Diplomacy: Historically, LGBTI individuals have typically been excluded from sensitive diplomatic positions. They were viewed with caution and suspicion and seen as security risks. Yet new research has revealed that women diplomats with female partners fared better than their heterosexual female colleagues in terms of meeting the demands of international deployment and the extraordinary requirements of diplomacy.

In a field still reliant on the dual role played by envoys and their spouses, women with wives are a distinct advantage to international diplomacy. Yet, until now, little was known about the lives and experiences of queer women leading our international affairs – and for good reason, given the structural gender inequality and homophobia that is only just beginning to lift in Australia (as around the world).

While the spotlight is increasingly being shone on gender and diplomacy (including through my own PhD research, a soon-to-be-released study of 80+ senior women leaders and over 30 years of data on gender and Australian international affairs), findings from the first study on gender, sexuality and diplomacy in Australia are due to be released later this month.

In honour of the occasion, this article traces the intersection of gender and sexuality to share some of the most significant findings on women with wives on the world stage.

Historically, LGBTI individuals have been viewed with caution and suspicion, as security risks typically excluded from sensitive diplomatic positions. Queer identity placed individuals especially at risk of being blackmailed and their loyalties in diplomacy and security were questioned, perceived as being part of a transnational cosmopolitan community.

Across the world, 70 countries still criminalise homosexuality, 44 of which equally apply to women, and in many instances, homophobia is not just accepted, but state sanctioned. Further, there is a deeply entwined oppression and suppression of gender and sexuality, which has specific effects on those queer women who do choose to represent their state internationally.

Please click here to read the full “The most successful female diplomats? Women with wives” article published at The Broad Agenda written by Griffith Asia Institute PhD Candidate, Elise Stephenson.