Lambda Literary Review of 'Transnational LGBT Activism: Working for Sexual Rights Worldwide' by Ryan R. Thoreson

By Jia-Hui Lee
Lambda Literary

In 2011, the board of directors of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Youth Organization (IGLYO) withdrew the decision to holding their annual general assembly in Tel Aviv, having faced criticisms that the location would prevent many queer youth advocates of Muslim countries from attending the event.

Soon, the fraught politics of Israel and Palestine had become closely intertwined with the politics of gender and sexuality. It became quickly apparent that international LGBT advocacy was always already inseparable from their political contexts.

Much of the work of LGBT rights activists are often entangled in complex, sometimes even perilous, considerations. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is no different. Ryan R. Thoreson’s ethnography, Transnational LGBT Activism: Working for Sexual Rights Worldwide, sensitively guides the reader through the messy entanglements of sexuality and politics faced by IGLHRC, and more importantly, provides a framework through which one can understand the actions of an international NGO.

Thoreson tells us that he wants to critically look at how a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in the West functions and how, ultimately, its articulation of LGBT human rights gains legitimacy and global significance. His work thus deftly confronts a global, emerging consensus around the recognition of LGBT human rights. Focusing on the day-to-day operations of writing press releases, diplomatic letters, and online petitions at IGLHRC, he offers a window into the stakes involved when working on LGBT issues around the world.


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