injustice challenging their view as indicators of progressive change. In this contradictory context, LGBT social policies have emerged as a specialized field of state action because of two parallel trends: the macro political politics affecting the region, and the accumulated experience of gender and sexual social mobilizations in their interactions with the state. There are many variations of this emerging field of social policies because it is shaped by the meaning provided by local actors such as interest groups, activists, and policy makers, and their translation into policy lobbying, policymaking, and policy negotiation. As result of these innovations, gender identity and sexual orientation have nowadays entered into the language of policymaking and policy implementation. These legal measures have opened spaces for social and political participation that were not there before. Nevertheless, LGBT policies are new regimes of governmentality that control the inclusion of gender and sexual social mobilizations into citizenship and democracy.

Article

Distributive Justice for LGBTQ People  

Libby Adler

Leading advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) advancement in the United States debate the central objectives of the movement as well as its proper reformist scope. On the libertarian right, gay rights proponents articulate a narrow vision, devoid of race or class consciousness and focused on obtaining formal equality through spare legal reforms—mainly access to marriage and military inclusion. On the left, advocates envision a larger cultural transformation, one that intersects with racial and economic justice and challenges the norms of powerful institutions such as family, capitalism, and the military. A review of empirical research demonstrates that the needs in the LGBTQ community are diverse and, in many cases, urgent. The most privileged, along axes of race and class, may have few concerns apart from protection against discrimination and formal exclusion from major social institutions. Once the full spectrum of LGBTQ demographics and experience are considered, however, such a constricted range of reform objectives reveals itself to be insufficient to address such obstacles as hunger, homelessness, and unemployment. A fresh approach to evaluating LGBTQ legal needs yields an equally fresh set of alternatives to the mainstream legal reform agenda. An intersectionally and distributively cognizant shift in the movement’s direction could advance the needs of the most disadvantaged members of the community, including homeless youth, transgender sex workers, and low-income parents.

Article

Theoretical Perspectives on Subnational Public Policy and LGBT Law  

Jason Pierceson

Subnational policymaking is central to LGBT politics and law, in contrast to other arenas of policymaking for marginalized groups. With barriers to national policymaking in Congress and in the federal courts, LGBT rights activists have leveraged opportunities at the state and local levels to create LGBT-supportive policies. Opponents have also used subnational politics to further their agenda, particularly direct democracy, while LGBT rights activists have used elite politics, such as state courts, effectively. Subnational LGBT politics is also marked by a significant variety in policy outcomes, with a notable urban and suburban versus rural divide in policymaking and in the presence of openly LGBT elected officials. The case of LGBT policy and law has caused scholars to rethink questions such as the role of public opinion in state policymaking, morality politics, and courts and social change.

Article

LGBTQ Migration Politics  

Erin Mayo-Adam

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ) migration is significantly understudied in the field of political science. The discipline has historically siloed the study of minority communities into different subcategories that have very little intellectual crossover. LGBTQ experiences are mostly absent in scholarship on migration, while scholarship on LGBTQ people tends to focus on white lesbian and gay citizens. As a result, there is a gap in political science scholarship when it comes to intersectionally marginalized people like LGBTQ immigrants. However, there is a burgeoning, interdisciplinary field that examines the politics of queer migration and spans a multitude of humanities and social science fields, including ethnic studies, American studies, history, anthropology, and sociology. Like other humanities and social science fields, political science scholars should engage more directly with the interdisciplinary study of queer migration politics. Queer migration research encompasses overlapping subject areas that include studies on migration and gender and sexuality norms; queer complicities and migration; and queer migration and political movement formation. Scholars who study the politics of queer migration analyze how anti-normative sexualities and gender identities are constituted through migration processes and institutions. Thus, queer migration politics research is a sprawling field with studies that range from critiques that reveal how contemporary queer asylum seekers are marginalized and criminalized by the immigration state apparatus to historical studies that contemplate the formation of anti-normative identities in 19th-century Gold Rush migrations. Political science research can more actively engage in this area of interdisciplinary study by bringing queer migration studies concepts like homonationalism and homonormativity into transnational and comparative politics research, by expanding scholarship on prisons and mass incarceration to include the experiences of queer and trans migrants of color in immigration detention, and by examining how queer complicities are at work in LGBTQ social movement politics.

