16 april 2019
LGBTQ politicians play an important role in advancing LGBTQ interests in government and in educating their fellow lawmakers about LGBTQ issues. But their under-representation in legislatures limits their opportunities to influence public policy. Historically negative attitudes toward sexual minorities suggest that public scrutiny could be an important barrier to candidacy for LGBTQ individuals. This study explores perceptions of public scrutiny and the forms in which they expect it to take for LGBTQ candidates. Interviews with 101 Canadians from diverse backgrounds reveal that some LGBTQ individuals forgo a career in politics to avoid the moral regulation of non-traditional lifestyles and identities that often underlies public scrutiny of politicians. While LGBTQ individuals share other study participants’ concerns regarding the loss of privacy and political criticism, they also expect their sexuality and physical appearance to come under particular scrutiny. LGBTQ candidate experiences on the campaign trail provide support for their expectations, revealing the ways in which politicians are regulated to ensure they conform to the white heterosexist norms of politics.
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