The book provides an invaluable snapshot of a particular moment in the worldwide response to the queer rights movement. It also raises provocative and uncomfortable questions about Western assumptions of the universality of 'human rights,' specifically whether sexual orientation and gender identification are such inviolate aspects of personhood that the state should make no laws, nor uphold any cultural bias, that restricts them, as well as the conflict between international norms and national sovereignty and even if LGBT identity is a one-size-fits-all proposition. Having raised these questions, Gevisser never definitively answers them. Indeed, these larger issues tend to get lost in the more personal stories Gevisser tells in a book that alternates between personal reportage, standard journalism, and memoirish self-reflection. If the whole of the book is ultimately less than the sum of its parts, the parts themselves can be thought-provoking and may provide the starting point for future studies that are less ambitious but more coherent ... despite its sprawl and the unanswered questions it raises, The Pink Line is a consequential book. Gevisser’s opus will knock its Western readers out of any parochial sense of complacency about LGBT rights and challenge them to think both globally and strategically about how best to support their brothers and sisters on the other side of the pink line.
This is a valuable book not only for the quality of Gevisser’s analysis and the scope of his research, but because he spends a good deal of time with the people on whose lives he focuses. He does not just sail into such cities as Cairo, Nairobi, Kampala, Ramallah and Istanbul, interview a few gay locals, deplore their plight and depart. He sticks around; he finds people whose lives he can follow over a couple of years. He hangs out with them, enjoys their company; he renders them in all their complexity. Gevisser is also alert to the connection between gay freedom and other forms of liberty. His account of the reasons for the increasingly intense repression of gay people in some countries is astute and nuanced. His book is, at times, a history of the recent darkening of the human spirit itself, as much as it is a book about gay politics. It also shows how stirring up hatred against gay people is part of an agenda to win power ... When the author places them in the context not only of gay politics but of national politics, his human stories become fascinating ... The Pink Line can see light and hope...but Gevisser is clear-eyed and wise enough to have a sharp sense of how tough the struggle has been, and how hard it will be now for those who have not succeeded in finding shelter from prejudice.
... extraordinary ... a hugely ambitious and exceptional work of long-form journalism. Eight years in the making, with stories from Malawi, South Africa, Egypt, Russia, India, Mexico, Israel and the Palestinian territories, this is a landmark study of unprecedented frontiers in the battle for civil rights ... instead of a triumphant celebration of progress, this is a layered and surprising work about those living along these cultural fault lines ... Gevisser’s book feels especially revelatory in this globalist approach, making thoughtful comparisons that illuminate just how privileged Western societies have become in the application of LGBT legal rights ... What makes Gevisser an especially compelling narrator and guide to this subject is his awareness of his privilege as a White, upper-middle-class South African from a country with one of the most progressive post-apartheid constitutions in terms of human rights...His self-disclosure liberates him from the sometimes insular and patronizing Western gaze on LGBT communities in postcolonial societies, understanding how American or European cultural power may have galvanized LGBT movements but can also serve to destabilize and in many cases endanger local struggles for sexual and gender diversity. These gray zones make the book riveting and morally complex ... I was deeply moved by these nuances in The Pink Line to reflect on my own coming-of-age and coming-out story ... Gevisser gives language and form to those experiences ... While the author’s own sexuality certainly makes him a partial observer, this is by no means a memoir or a polemic. It is a work of clear-eyed analysis and exceptional reporting, and it deserves a wide and non-LGBT readership that wishes to understand these frontiers. What elevates the book is Gevisser’s poetic and queer gaze, his searching language about why he has dedicated almost a decade of his life to understanding a generational transformation.
The Pink Line makes impressive strides in chronicling distant and recent LGBT history and progress across the world, punctuating overviews of specific countries every other chapter with intimate stories with LGBT people living in those countries The relative comprehensiveness can at times be tedious, but the humanity and tension with which Gevisser portrays his subjects keeps the prose engaging alongside his incredible and seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of LGBT world history ... this work moves the observation of the evolution of LGBT life and culture to the global scale and is a must-read for all interested in gender studies.
This dense, well-researched project alternates between chapters contextualizing political and legal events from a high-level view and closeup chapters that follow, empathically and personally, the lives of LGTBQ+ people living on the wrong side of the Pink Line ... This structure reinforces the social justice belief that the personal is political and vice versa. Gevisser’s monumental effort in this global deep-think of a text outlines how much work remains ahead. This necessary, timely, intelligent book belongs in every library, the world over.
... expansive and deeply sourced ... Though the book at times feels more like a collection of magazine profiles rather than a cohesive whole, Gevisser’s non-Western point-of-view and exhaustive research provide essential perspective on the threads connecting gay, lesbian, and transgender communities worldwide. This impressive work is a must-read for anyone invested in social justice and LGBTQ rights.
Gevisser’s journalistic acumen and breadth of research are impressive. While he offers an unprecedented scope, however, the densely packed text lacks a unifying narrative flow, reading more like a series of articles (several of the chapters were derived from previously published pieces). Consequently, sometimes the author’s capable storytelling skills take a back seat to what often feels like an excessive overflow of reporting. Not fully compelling but a solidly researched, important addition to queer studies.