Article

The European Union’s International Promotion of LGBTI Rights in its Foreign Relations  

Markus Thiel

Despite ongoing challenges, the European Union (EU) not only is a major actor on the world stage, but also emphasizes human rights for LGBTI individuals in its internal and external policies, thus setting a powerful example for acceptance and inclusion worldwide. While this establishes the EU as a presumptive normative actor from a liberal human rights perspective, a number of disputes over those rights policies and the way they are promoted have emerged in bilateral relations between the EU and other states in recent years. Given Europe’s colonial history, the fact that the bloc is collectively the world’s largest provider of development assistance, and the volatility of LGBTI human rights defenders, it is important to investigate how the EU and its member states promote LGBTI rights internationally. The EU institutions attempt to jointly formulate and implement guidelines for the external promotion of such rights, though no uniform rights standards exist across the various member states. The compatibility of EU and member states’ conceptions of LGBTI rights and the more general question of how far the EU is, can, or should be a “normative” agenda-setting power on the world stage are central. This heavily contested but also popular ideational concept glosses over the limited consensus that exists in the EU with regard to many of its policies and the role it should assume in international affairs. Such incoherence is particularly evident in normatively contested and geopolitically intertwined areas like sexual rights and equality (ranging from nondiscrimination based on sexual and gender expression to positive rights of partnership recognition and childcare). To the extent that a common approach on LGBTI rights is developed, one can detect promotion attempts in the external policy areas in which rights promotion is formulated and diffused, namely in development and foreign aid, in enlargement and neighborhood policies, and in exchange with other international organizations. However, these come with their own politicizing issues, so that alternatives to the presently emphasized conditionality and visibility policies may provide a better way forward.

Article

Regulation of Sexuality in the Global South  

Michelle L. Dion

Government regulation of sexuality includes prohibitions on same-sex intimacy, formation of families, and related rights of LGBT+ people due to their sexual orientation or gender identities. Countries in the Global South tend to lag behind those in the Global North in the recognition of LGBT+ rights, which overall tend to expand incrementally over time in response to LGBT+ activism, diffusion of international norms, and national economic, political and social context. Basic civil rights, including legalization of same-sex intimacy and marriage, are often a necessary precondition for LGBT+ access to the political right to organize and mobilize as an interest group as well as other social rights, such as health care and parental rights. In the developing world, Argentina and South Africa have been regional leaders in LGBT+ rights, and Latin America countries have tended to broaden protections earlier than countries at similar levels of development in Sub-Saharan Africa or Asia. Overall, in the early 21st century, the landscape of LGBT+ civil rights changed rapidly, while some political and social rights still lag behind.

