Romantic Notions: Gay Soldiers, Cops & Spouses
- Romantic Notions: Gay Soldiers, Cops & Spouses
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Please i ask that folks do not edit these captions. Thanks!
Transcript at bottom.
This audio recording is of an interactive Skype event with author, activist & Seattle University Law Professor, Dean Spade, and local respondents:
Isabel Krupp (Queers Against Israeli Apartheid)
Anna Soole (Social Justice & Decolonization Facilitator)
Harsha Walia (No One is Illegal - Unceded Coast Salish Territories)
It took place at Simon Fraser University (Burnaby Campus) and was organized by SFPIRG; the Department of Gender Sexuality & Women's Studies; the SFU Women's Centre; and Out on Campus.
The last forty years of queer and trans politics has seen a drastic shift. Much of 1960's and 70's queer and trans activism had complex and explicit ties to anti-war and anti-police movements, as well as to feminist disruptions of traditional gender roles including militarized masculinities. Today, a highly visible, corporate-funded gay and lesbian rights agenda declares that the key demands of queer and trans politics are to be offered entry into legal marriage and the military. Anti-colonial, feminist and anti-racist queer and trans activists and scholars contest this, and argue that the alignment of this pro-military, pro-marriage gay and lesbian rights politics with the global war on terror and the explosive growth of racialized criminalization and imprisonment are no coincidence. In this talk, Dean Spade will discuss the complex terrain of contemporary queer and trans politics, examining the racialized-gendered roles of soldier and spouse being offered in the name of "equality" and "human rights."
Dean Spade is an associate professor at the Seattle University School of Law and is currently a fellow in the Engaging Tradition Project at Columbia Law School. In 2002 he founded the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a non-profit collective that provides free legal help to low-income people and people of color who are trans, intersex and/or gender non-conforming and works to build trans resistance rooted in racial and economic justice. He is the author of Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of Law. www.deanspade.net
Isabel Krupp is a member of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid -- a group that formed to work in solidarity with queers in Palestine and Palestine solidarity movements around the world. Today, in response to increasing criticism of its occupation of Palestine, Israel is cultivating an image of itself as an oasis of gay tolerance in the Middle East, a practice that is called pinkwashing. As queers, we recognize that homophobia exists in Israel, Palestine, and across all borders. However, the struggle for sexual rights cannot come at the price of other rights. queersagainstapartheid.org
Anna Soole is Métis of the Cree, Ojibwe, Lakota, Algonquin, and Apache First Nations, and French, Celtic, Dutch and German heritage. She is a Queer Femme residing on Coast Salish Territories with her partner who is a Mayan Nicaraguan Trans Man. A seasoned Social Justice Facilitator, Experiential Educator, Forum Theatre Practitioner, Human Development Coach, and Consultant, she is actively decolonizing her mind, body, spirit, and heart every day.
Harsha Walia is a member of No One is Illegal-Vancouver Unceded Coast Salish Territories, a grassroots anti-colonial migrant justice group with leadership from members of migrant and/or racialized backgrounds. Harsha has been active in anti-racist, migrant justice, feminist, anti-capitalist, Indigenous solidarity, and anti-colonial movements for over a decade. She is the author of the upcoming book Undoing Border Imperialism. noii-van.resist.ca
For more information on events like these, please visit www.sfpirg.ca
Captions and transcript courtesy of the Radical Access Mapping Project, Un-ceded Coast Salish Territories of the Skwxwú7mesh, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples.
To learn more, see: http://radicalaccessiblecommunities.wordpress.com/subtitled-videos/
Romantic Notions: Gay Soldiers, Cops & Spouses
February 19, 2013,
Halpern Centre, SFU Burnaby
[ Dean Spade, author, activist & Seattle University Law Professor ]
So, yeah, first I wanted to say thanks. It's really exciting to be here.
And I'm really honoured to be part of a conversation with the other folks who are gonna be in this --who I can't see right now but I trust are in front of you--
[ Dean and audience laughing ]
-who are all activists and scholars who I really admire and inspired by, so I feel really lucky. And I also just want to say, obviously I'm coming to this work from the U.S., so that's my frame, and there's some overlap obviously with Canadian conditions and politics and histories, but there's also a lot of divergence, so I hope it'll be useful, but it's my, sort of, framework.
And I'm also gonna be reading, because I'm trying to be really concise, so that we can stick to our schedule,so I apologize for reading.
