2023-2024 Catalog

DWA 258 The Global Politics of LGBT Rights

In many countries, the subject of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights has entered the political discourse with unprecedented speed and suddenness. For an issue that was most often relegated to the private sphere, the rapid global expansion of LGBT rights, as well as changes in public opinion toward LGBT people, has been nothing short of remarkable. This course is designed to gain leverage on the processes that explain such changes by surveying an eclectic literature on comparative and transnational LGBT politics: from social movements to normative change in international relations. For these fields of study, the changes addressed above pose several important questions. It is no coincidence, for example, that dozens of countries now grant some form of same-sex unions, and understanding transnational politics helps us understand why. Specially, we will ask: What factors have facilitated the mobilization of LGBT people? Why and how have public opinion and state laws towards LGBT people changed differently across various countries?

To find answers to these questions, we will analyze the political history of a movement that has captured the world’s attention, and one that has moved a marginalized group from the political periphery to the center of public debate and contestation. We will take an in-depth empirical look at movements representing LGBT people and their successes/losses—as well as those of their opposition—across time and place. The first portion of the course will begin with the organized movement’s earliest roots in early 1900s Europe, followed by suppression during WWII, and then the homophile movement of the post-war period. The remainder of the course explores the public manifestation of LGBT identities that grew out of the Stonewall’s gay liberation politics, mobilization around the HIV crisis, and the domestic and international politics surrounding the spread of LGBT rights and recognition in contemporary times. An analysis of these movements across multiple domestic contexts should give us an angle with which to critically assess the theoretical concepts offered by social movements and international relations scholarship.


4 units

Core Requirements Met

  • Global Connections