Article

Russian and Eastern European LGBT Movements and Interest Groups  

Conor O'Dwyer

The development of LGBT movements and interest groups in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union reflects the region’s unique political development with respect to the experience of communism, the transition to democracy in the 1990s, the expanding influence of international institutions like the European Union (EU), and, most recently, trends of democratic backsliding and even reversion to outright authoritarian rule in some countries. Each of these aspects of the region’s political development has engendered debate among scholars and activists. There is consensus that the experience of communism strongly circumscribed not only the possibilities for activism but also, in some instances, even the possibilities for articulating LGBT identities. Nevertheless, a survey of the scholarship on postcommunist LGBT politics indicates divergent trajectories between countries of the former Soviet Union, where LGBT identities are less established and activism is less organized, and the former satellite states of Eastern Europe, whose experience under communism was shorter and, arguably, less intense. Without ignoring the evident deficits of Eastern Europe’s LGBT activism in the 1990s, its LGBT people benefited relative to counterparts in the former Soviet Union from a generally more successful transition to democracy and a greater degree of exposure to West European institutions, in particular the EU. The process of applying for EU membership, many scholars argue, advantaged these countries’ LGBT movements vis-à-vis their counterparts in the former Soviet Union by pressuring national governments to be more accommodating and by socializing elites and publics to Western Europe’s comparatively tolerant values and LGBT rights norms. Adjusting to these norms was sometimes contentious, but several scholars argue that, where conservative backlash against LGBT rights occurred during the EU’s first round of expansion in 2004 to 2007, it generally helped domestic activism by increasing its visibility and level of organization. Not all are so optimistic about the EU’s impact on LGBT activism, however, particularly those studying Yugoslavia’s successor states, for whom the EU accession process occurred later or is still ongoing. These scholars emphasize the difficulties of squaring EU norms about LGBT rights with national identity, particularly given the EU’s sometimes colonial-like relations with postcommunist societies. Others note that transnational rights advocacy supported by the EU has been matched by the rise of transnational antigay activism, and that the clash of transnational activism stalemates domestic progress on LGBT-friendly policies. Such critiques appear increasingly relevant as trends of democratic backsliding have emerged since the 2010 world financial crisis in former “success cases” of postcommunist transition and EU integration, notably Hungary and Poland. The latter’s democratic backsliding occurs within the larger context of Russia’s reversion to authoritarianism after the brief political opening of the 1990s. Across these three countries, governing elites have shown a readiness to make use of LGBT issues to define their illiberal ideologies and to mobilize voters. Whether these developments portend a narrowing of differences among LGBT movements in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe is a key question for future scholars.

Article

Theoretical Perspectives on LGBTQ Movements  

Jyl Josephson

The field of empirical scholarship on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) political and social movements that developed in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century has much to contribute to analysis of these movements and their political and cultural contexts. Empirical studies have examined LGBTQ movements in comparison to other types of social movements, finding similarities and alliances as well as distinctive elements. We have learned how LGBTQ movements operate in different global and local contexts, as well as how they interact with different kinds of political systems. Scholars have studied how broader social attitudes have evolved and responded to LGBTQ movements, and the way that backlash to these movements operate in different times and places. At the same time, the theoretical literature that grounds and interprets these studies contributes not just to the epistemology of social movements, but to understandings of the purposes of social and political theorizing. Scholars have examined the utility of different frameworks for understanding social movement organizing, such as the use of civil rights, human rights, and sexual citizenship frameworks. Scholars from the social sciences and humanities have at times brought different theoretical approaches to bear on our understanding of LGBTQ movements, evident in different perspectives regarding the theory of homonationalism. Among the exciting intellectual developments of the late 20th and early 21st century is the burgeoning field of trans studies and trans theory, of social and political theory informed by Global South and Indigenous perspectives, and from the queer of color critique literature.

Article

Europe’s Supranational Courts and LGBT Rights  

M. Joel Voss

Europe has some of the most powerful human rights legal institutions in the world including two supranational human rights courts—the Council of Europe’s European Court of Human Rights and the European Union’s Court of Justice (hereafter, together—the Courts). After decades of relative quiet, the Courts have begun hearing more cases concerning LGBT rights. Judgments of the Courts have advanced some facets of LGBT rights like anti-discrimination in the workplace while disappointing gay-rights advocates in other areas, for example family life and asylum. Scholarship on European courts and LGBT rights is not as developed as scholarship on norm advocacy or policy diffusion within states in Europe. The research that does exist looks at how decisions by the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice deal with current European law, how the institutions are designed, or how the supranational courts may act as agents of change or status quo institutions in shaping wider European behavior. This lack of newer research on the Courts presents ample opportunity for new avenues of research that examines not only how decisions are made at the Courts but also how states implement decisions and how states view the legitimacy of each Court.

