Exploring the Reversal of Gender- and Sexuality-Based Rights in a Global Context

Jocelyn Viterna, Harvard University
Amy Agigian
, Suffolk University

After decades of progress toward improved protection of gender- and sexuality-based rights, the United States is experiencing a significant rights reversal. This US reversal is not unique; a handful of other nations, representing every region of the world, have also experienced reversals of existing legal, gender- and sexuality-based rights in recent decades. This exploratory seminar examines the causes and consequences of these rights reversals by interrogating the transnational reach of the so-called “natural-family” movement. Existing case studies suggest that the “natural-family” movement has drafted anti-rights legislation, supported the election of anti-rights politicians, and propagated essentialist notions of gender and sexuality as both natural and moral. Yet, remarkably, few scholars have analyzed this movement’s origins, actions, networks, or impacts. Who are the organizations and activists mobilizing against gender- and sexuality-based rights? Do they share resources, information, and tactics transnationally? If so, how? Whose bodies are targeted with their policies and propaganda? And who benefits—economically, politically, and socially—from their legislative and judicial victories? By bringing together a panel of experts on anti-rights activism from theoretically-relevant countries around the world, this seminar will offer a much-needed investigation into how the “natural-family” movement mobilizes; how it connects and coordinates transnationally; how its narratives about a “natural” gender order ultimately promote racist, classist, and nativist, as well as misogynist, policies; and how right-wing politicians appropriate these narratives to maintain political power.