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Revolutionary Homophobia: Explaining State Repression against Sexual Minorities

  • Joshua Tschantret (a1)
Abstract

Why do unthreatening social groups become targets of state repression? Repression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people is especially puzzling since sexual minorities, unlike many ethnic minorities, pose no credible violent challenge to the state. This article contends that revolutionary governments are disproportionately oppressive toward sexual minorities for strategic and ideological reasons. Since revolutions create domestic instability, revolutionaries face unique strategic incentives to target ‘unreliable’ groups and to demonstrate an ability to selectively punish potential dissidents by identifying and punishing ‘invisible’ groups. Moreover, revolutionary governments are frequently helmed by elites with exclusionary ideologies – such as communism, fascism and Islamism – which represent collectivities rather than individuals. Elites adhering to these views are thus likely to perceive sexual minorities as liberal, individualistic threats to their collectivist projects. Statistical analysis using original data on homophobic repression demonstrates that revolutionary governments are more likely to target LGBT individuals, and that this effect is driven by exclusionary ideologues. Case study evidence from Cuba further indicates that the posited strategic and ideological mechanisms mediate the relationship between revolutionary government and homophobic repression.

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*Corresponding author. Email: joshua-tschantret@uiowa.edu
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