Sunday, June 28, 2009

Big Gay Blog #2

I keep getting news from home about the success of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid - 180 in the Dyke March, more probably gathering for the parade as I write this and so I felt the need to blog about it.

I am not really 'out' here in Palestine. Most internationals take one look at me and know right away that I'm queer, but I've been mistaken for a hetero by many service drivers, random folks I've met and even people I have become friends with here. I get the impression that people think I spend too much time with my 'roommate' who I talk about an awful lot and I know they worry about me being 28, unwed and barren. It's weird not being out and can, at times, be isolating because I can't really talk about my life completely.

The reason I have chosen not to 'out' myself is largely because my only reasons for doing so would be selfish and arrogant. I do not want to be like the feminists I clashed with weeks ago who felt that it was their right to criticize Palestinian society without understanding the complex power dynamics at play and especially not the local feminist resistance going on all around them. I cannot claim to understand the experiences of queer people here and I don't need pull some typical Western superiority nonsense by talking about how I'm free to be a big old homo at home and complaining about not being free to be me here. First of all, doing so would in no way further queer Palestinian rights. Just like those women berating Palestinian men about their wives' veiling practices does nothing to help anyone, me freaking out about a homophobic comment is in no way useful. I can and do, however, talk about the solidarity efforts of queers back home, because I do think that can open up dialogue that is based on the notion of solidarity and justice, which is more productive. I think that like in the case of South Africa where international queer solidarity influenced ANC views on queer rights, queers joining the struggle against israeli partheid worldwide might have a positive side effect of challenging homophobia through solidarity, instead of condescension and imperialism.

I also would not claim to be a free homo because that would actually be disingenuous. The backlash against QuAIA was led by a cast of characters I know intimately - B'nai Brith and other Zionist homophobic opportunists, who are trying to use Israel's newfound love of queers to further their racist, apartheid-lovin' agenda. It's these same forces that tried to make me conform all those years ago in the sexist, transphobic, homophobic Zionist indoctrination system I was raised in. I'm sure my homophobic, racist family are quite confused by this latest controversy - is B'nai Brith really telling them that they have to give up their homophobia to support their racism? Oye. I think that they must not know what to hope for, except that I don't get on the news again and embarass them further.

Israel and the mainstream Zionist, Jewish community are homophobic. They can pretend not to be, but we know differently. Yes, there was no Pride parade in Palestine and there were parades in several Israeli cities. Even forgetting the military presense required to keep queer Israelis from getting stabbed at Pride (happened a few years ago in Jerusalem), no amount of Israeli queer parading and partying makes me, as a queer person, want to allign myself with Israel nor does it somehow convince me that on account of the homophobia in Palestine, Palestinians deserve to live under an Apartheid system. That's Zionist logic, borrowing from imperialist notions of civlity. The argument goes like this: countries that extend gay rights are civilized and those that do not are uncivilized - the uncivilized deserve no human rights, freedom or dignity because of their incivility. You see, civilized Israel lets gays into their army so that they can freely excercise their now gay right to terrorize and kill Palestinians. Just so we're clear, that gays can serve in the Israeli Army only proves is that in this incredibly racist context, at this particular time in history, allegiance to racism gets some gays some legitimacy. That's complicity, not liberation.

And speaking of parades, let's not forget that parades and demonstrations under occupation are hard to pull off - just ask the organizers of May Day and International Women's Day Celebrations that were either cancelled or held without permits all over the West Bank this year. Palestinian social movements face the incredible challenge of mobilizing when their leaders are killed or arrested and their members don't have the freedom to assemble. Yet they still fight on, struggling against apartheid and also trying to make change within their own society, which is hard anywhere, under the best of conditions. If we want to support Palestinian queers, we have to fight apartheid, because we can't separate these issues.

Ok, I'm done. Happy Pride everyone. I promise that this will be the last big gay blog...

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