Queering the World Order

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

The world is home to an ever-shifting global society; morals, normative behaviors, systems, governments, all change eventually, and over the last three decades, a global transformation has been slowly occurring. New and provocative views have begun circulating, which are questioning the norms that we have been living by, including in regards to race; class; sexuality and fluidity, and gender fluidity. A term for these beliefs emerged in 1990 at an academic conference hosted by Teresa de Lauretis: Queer Theory, which adds new insights into the international political economy, human rights initiatives, and international political action, among other things (Sjoberg).

This pushback against existing systems accentuates the importance of resilience. Being able to adapt to change during times of uncertainty is an important characteristic for successful governments, leaders, and organizations, and especially for nations that will lead the next world order: Queer theory leverages these attributes as it keeps options open to change as better procedures and ideologies develop (Thiel)

In the past, queer theory was only relevant in the private sector through sociology, literature, and queer studies programs. This kept it out of political and governmental conversations, preventing queer theory from influencing international relations. Since the 1990’s though, queer theory in international relations has grown exponentially around the world as professionals and scholars are beginning to recognize its benefits, coining its presence in international relations as queer international relations. Today, it is understood that queer theory intersects with conceptualizations that already exist within international relations, including feminist and postcolonial inquiry (Sjoberg). Its expansion has come to include influence in terms of security; terrorism; global health; financial crisis, and political/cultural formation (Richter-Montpetit). Journals in the international realm are beginning to publish information on queer theory, including the International Studies Quarterly; the European Journal of International Relations; International Political Sociology; differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies; International Feminist Journal of Politics, and many more.

Currently, queer theory is being used to better understand nationalism as scholars find that heterosexist ideals are heavily associated with nationalism and nationalistic views. It is also picking up speed in the comprehension of sovereignty and heteronormative philosophies. Findings are making cohesive connections between sexuality and citizenship, the studies of which are developing into queer liberalism. International relations specialists are also discovering new patterns of migration based on sexuality as studies grow. In simple terms, “sexuality is bound up in citizenship, and citizenship in sexuality, especially in an increasingly globalized world.” (Sjoberg) These conclusions not only alter the way that international relations specialists assess the way nations interact, but can also assist in the way that violence against LGBTQ individuals is understood and prevented.

Coincidingly, the ongoing battle for LGBTQ rights has played a large role in the growth of queer international relations: As LGBTQ non-profits and advocacy groups are growing their presence in the media, LGBTQ politics and queer theory have been becoming more common conversation topics. Major international influences, including the United Nations (UN), the World Bank, the European Union (EU), and the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) have joined the discussion and created initiatives for equality, equity, and acceptance. Simultaneously, these global conversations have inspired case studies of homophobia and collective identities, which are making queer international relations even more prevalent (Thiel).

The case studies take place all over the world but are more exemplary of hate and violence repercussions in countries that are most unaccepting of queer ideology and LGBTQ rights, where their governments are allowed to kill LGBTQ people and criminalize their existence (Mohn). In these countries, people are beaten, their homes are raided, they face discrimination in healthcare, job opportunities, and almost every other aspect of life. The research induced by LGBTQ activism has found that LGBTQ discrimination hinders more than the targeted individuals. Communities and economies are negatively impacted as well: When LGBTQ individuals are discriminated against and experience violence they often encounter physical and mental health complications. This results in lower levels of productivity, which has shown to lead to decreased business profits in organizations where they are employed (Flores). Since the LGBTQ community is larger than may be known, it would not be feasible to halt the hiring of LGBTQ individuals. The only way to prevent a profit loss would be to create a more inclusive work environment.

The nations that are generally less accepting of the LGBTQ community tend to be in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, as well as Eastern Europe, Russia, and Ukraine. The most accepting countries are in Western Europe and the Americas. More split countries are found in the Asia-Pacific region. Despite the varying degrees of acceptance and the continued violence that is occurring globally, support in historically anti-gay countries in all of these regions has been steadily growing since the early 2000s. From 2002 to 2019, Japan has increased support from 54 to 68 percent; The U.S. from 51 to 72 percent; South Africa from 33 to 54 percent; South Korea from 25 to 44 percent; India from 15 to 37 percent, and Kenya from one to 14 percent. In a survey by the Pew Research Center of 34 countries, there was a median of 52 percent agreeing that homosexuality should be accepted and only 38 percent opposing (Poushter). In another study, this time of 174 countries, 131 nations showed an increase in their acceptance of the LGBTQ community from 1981 to 2017. Only 16 declined in acceptance while 27 stayed the same (Flores). Factors of this newfound acceptance are found to be linked to gender, education levels, wealth, political beliefs, religion, and age. Younger generations are exceedingly more accepting of the LGBTQ community. For example, from ages 18-29, 31 percent of Russia is in support; 77 percent of Mexico; 92 percent of Japan; 82 percent of Brazil; 82 percent of the United States; 92 percent of France, compared to much smaller acceptance rates by adults 40 and up. Women, educated people, wealthier individuals and nations, and those with leftist beliefs also tend to be more supportive of LGBTQ rights than others (Poushter).

Though these data sets and the work of global advocacy groups and Western governments are exemplary of the growing implementation of queer theory in international relations, there is still much to be improved in regards to the politicization of those in the LGBTQ community as the next world order forms. A few of the issues to be further addressed as queer theory becomes more influential are transgender rights; non-discriminatory health care access; protection from hate crimes, and equal opportunity for marriage and adoption (Thiel). Research is proving to show that if nations continue to foster hate for such a broad community of people, then their policies and societies will not prosper with the shifting world order. Though a queer world order is not yet a reality, queer theory and LGBTQ rights are still slowly, but definitely, changing the world we live in. And, as queer initiatives continue to evolve, it seems the next world order will include a queer lens in regards to all aspects of international relations (Mohn).


Mohn, T. (2018, June 21). The shifting global terrain of L.G.B.T.Q. rights. The New York Times. Retrieved October 24, 2021, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/21/world/lgbtq-global-rights.html?.%3Fmc=aud_dev&ad-keywords=auddevgate&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIo-2SxInf8wIV0PrICh1JvAulEAAYASAAEgLGBfD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds.

Flores, A. (2020, June 9). Social acceptance of LGBT people in 174 countries. Williams Institute. Retrieved October 24, 2021, from https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/publications/global-acceptance-index-lgbt/.

Poushter, J., & Kent, N. (2020, October 27). Views of homosexuality around the world. Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project. Retrieved October 23, 2021, from https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2020/06/25/global-divide-on-homosexuality-persists/.

Richter-Montpetit, M., & Weber, C. (2017, May 24). Queer International Relations. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. Retrieved October 22, 2021, from https://oxfordre.com/politics/politics/abstract/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.001.0001/acrefore-9780190228637-e-265.

Sjoberg, L., & Weissman, A. (n.d.). The Queer in/of International Relations. Shibboleth authentication request. Retrieved October 24, 2021, from https://www-oxfordbibliographies-com.proxy.library.nyu.edu/view/document/obo-9780199743292/obo-9780199743292-0177.xml#obo-9780199743292-0177-div1-0004.

Thiel, M. (2014, November 5). LGBT politics, Queer Theory, and international relations. E-International Relations. Retrieved October 23, 2021, from https://www.e-ir.info/2014/10/31/lgbt-politics-queer-theory-and-international-relations/.

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