Ideology versus Identity: Anti-gender movements in Europe and their impact on the EU’s discourse regarding LGBTI rights towards Central-Eastern and Western European audiences

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In recent years, LGBTI rights have increasingly been considered “core values” of the European Union. However, they have also become politicised and threatened from within the Union, including by anti-gender movements, which campaign against what they call “gender ideology”. This study looks at: (1) the differences between the anti-gender discourses in Central-Eastern and Western Europe, and (2) how these differences influence the discourse that EU actors use regarding LGBTI rights towards the different audiences. These questions are answered using two separate discourse analyses with varying depths, which are brought together to look for signs of adaptation and strategic discourse. The first analysis shows that there are some differences in the policy priorities of the anti-gender movements in CEE and Western Europe, although they are similar in that resisting marriage equality is the most important and the EU is not explicitly constructed as a threat. The second analysis shows that there is some indication that the EU adopts the policy priorities of the anti-gender movements, although the evidence for this is weak. Another result of the second analysis is that there is a divide between how the EU approaches CEE and Western European audiences; for example, the EU integrates elements of anti-gender discourse into its protection of LGBTI rights, but only towards CEE audiences. The differences between the anti-gender movements cannot justify this divide. The evidence thus shows that the EU does strategically adjust its discourse to that of the anti-gender movements, but this is dependent on the perceived audience.
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