Love, Sex, LGBTIQ+ and International Relations
Updated: Jul 4, 2022
It's very old-fashioned to think of Valentine's Day instead of Pride month when the conversation turns into celebrating love. Pride month embraces all forms of the love spells to put out by Eros. I %100 support the famous LGBTIQ+ motto, love is love. There is no hate, discrimination, abuse, or violence in love. It is a pure feeling and what it deserves is to be celebrated, and embraced. It is pathetic to judge a person because of their partner's choice. It is also being overly nosy, which is not welcomed in any culture.
The sex assigned at birth does not mean anything unless the person, with his/her own will, accepts and embraces it.
But what does all this have to do with the discipline of International Relations, right? The answer is simple, the topic is directly related to human rights. Furthermore, the Queer Theory created by Judith Butler (1990), Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (1990), and other scholars brings LGBTIQ+ people and their problems as a notion of International Relations. But I will discuss the relationship more widely after I explain the definition and history of LGBTIQ+ individuals.
LOVE AND LGBTIQ+
As known, each letter represents a sexual orientation. L for lesbians, G for gays, B for bisexuals, T for transgenders, I for intersexes, and + stands for the sexual orientations which do not fit into these definitions. When it comes to Q, it is an umbrella term that can be used for all LGBTI+ individuals. Queer is a rather interesting word. It is an Anglo-Saxon term that means ‘odd’ or ‘strange’ and it is a word that is used to insult gay men.
Furthermore, the ’80s were very tough times for LGBTIQ+ individuals due to the occurrence of AIDS. The inadequacy of medical facilities and bias, AIDS was thought to be a disease that only affects the queer community. In other words, it was considered these individuals were cursed with AIDS owing to their sexual ‘anomaly’. Consequently, at the end of the 80's, movements such as AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP, 1987) and Queer Nation (1990) were established.
Currently, LGBTIQ+ movements, especially supported by Western states, are followed by institutions such as the UN, Human Rights Watch, and IGOs. Moreover, Yogyakarta Principles and Queer Theory act as a major political support unit in the observance of the rights of these individuals.
The LGBTIQ+ community, unfortunately, has been experiencing discrimination and bullying just because of their identity and choices. Some of the types of discrimination are transphobia, homophobia, biphobia, and intersexism. And bullying can occur as verbal and physical abuse as well as threats that take place in violation of human rights. For these reasons, the Queer Theory and Yogyakarta Principles I have mentioned above are crucial factors in identifying the ways of abuse and starting an intervention to decrease it.
SEX AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
When the main IR theories such as Liberalism, Constructivism, and Realism are analyzed, we can see that none of them are concerned with gender and definitions of sexual identity. The topic of SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) remained a topic that did not need to be addressed. In 2011, Hillary Clinton’s statement, gay rights are human rights, at the UN Human Rights Council has created a turning point. This statement reminded political leaders and the world public that there is so much to rethink about queer people and their rights. Empowered by this, LGBTIQ+ individuals had the opportunity to raise their voices even more.
The discipline of International Relations is simply a field where human relations turn into relations between countries. Hence, its nature is doomed to change and transform.
At this point, the existence of Queer Theory has been a crucial actor in adapting the IR to the new century and its needs.
This theory offers us a hitherto unrecognized perspective on gender and examines society and politics in a gender-centered manner. In addition, the accelerating globalization of our world has helped queer individuals and queer theory to become more visible and recognizable.
In this theory, social and political norms are closely related to the concept of gender and identity. And this link is not considered a private affair. The fact that SOGI topics have been seen as a private rather than a public sphere for many years caused this awareness to be gained late. Some scholars support the definition of queer as a set of movements that do not conform to social norms. However, since this duality (the normal action -the queer action) will create, it is highly criticized by queer theorists. The Queer Theory supports social instability and fluidity.
Oppositions such as black and white, war, and peace are thought to be absent in the social and political context. It is not focusing on a single reality but on embracing the possibilities for change as a matter of life.
Nevertheless, since Western countries are the biggest support unit of Queer Theory and queer individuals, the values created by the theory are dependent on Western norms. Perspectives on queer people around the world vary widely in regional, cultural, and theoretical contexts. The fact that the created norms address only one part of the world has created a duality.
That's why Queer Theory is described as a 'Trojan horse’ or ‘homocolonialism’ by non-Western states. These states argue that queer theory will assimilate their values and impose Western values.
In such cases, small and locally operating IGOs are active in areas that even the UN would have difficulty reaching.
DIPLOMATS, AMBASSADORS AND LGBTIQ+
Diplomats and ambassadors should act in cooperation with queer scholars in reaching countries that still consider queer individuals and their preferences as sexual anomalies. Common definitions should be made of LGBTIQ+ and these definitions should be recognized by the whole world. Thus, the areas related to the issue will be sharper and both the process of following the issue and the intervention process in case of violation of rights will be accelerated.
In this step, which requires global cooperation, diplomats and ambassadors have a great job of promoting the freedoms of queer individuals.
Witnessing that any SOGI issue is ignored in the political or public sphere, these diplomats and ambassadors should bring the issue back to the fore. Likewise, they are the people who will observe the extent to which the UN human rights recommendations are implemented and form a policy accordingly.
I understand the concerns of non-Western countries on this issue but it is pointless to turn queer individuals and their rights into an East-West issue. Queer movements, which are financed by the West with huge sums, can of course feel like a Trojan horse. But human rights are not about being ‘Eastern’ or ‘Western’. Here we obviously see that the subject is clearly distorted. In addition, the survival problems of immigrant LGBTIQ+ individuals should be highlighted as an issue that concerns the whole world. It should be tried to stay rational as much as possible on this issue, which I believe to be extremely sensitive.
Sexual orientation has nothing to worry about religion-race-culture. Change and fluidity are the rules of life itself.
As I mentioned above, the main actor of this global change starts with individual change. It is up to us to educate ourselves on this delicate topic. In the end, the LGBTIQ+ community is all about diversity and love, which Gen-Z is all about too. Queer Theory should be supported and love should be celebrated all 365 days long. Happy Pride!