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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

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

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.