This article will be in our summer zine for the 2016 Pride festival. We are releasing this early to address the connections we see between Islamophobia, homophobia and imperialism. June 12, 2016
Join Us to Take a Stand Against Imperialism, Homophobia and Islamophobia!
The AWC believes in peace through justice, and we stand in solidarity with oppressed people here and abroad. We asked Jess Sundin, a founding member of the Anti-War Committee, to share some of her experience building that work as a queer woman.
Why are the anti-war issues of importance for the queer community?
The LGBTQ community has its own roots in opposing war. When the Gay Liberation Front was founded in 1969 in the aftermath of the Stonewall Riots, it was just as important to fight against the war in Vietam as it was to fight for gay rights. In what The Advocate called “one of the largest concentrations of gay power ever assembled,” thousands of queers took part in anti-war protests in Washington, DC and San Francisco in April 1971.
Does the AWC confront homophobia and transphobia in the communities where you work?
In solidarity with Palestine, or other places where the majority of the community is Muslim, we work with people who’ve been driven from their homelands by US policies of war. They come here as refugees, only to be abused by racists, even treated as suspected terrorists by the government. As a white lesbian, I’ve sometimes worried that my coming out could put a giant cultural distance between us, or create a distraction that wrongfully centers my experience, when we’re supposed to be confronting empire’s attacks on them. Like any community, individual people can be more or less comfortable with queerness; but no one whose liberation I’ve fought for has ever asked me to give up mine. Those who are new to queer politics and community often take our friendship as an opportunity to learn. Many express support for our struggles and oppose attacks on our community.
How do you confront islamophobia in the queer community?
Some folks are afraid to unite with the Muslim community or their struggles, fearing homophobia. Bigots often (mis)use faiths as a justification for targeting queer people, so I get that. Open-mindedness is a fundamental value shared by many in our community. When queer women like me stand in solidarity with Muslims who are under attack, other queer folks can see themselves doing the same.
The bigger challenge is those within the queer community who promote islamophobia in order to advance their own political agenda. Every year at Pride, we’ve got a couple guys who come to our tent for a fight over Palestine. They claim that saying anything against Israel is wrong, because it provides some kind of safe haven for queer people who are shunned by Palestinians and neighboring countries that have large Muslim populations. This is just “pinkwashing” Israel, where Palestinians – queer and straight – are never treated as equals. Lucky for us, these pinkwashers – the same couple of gay guys – always come at us yelling sexist profanities and abuse that just drives more awesome queers to our defense, and our table.
When have you seen Muslims shown solidarity with the queer community?
One of my favorite events the AWC organized was a panel highlighting victories in the struggles of political prisoners. We had people’s attorney Lynne Stewart and local transactivist and she-ro Cece McDonald, just a couple months after each had been released from prison, and a Palestinian friend speaking on the case of Samer Issawi, who won his freedom after a 277-day hunger strike. The common ground they found was inspiring, and neither islamophobia nor transphobia were a barrier. At the end of the day, it’s not hard to see that we have the same enemies. We confront them by building community strength and pride, and combining that with solidarity and unity.