So, yeah so when I was invited to speak at this event, I was asked to be part of a series that I guess is about critical masculinities, and so what I wanted to think about was how really highly-gendered roles in our very militaristic, settler, white supremacist societies --like spouse, soldier, police officer-- have come to stand in a really complicated way as symbols right now, of sexual and gender liberation in some contexts. And how weird that is, especially given that many feminist and queer movements have sought to eliminate the existence of those roles. So I want to try to spend these few minutes just talking and thinking about that.
So, I think in particular these conversations about that dynamic that I just named, are servicing in important ways right now, because of the role that equality for gay and lesbian people, and in some instances but not usually trans people, is playing in global discourses about human rights, increasingly the degree to which countries have adopted certain high-profile lesbian and gay law reforms, specifically granting marriage recognition, and access to military service to gays and lesbians, is framed as central to a country's reputation regarding respect for human rights.
In recent years, the U.S. and Israel have put significant resources into framing countries with certain lesbian and gay rights in place as "modern", while framing countries that don't have those in place --particularly framing Arab and African countries as "backward" and "un-democratic". And this strategy of using lesbian and gay rights, particularly marriage and military participation, as a marker of being a human rights respecting country, and particularly doing so in the face of charges of ongoing significant human rights violations, has been called "pinkwashing". Maybe that's a term that a lot of people have heard.
So, in the U.S. context, Hilary Clinton's 2011 speech where she said"gay rights are human rights", along with the prevalence of references to same-sex marriage and gay rights at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, are examples of American pinkwashing. Clinton's [ inaudible ] is a relatively new logic in U.S. imperialism. That the U.S., regardless of failures to protect queer and trans people from state violence here in the U.S., where I am, not you [ laughs ], will now use gay rights as a measure to... as a measure to countries it seeks to intervene on. Basically, like, "we're going to call countries homophobic "and that'll give us a good excuse to bomb them or show up there and do weird military stuff." Clinton uses lesbian and gay rights to bolster the notion that the U.S. is the world's policing arm forcing democracy and equality globally on purportedly backward and cruel governments.
Gay rights operates as a new justification for this imperial role, a justification that fits really well within anti-Arab and anti-Muslim framings that have been developed during the war on terror,and portray Arab and Muslim countries as more sexist and more homophobic than the U.S., Europe and Israel.
We also see this with the framing of the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, that it's supposed to, like, save Afghan women, like this kind of women-saving, gay-saving framework is very popular, the saving framework has a very long history, and in some ways the gay-saving framework seen in a new way.
At the Democratic National Convention, Obama's [U.S. President] support for same-sex marriage similarly helped him portray his administration as progressive --and, like, the number of people who buy into this is shocking --and equality-loving in order to obscure his abysmal record on key issues such as austerity, his failure to close Guantanamo,ongoing drone strikes, harsh sanctions against Iran,the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his record-breaking rates of deportation --I'm sure you know he's the most deporting president ever in the history of the United States-- and I think in particular you see this kind of American pinkwashing, I've seen it again more recently in his inaugural address, he talked about Stonewall, which basically, like, caused me to fall over, y'know, it's again... why is this guy talking about Stonewall? Stonewall's a moment of resistance to police brutality. He's running the country that imprisons more people than anyone in the world, where queer and trans people are still suffering police violence and extremely horrifying conditions of imprisonment. Like, how does this fit?
And also, recently he's kind of made waves because there's this really awful immigration reform policy going around in the United States that's supposed to be like the answer to the unjust system of immigration enforcement, but really it's just a way of ramping up immigration enforcement. And he said about it that he's gonna make sure that gay and lesbian couples can be in on it, and that is kind of this pinkwashing of this actually really conservative set of policies and principles around immigration that we're supposed to be, like, grateful for. And many people do articu- [ inaudible ]
The term "pinkwashing" is most frequently used to describe the explicit strategy Israel has undertaken in recent years to market itself as a human rights leader, based on its stances on same-sex marriage,and LGBT military service. Israel has explicitly worked with marketing experts to re-brand itself trying to overcome its international reputation as a brutal occupying force. I think particularly in the face of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement which has really raised a lot of awareness about, even further than before, about these issues.
The new image is focused on portraying Israel as a modern democracy in the Middle East, surrounded by countries with supposedly less enlightened policy and culture.
