Bard prof speaks on angling LGBTQ+ conversations

by Matthew Graham-O'Regan / Staff Writer • October 5, 2016

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Gellman and Encarnacion
Gellman and Encarnacion

Though Emerson prides itself as a leader on LGBTQ+ matters, some students learned on Thursday that national conversation on the subject may be hindering our progress.

Omar G. Encarnación, a professor at Bard College, spoke to about 40 students on Thursday about his new book, Out in the Periphery: Latin America’s Gay Rights Revolution. The text discusses sudden LGBTQ+ rights revolutions in Latin American countries, specifically the movements in Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay.

“It is normally the nations with the highest rates of poverty and religiosity which achieve the most for the LGBT community,” Encarnación said.

His book aims to answer a question that has peaked his curiosity in recent years: “What explains the outburst of LGBT rights within a certain region of the world?” Encarnación said he researched Latin American countries because they’re some of the the least studied and have the most interesting LGBTQ+ rights movements in the world.

Mneesha Gellman, assistant professor of political science, said she invited Encarnación to speak to students because his research supplements the human rights course she teaches. Gellman said she’s seen Encarnación as a mentor and a friend since she took most of his classes at Bard College more than a decade ago.

Gellman said her students were interested in the speech, and that learning about these battles for human rights is an important lesson to have on every college campus.

“Human rights movements can take place anywhere, and Omar’s work can help us expand our repertoires of analysis as to where human rights can take place and in what context,” Gellman said.

In his research, Encarnación said, he found that strategies used by Argentine activists to promote LGBTQ+ rights were most effective. The Argentines framed it as a human rights issue, not a civil rights matter.

Encarnación told the room that although the international gay rights movement began in the U.S., this country’s policies still lag behind many Latin American nations. Encarnación attributes this mostly to our framing of the issue.

“As big as [Americans] think their achievements are, less advantaged countries are able to make bigger achievements than the U.S. has been able to,” Encarnación said.