Article

Marriage Equality, Public Accommodations Laws, and Religious Exercise  

Susan Gluck Mezey

Opposition to same-sex marriage in the United States is frequently based on the religious belief that marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman. With most of the attention focused on wedding vendors, the clash between religious liberty and marriage equality has largely manifested itself in efforts by business owners, such as photographers, florists, caterers, and bakers, to deny their services to same-sex couples celebrating their marriages. Citing state antidiscrimination laws, the couples demand the owners treat them as they do their other customers. Owners of public accommodations (privately owned business open to the public) who object to facilitating the weddings of same-sex couples do so typically by asserting their personal religious beliefs as defenses when charged with violating such laws; they argue that they would view their participation (albeit indirect) in wedding ceremonies as endorsing same-sex marriage. As the lawsuits against them began to proliferate, the business owners asked the courts to shield them from liability for violating the laws prohibiting discrimination because of sexual orientation in places of public accommodation. They cited their First Amendment right to the free exercise of their religion and their right not to be compelled to speak, that is, to express a positive message about same-sex marriage. With conflicts between same-sex couples and owners of business establishments arising in a number of states, the focus of the nation’s attention was on a New Mexico photographer, a Washington State florist, and a Colorado baker, each of whom sought an exemption from their state’s antidiscrimination law to enable them to exercise their religious tenets against marriage equality. In these cases, the state human rights commissions and the state appellate courts ruled that the antidiscrimination laws outweighed the rights of the business owners to exercise their religious beliefs against marriage equality by refusing to play a role, no matter how limited, in a same-sex marriage ceremony. In June 2018, in Masterpiece Cakeshop, LTD. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the state’s antidiscrimination law that guaranteed equal treatment for same-sex couples in places of public accommodations but reversed the Commission’s ruling against the Colorado baker. In a narrow decision, the Court held that the Commission infringed on the baker’s First Amendment right to free exercise by uttering comments that, in the Court’s view, demonstrated hostility to his sincerely held religious beliefs. The ruling affirmed that society has a strong interest in protecting gay men and lesbians from harm as they engage in the marketplace as well as in respecting sincerely held religious beliefs.

Article

Mobilizing the Invisible: Power and Marginality in the Black LGBTQ Community  

Ravi K. Perry and Aaron D. Camp

Symbolic and structural inequities that seek to maintain White supremacy have sought to render Black LGBTQ Americans invisible in the body politic of powerful institutions that govern society. In the face of centuries-long oppression at the hands of the state, Black LGBTQ Americans have effectively mobilized to establish visibility on the national policymaking agenda. Members of this community have demonstrated a fierce resilience while confronting a violent anti-Black and anti-LGBTQ mainstream agenda narrative in media and politics. This sociopolitical marginalization—from members of their shared demographic, or not, is often framed in partisan or ideological terms in public discourse and in the halls of American political institutions. Secondary marginalization theory and opinion polling frame how personal identity and social experience shape the Black LGBTQ political movement’s expression of what participation in politics in the United States ought to earn them in return. Double-consciousness theory contextualizes the development of Black LGBTQ sociopolitical marginalization in the United States and the community’s responsive mobilization over time—revealing the impact of coalition building and self-identification toward establishing political visibility necessary to improve the lived conditions of the multiply oppressed.

Article

HIV/AIDS Politics and Policy in Europe  

Paul DeBell

HIV/AIDS in Europe highlights the centrality of politics at local, state, and international levels to the successes and failures in fighting transnational, global threats. Though several European states have led the international struggle against HIV/AIDS and have made great strides in treatment and prevention, others host the fastest-growing epidemics in the world. Even in states with long histories of treatment, specific subpopulations, including many LGBTQ communities, face growing epidemics. This variation matches trends in public policy, the actions of political leaders, and social structures of inequity and marginalization toward affected populations. Where leaders stigmatize people living with HIV (PLHIV) and associated groups, the virus spreads as punitive policies place everyone at increased risk of infection. Thus, this epidemic links the health of the general public to the health of the most marginalized communities. Mounting evidence shows that a human rights approach to HIV/AIDS prevention involving universal treatment of all vulnerable communities is essential to combating the spread of the virus. This approach has taken hold in much of Europe, and many European states have worked together as a political force to shape a global human rights HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention regime. Despite this leadership, challenges remain across the region. In some Eastern European states, tragic epidemics are spreading beyond vulnerable populations and rates of transmission continue to rise. The Russian case in particular shows how a punitive state response paired with the stigmatization of PLHIV can lead to a health crisis for the entire country. While scholars have shed light upon the strategies of political legitimization likely driving the scapegoating and stigmatization of PLHIV and related groups, there is an immediate need for greater research in transnational social mobilization to pressure for policies that combat these backward political steps. As financial austerity and defiant illiberalism spread across Europe, key values of universal treatment and inclusion have come into the crosshairs along with the European project more generally. Researchers and policymakers must therefore be vigilant as continued progress in the region is anything but certain. With biomedical advances and the advent of the “age of treatment,” widespread alleviation from the suffering of HIV/AIDS is a real possibility. Realizing this potential will, however, require addressing widespread political, social, and economic challenges. This in turn calls for continued interdisciplinary, intersectional research and advocacy.

