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Europe and LGBT Rights. A Conflicted Relationship

Ayoub, Phillip M.; Paternotte, David

Europe matters to contemporary LGBTQ politics. This chapter maps out various political articulations connecting Europe and LGBT rights today, arguing that Europe has played a central role in much of the LGBTQ movement’s history but that this relationship is complex and multifaceted depending on the vast space of what “Europe” means to many different actors. In other words, Europe has been imagined and unimagined as LGBTQ-friendly by various actors and for various purposes. In making this argument the chapter presents “Europe” from four different angles, exploring the association between the continent and “LGBT rights” in each: Europe as an institutional entity, Europe as an activist project, Europe as exclusionary, and Europe as a threat. It takes a position on how the relationship is defined in each section, highlighting both the opportunity and risk that entails for LGBT rights and people on the continent. In doing so, the chapter highlights the ways European states and institutions have gradually endorsed some activist goals, embedding LGBT rights into the version of Europe understood as an institutional entity. Problematically, however, it shows that this project also generates different forms of exclusion. Moreover, while many actors articulate an idea of Europe as associated with LGBT rights, these actors also compete to define the nature and the content of this association. Europe as an idea is thus multifaceted in its relation to LGBTQ politics, depending on the angle from which it is viewed.

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