A key feature of that portrayal is the articulation of Israel as a country that recognizes gay and lesbian rights,specifically marriage and military service, and that it is an ideal destination for gay and lesbian tourism. As part of its pinkwashing efforts, Israel has funded tours of Israelis to the United States in order to discuss Israel's military and marriage laws with respect to gays and lesbians. So it's like a really aggressive kind of propaganda machine.
Critics of same sex marriage and military service advocacy in the United States, and critics of pinkwashing, have suggested that it's necessary to look at what these institutions are in order to assess whether inclusion in them is a felicitous goal for queer and trans politics. The militaries of both the United States and Israel have been accused of war crimes, and operate daily in what have been identified as illegal and immoral occupations. In the case of Israel, uh Palestine in the case of Israel. And Puerto Rico, Guam, Hawaii, the part of North America currently known as the continental United States, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Marshall Islands, and more, in the case of the United States.
Internally, the US military has a culture and practice of sexism, racism, and torture, that have been consistently identified by survivors and critics. Recent publications and the exposure of classified documents have further highlighted the lawless violence of the US military, and the ways that its operations, such as the occupation of Iraq, are often motivated by profit-seeking corporations with high level government ties, rather than by the democracy-spreading rationales commonly employed as justification.
The Israeli military's record similarly shows that from its initial ethnic cleansing project undertaken in 1948, when over 400 Palestinian villages were destroyed, the Israeli government has used military power to forcibly settle the land it now occupies, and to remove, destroy, and erase the prior inhabitants wherever possible. The recent outcry against these atrocities committed by Israel on the inhabitants of Gaza, as well as the Israeli military's brutal 2010 raid of the flotilla bound for Gaza to deliver aid, have further drawn international attention. Israel's increasing threats toward Iran are further building international opposition to Israeli militarism.
Despite the long-term critique Israeli militarism... [ inaudible ] ...the US and Israeli militarism specifically, in many movements that define the American left, the discourse about gay and lesbian soldiers serving in the US and Israeli militaries has garnered support from many people, who otherwise oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Israeli attacks on Gaza in 2008, 2009 and 2012, and other highly publicized Israeli and US military activities.
Images of gay and lesbian service members in uniform, holding hands and kissing, in front of national flags, have successfully stirred patriotic and pro-military sentiment, deadening critical thinking about patriotism and militarism, by asserting such sentiments as a form of sympathy for gay and lesbian people.
Similarly, long term left critiques of marriage have been silenced by the combination of relentless right wing family values rhetoric, and the articulation of the desirability of marriage by same sex marriage advocacy -- messages long contested by feminists and anti racists. Such as, that children benefit from being raised by married parents, that married people are healthier,and contribute more to society, or that marriage recognizes the most important relationship people can have -- are now mobilized by same sex marriage advocates and judges writing decisions that are considered victories for same sex marriage advocacy. These pro-marriage messages are now articulated as anti-homophobic statements in the arguments for same sex marriage.
Feminist, anti-racist and anti-colonial movements have long worked to dismantle marriage, and have identified rules about marriage as central to organizing foundational violences of the US: slavery, settler colonialism, and genocide. From the beginning, in the United States, marriage laws were key to organizing who is property and who can hold property. Identifying Indigenous systems of gender and family formation as backward and in need of intervention, and enforcing colonial and gender family norms of Indigenous people has been an important part of colonization. Marriage has been an important technology of land theft and ethnic cleansing, aimed at disappearing Indigenous people in many ways. One way, one example, is that the US encouraged westward settlement by promising male settlers 160 acres... to every male settler who would move west, plus an extra 160 acres if he brings a wife. Putting that kind of marriage as a promotion for settlement next to what the US was simultaneously doing, which was criminalizing traditional Indigenous communal living styles.
And, like, where I sometimes live in Seattle, y'know, like burning down longhouses and forcing people not to live in those ways, and eliminating communal land holding methods, and enforcing male, individual ownership to facilitate displacing Indigenous people from their land. So in this way, management of gender and family systems has been essential to displacement and settlement processes. It's also been essential to structuring slavery.
So, denying the family ties of slaves was central to slavery, ensuring that children would be born enslaved, and then later coercing marriage among newly freed Black people after supposed emancipation, and criminalizing them for adultery was one pathway of re-capturing them into the convict lease system, which was the predecessor of today's U.S. mass imprisonment project that centrally targets Black and native people.
