Professor Ashley Currier will present field research for the American Sociology Association on both pro-LGBT and anti-LGBT movements in Liberia.
Ashley Currier, associate professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies at McMicken Arts & Sciences at the University of Cincinnati, will present research at the annual American Sociological Association conference this August. Her research, culled from extensive interviews, newspaper articles and field work, is titled “Local Mobilization Against LGBT Rights Organizing in Liberia,” and explores Liberian social movements and responses surrounding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.
Currier will present research at the annual American Sociological Association conference this August. Her research, culled from extensive interviews, newspaper articles and field work, is titled “Local Mobilization Against LGBT Rights Organizing in Liberia,” and explores Liberian social movements and responses surrounding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.
During a 2013 trip to Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, Currier discovered that although the country does not possess a discernible LGBT community, pro-LGBT activists are able to support LGBT citizens through health-oriented purposes, specifically through work with raising awareness and caring for citizens with HIV/AIDS, purposefully keeping themselves off of the radar. Because of the low visibility of LGBT citizens, the objective of anti-LGBT Liberians is purely preventative. After conducting over 40 interviews, Currier was surprised to learn that both movements had no knowledge of the other’s existence.
Liberia’s politics, unlike other African countries, are deeply rooted in the U.S. Initially established as a country for black Americans freed from slavery to migrate to, its Western origins still play an important role in the social climate of Liberia and influence how citizens view many issues, including LGBT rights.
Ibrahim, a Liberian Muslim cleric, voiced contempt for LGBT rights in a 2013 interview with Currier. He expressed his “surprise” that President Barack Obama traveled to Africa in 2012 to “encourage some African nations with money to allow gay marriages and homosexuality. “Now how can you say you are godly at the same time you are immoral?” he asked. “You have not been able to convince your own country about respecting LGBT rights.”
Currier said that although the devastating ebola crisis makes the democratic nation more reluctant to act on divisive issues, indigenous mobilization manifests in antigay vigilantism and movements that develop in response to the perceived presence of LGBT organizing.
In a 2013 interview with Currier, Tommy, a Liberian man, related how antigay neighbors invaded his home when they learned he was gay: “They started breaking chairs down in my house. They even took a generator out of my house. The most fearful part [is] nobody intervened. All of the neighbors just [stood] and watch[ed]. Once they know you are homosexual, they don’t intervene; they feel you are not part of [the community].” Tommy vacated the house and searched for a new place to rent.
Currier’s research looks toward the horizon of human rights issues in Liberia. “Understanding local attitudes to homosexuality and LGBT rights in Liberia will help us to understand if and how political homophobia will gain traction among Liberians,” she said. “I hope that this research will shed light on how some activists mobilize against LGBT rights to redefine the content of human rights.”
by Zack HatfieldSource
The University of Cincinnati