Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2013

Document Type

Thesis

Department

International Affairs

Abstract

This study is designed to better understand why gay rights in Latin America are so liberally legislated and often so brutally violated in practice. It focuses on the phenomenon of reparative therapy, or the attempted curing of homosexuality, in Ecuador and Mexico. The study fills three theoretical gaps: first, by examining the often overlooked role of competing conservative actors in transnational activism; second, by exploring the interaction between conservative and liberal activists who mobilize around LGBT rights outside of the institutional sphere; and third, by undertaking a discursive examination of the arguments for and against the use of reparative therapies. The study shows, through discourse analysis, that these competing transnational advocacy networks frame their arguments shrewdly to achieve their desired policy change while simultaneously responding to one another. Their competing frames sometimes intentionally avoid engaging with the opponent’s discourse, sometimes reframe the opponent’s most effective rhetoric, and sometimes directly attack the opponent’s language. These varied discourse deployments shape the face of gay rights by casting blame on different actors and by putting international pressure on local governments to effect change. The dance between transnational advocacy networks on all sides of the debate about LGBT rights is dynamic and responsive, and this examination reveals some of the mechanisms of that dance in Ecuador and Mexico. Because gay rights and reparative therapy are such highly controversial topics worldwide, this study reveals the contentious nature of opposing activist forces, thereby clarifying the processes by which change is effected in our globalized society.

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