Europe’s anti-immigrant parties are becoming more gay-friendly

AMID a sea of rainbow flags, Sebastian Tynkkynen sings along to ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” and waves a pro-gay placard. “Christians, don’t hate us. Islam, don’t kill us” reads his sign. Like many others at an LGBT pride parade in Kokkola, a small town in Finland, Mr Tynkkynen is proud to be bisexual. Unlike most of them, he is also proud to be anti-immigrant.

Mr Tynkkynen’s gay-friendly Islamophobia is not unusual. Nationalist and anti-immigrant parties in Europe’s more socially liberal countries are trying to shed their old reputation for gay-bashing. Partly, this is because they are genuinely less homophobic than they used to be. Partly, it is because voters are. But also, it gives them a handy excuse for bashing Muslims.

Dropping the worst of their own anti-gay tendencies allows nationalists to project themselves as the true guardians of tolerance. They argue that Muslims represent the biggest threat to LGBT safety on Europe’s streets, and that only those prepared to curb their numbers truly have gay people’s best interests at heart.  

Many gay people are wary of the populist right’s overtures. Skeptics also see it as a selective embrace. Populist parties talk endlessly about the Islamic threat to gay people but rarely bother to champion other gay issues, such as gay marriage.

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