Article

Nonbinary Trans Identities  

B. Lee Aultman

Nonbinary trans identities have historically referred to a range of gender non-normative embodiments and self-making practices that stand on the outside of, or sometimes in direct opposition to, the Western binary classifications of sex/gender (i.e., man or woman, male or female). These identities include but are not limited to androgyny, genderqueer, genderfluid, gender nonconforming, and genderf*ck. Increasingly, nonbinary has become its own free-standing identity, without many of the historical connotations that genderqueer, for instance, might invoke. Nonbinary people identify themselves with gender-neutral pronouns or a fluid mixture of gendered pronouns in social practices. Some transition and take on embodiments that have a particular gendered aesthetic. This may or may not include sexual reassignment surgeries and other procedures that are body confirming. In short, nonbinary people have varied and robust social lives. The umbrella category of “trans” helps to situate some of the meaning and history of gender-non-normative identities. On the one hand, it can be a productive political vehicle that mobilizes communities of similarly felt histories toward collective action. On the other hand, it can limit the range of recognized embodiments and practices that have participated in the historically pertinent conventions that trans describes. The history of nonbinary identities is then a complex prospect. Such identities alter the categorical assumptions that underscore transsexual and transgender identities within binary terms. The complex narratives and histories of nonbinary trans identities raise some timely questions about the conventions of sex/gender in contemporary life. What constitutes one’s enduring sense of gender now that the binary itself has come under dispute? Should the gender binary be protected and for whom? In what varied ways do nonbinary identities alter a commonly shared imaginary of the bodily aesthetic? What role does desire play in the ongoing social changes in this long revolution of the body? The politics that emerge from these questions are becoming increasingly pressing as technology can now link otherwise isolated people across global boundaries. And finally, the reception of nonbinary identities offers important spaces of dialogue about the proliferation of identity politics, political movements, and the social divisions of labor these forces demand.

Article

LGBT Military Service Policies in the United States  

Andrew Goodhart and Jami K. Taylor

For most of its history, the U.S. military has maintained a policy of exclusion toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people serving in uniform. The justifications for these exclusions have included the view that being homosexual or transgender is a psychological disorder, that it undermines military morale and effectiveness, and a fear that LGBT people would be vulnerable to foreign espionage. Explicit policies banning consensual homosexual sex—and excluding from service those who engage in it—date to the period between World Wars I and II, but de facto efforts at exclusion have existed since the early days of the republic. Regulations governing homosexuals in the military came under pressure in the 1970s and 1980s as societal views toward lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people changed, and those LGB service members discharged under the policy increasingly challenged their treatment in court. (Public pressure to change regulations governing transgender people in the military arose mostly in the 2000s, though litigation efforts date to the 1970s.) In addition to general shifts in public and legal opinion, the debate over LGB people serving in the U.S. military was affected by the experience of foreign militaries that allow LGB people to serve. United States law began to loosen formal restrictions on LBG people serving in uniform with the passage of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) in 1994, but it still required LGB people to serve in secret. Changing public perceptions of LGB people and problems implementing the ban galvanized support for eliminating such restrictions. In 2010, President Obama signed legislation repealing DADT and removing all restrictions on LGB people serving in the military. However, transgender people do not enjoy the same rights. The Trump administration has revised Obama-era rules on transgender service members to enable greater exclusion. The issue is being contested in the courts and appears ripe for further political and legal dispute.