Q&A: “The United States & the Global Struggle for Sexual Rights” with Dennis Altman

The USC Law & Global Health Collaboration hosted Dennis Altman, Professorial Fellow in Human Security at La Trobe University and ambassador for the Human Rights Law Centre, for a talk on “Missing in Action? The United States & the Global Struggle for Sexual Rights” Jan. 30, 2019.

In this Q&A learn about his background in the AIDS epidemic and sexual rights, the impact of American democracy on the rest of the world, as well as advice moving forward.

Tell us about yourself.

Dennis: I’m Dennis Altman. I’m a professorial fellow to Trobe University in Melbourne Australia and I write books and the most recent book relevant to this is a book called Queer Wars, which came out in 2016.

How did you get into this work?

Dennis: I became involved in the AIDS epidemic right at the beginning because I was living in New York in the early 80s. I wrote one of the first books about the epidemic called AIDS in the Mind of America and then I went back to Australia where I ended up on lots of government committees and, by accident, became president of the AIDS Society of Asia and the Pacific (which sounds very grand). Then, I was on the Governing Council of the International AIDS Society, usually the only non-medico in the room, which was an interesting experience.

What challenges do you experience in your work?

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Dennis: What the United States does has an extraordinary impact on the rest of the world. Luckily the United States will always do things that are very contradictory so then what your president does is constantly countermanded by what your television programs do and both of them are, in some ways, equally important in how they influence global politics. I’m in the process of finishing a book called Unrequited Love and the unrequited love is about my very long love affair with the United States and how it’s doomed to disappointment and how it parallels Australia’s very long love affair with the United States and the current huge disillusionment that we have about the current U.S.

What can people do to help?

“In this country, people need to vote. If you could increase the vote… by 10 percent in the next election you will have a different government.”

Dennis Altman

Dennis: In this country, people need to vote. The appalling state of American democracy is something that we find, and I speak as an Australian, hard to explain to Australians. We have compulsory voting which means over 90 percent of the population vote and take it for granted. If you could increase the vote, the voting population, by 10 percent in the next election you will have a different government. There are some wonderful people coming forward. I think the problem, almost, is now there are too many wonderful people coming forward and I wish that some of the extraordinary impressive women who were putting themselves up for president would actually sit in a room together and say “You know we can’t all be president couldn’t we agree on one person and put all our energies into getting that one person [elected],” but I realized that’s not going to happen. I am encouraged by the people who are coming up.”


Lecture

Watch Dennis Altman’s full presentation, “Missing in Action? The United States & the Global Struggle for Sexual Rights.”

Watch Dennis Altman’s lecture from 2016: “Can the United Nations Empower Queer Rights?” »


This talk is part of the 2018-2019 Global(HEALTH+LAW) Series, hosted by the USC Law & Global Health Collaboration, supported by the USC Collaboration Fund.