Coming Out of Communism

The Emergence of LGBT Activism in Eastern Europe

352 pages

26 illustrations

September, 2018

ISBN: 9781479851485



Add to Cart Available: 8/17/2018

Also available in


LGBT Studies


Conor O’Dwyer is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida. He is the author of Runaway State-Building: Patronage Politics and Democratic Development.

All books by Conor O'Dwyer

How homophobic backlash unexpectedly strengthened mobilization for LGBT political rights in post-communist Europe 
While LGBT activism has increased worldwide, there has been strong backlash against LGBT people in Eastern Europe. Although Russia is the most prominent anti-gay regime in the region, LGBT individuals in other post-communist countries also suffer from discriminatory laws and prejudiced social institutions. Combining an historical overview with interviews and case studies in Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, Conor O’Dwyer analyzes the development and impact of LGBT movements in post-communist Eastern and Central Europe.  
O’Dwyer argues that backlash against LGBT individuals has had the paradoxical effect of encouraging stronger and more organized activism, significantly impacting the social movement landscape in the region. As these peripheral Eastern and Central European countries vie for inclusion or at least recognition in the increasingly LGBT-friendly European Union, activist groups and organizations have become even more emboldened to push for change. Using fieldwork in five countries and interviews with activists, organizers, and public officials, O’Dwyer explores the intricacies of these LGBT social movements and their structures, functions, and impact. The book provides a unique and engaging exploration of LGBT rights groups in Eastern and Central Europe and their ability to serve as models for future movements attempting to resist backlash.  
Thorough, theoretically grounded, and empirically sound, Coming Out of Communism is sure to be a significant work in the study of LGBT politics, European politics, and social movements.


  • "In this masterful and timely study, O’Dwyer shows us how backlash can paradoxically benefit the domestic organizing capacity of LGBT rights advocates. This is a novel and compelling argument, substantiated by meticulously documented contention around those rights in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe. In crafting this argument, O’Dwyer demonstrates the great potential that the often-ignored study of LGBT politics offers for understanding a host of theoretical debates pertinent to political scientists. As unfettered populism and nationalism shake the core of liberal democracies, this book is needed more than ever, because it provides a sliver of hope in times of great peril for the most vulnerable among us."

    —Phillip M. Ayoub, Author of When States Come Out: Europe's Sexual Minorities and the Politics of Visibility

  • “Why has LGBT rights activism flourished in some post-communist states and floundered in others following accession to the European Union? How come joining the EU was, in some places, accompanied by increasingly intolerant public attitudes toward sexual minorities, rather than acceptance? In Coming Out of Communism, Conor O’Dwyer solves these puzzles, highlighting the role of homophobic backlash in provoking stronger organizing for LGBT rights in the region.Anyone interested in LGBT issues, social movements, or the impact of transnational institutions on domestic politics, will undoubtedly enjoy learning from O’Dwyer’s keen analysis and intriguing field research in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania.”

    —Valerie Sperling, Author of Sex, Politics, and Putin: Political Legitimacy in Russia