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Some say that we who live in the United States are much too self-absorbed and pay little attention to people and events outside our boarders. After reading "The Global Emergence of Gay and Lesbian Politics," edited by Barry D. Adam, Jan Willem Duyvendak, and André Krouwel, I believe that such criticism may well be warranted. For both serious and arm-chair students of politics, ethics, culture, anthropology, religion, sociology, or modern history (as well as for garden variety social activists, particularly of pink & lavender stripes), this book is an excellent introduction to the worldwide gay and lesbian equal rights movement. These three editors (themselves writing from both Canada and Holland) have fashioned for us a very informative book from thirteen international contributors. This work seeks to not only give us historical background on national gay movements in selected countries, but also, in very scholarly fashion, applies current social theory to these various movements hoping to: (1) see if any generalizations can be made about how gay movements can or cannot develop in a given place, and (2) appraise the accuracy of the theories themselves (i.e. do these academic theories accurately reflect political, "real-world" reality).
Adam et al. pieced together contributors' reports from Canada, the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Britain, Holland, France, Spain, Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic, South Africa (including brief, troubling dispatches regarding anti-gay elements in Zimbabwe and Namibia), Japan, and Australia. In some of these countries, national movements have met with incredible success to the point that gay and lesbian people are practically main-streamed into their dominant cultures. In others, however, it is quite a different story. Some fledgling movements are just now struggling to find their gay political and cultural identity. If this were not enough of a problem, it is compounded by what for them is the new problem of capitalist economics versus the need for gay and lesbian Community building. In yet other parts of the world, due to ancient cultural customs regarding public discourse, the entire notion of individual "gay identity" as being separate and apart from heterosexual identity is in question (much less any kind of collective gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender political aggressiveness).
Clearly linked to the development (or arrest) of all national movements is the connection with national/global economics. For a movement to be successful in gaining legal equality (always the first order of battle), it appears that a gay-friendly space or Community must also be built. It is a two-fold task and some places have, for a variety of reasons, enjoyed greater success than others. "Global Gay and Lesbian Politics" is a window into specifically what those "variety of reasons" are. This book is well worth the read.
The few criticisms that it must sustain however, are that at several points (particularly in the Introduction) it needlessly encumbers itself with thick academic rhetoric instead of just making its point. Further, if greater international communication is a valued movement goal, the book limits its usefulness by not including any kind of contact information for various groups in these countries (with the most glaring omission being that of the International Lesbian and Gay Alliance in San Francisco). However, these faults are relatively minor in comparison with the fact that the editors and most contributors fail to sufficiently connect the global reach of anti-gay, American-based Christian evangelical/ fundamentalism. Specifically, I refer to televangelists and fundamentalist missionaries with their influence in and upon foreign, right-wing regimes. (Being written from a socio-political viewpoint, such errors are common when analysts fail to make use of available inter-disciplinary research.)
And finally, the scope of the study omits any analysis (or substantive mention) of conditions in Russia, China, India, or any Islamic nations. Granted, there may well be no "movements" as yet organized in these countries; however, it would have been satisfying to have at least a general chapter on what is going on in the rest of the world besides the nations studied. But perhaps the editors will include such a chapter in a much needed and hopefully forthcoming second volume. The Community owes this book's editors, contributors and publisher, Temple University Press, a debt of thanks. As for potential readers, particularly myopic, self-absorbed, concerned, courage-filled, caring, committed American gay,lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, this book is a "must read."