Today, marriage is still used to distribute essential life chances like health care and immigration status, in ways that produce and maintain enormous racial disparities. So, there are very few pathways to immigration in the US, and those are focused on either your family, so if you don't have any family ties to the U.S. it's much much harder to immigrate; or jobs, which of course, y'know, is available to extremely few people. And we still get our health care through our jobs and usually through family ties as well. So if you don't have a partner or spouse who has healthcare, you can't get it. And given the racialized distribution of the most highly compensated jobs, there's a really severe racial disparity in that kind of family-based access to healthcare.
So obviously these are unjust ways to give out the essential things people need, and these kinds of marriage ties to basic needs traps people in violent family scenarios, and just causes most people to have no path to these necessities. So in this way marriage still structures racialized social control through the family unit and family law.
And marriage has been specifically central to anti-Black and anti-poor politics in the U.S. There's a strong story that's been very prevalent in the U.S. that the reason people are poor is because they're morally flawed and they need to get married more. So like in 1996 when President Clinton dismantled welfare, that the law that was passed is called the "Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act", you can already hear the sort of racism and anti-poor sentiment dripping off of that. That law, y'know, all of its findings section is all about how the reason people are poor is 'cause they don't marry enough, and how we have to get rid of this. And this is based in, y'know, really racist sociology, where one of the most famous government reports about this is called the Moynihan Report of the 1960's. It kind of articulates this idea that Black families were poor because they were pathologically female-headed. So, this notion that family structure is the problem with poor people, and specifically with Black poor people, has been this very prevalent racist notion that's still very active in welfare policy in the U.S. And both George Bush and Obama have had these... spent millions of dollars on these "healthy marriage" promotion projects that force poor people to marry, or that give you a financial incentive if you're on welfare and you get married.
So all of this is about blaming poverty on the failure to marry, or the failure to have the state's idea of a moral family structure. Anti-racists and feminists have sought to dismantle marriage, identifying the family as a place of violence, and the institution of marriage as a key form of social control of sexuality, racialized population control, and just not an OK way to distribute life chances, the basic stuff people need. And they've worked to make it easier to get out of marriage. That was a huge feminist legal project for years,was trying to make it easier to get a divorce, because people couldn't get out of marriages'cause of the way American law structured divorce. And feminists have also fought to explode romance myths and family roles that trap people, and to disconnect marriage from vital resources. And there's also been an enormous amount of legal work in the U.S. to get rid of laws that disadvantage people if they were "illegitimate", if they had un-married parents. 'Cause those laws, after it was no longer explicitly permissible to have laws that just excluded Black people from certain opportunities, those laws were the replacement. So part of this as well is a whole history of anti-illegitimacy laws, which are really, like, pro-marriage laws with a penalty, to be used in really explicitly anti-Black ways.
Like in the U.S., in Israel marriage law also plays a key role in maintaining basic conditions of racialized hierarchy necessary to settler colonialism. This happens in a number of ways that are really obvious parts of the ethnic cleansing project, that seeks to win a demographic war to ensure that Jews outnumber Arabs, and that a particular, narrow defined kind of Jewish life is cultivated.
One very obvious example is that civil marriage does not exist in Israel. So marriage between people of different religions, or even between people who have different matrilineal or patrilineal Jewish heritage is not allowed. And hundreds of Israeli couples fly to Cyprus every month to get married.
This approach to marriage overall is contested by many Israelis who see it as a threat to freedom of religion, but it more broadly attests to the use of marriage as a tool of population control aimed at settlement and population displacement and replacement.
Another prominent example is the Citizenship and Entry Into Israel Law, the 2003 law that established that Palestinian citizens of the Occupied Territories who marry Israeli citizens cannot acquire Israeli residency. So Israeli citizens who marry people from other places win family munification through their marriages. Their new spouses can come and live with them in Israel. Since most of the Israeli citizens who marry Palestinians from the Occupied Territories are part of the 20% of Israeli citizens who are Palestinian, this primarily means that the Palestinian families are being divided by this 2003 law. While Jewish people all over the world have the right to citizenship in Israel, and... for immigration purposes interestingly, the definition of Jewish enough is very broad, because the goal is to encourage settlement. And others who marry Israeli citizens can acquire residency in Israel, Palestinians in the Occupied Territories cannot access residency status through their spouses in Israel.
And this immigration policy --and immigration policy in Israel in general-- is focused on prioritizing immigration of Jewish people, there's a 3-track immigration system which prioritizes Jewish immigration with immediate and automatic citizenship, places non-Jewish foreign immigration second, with a multi-year process for gaining residency or citizenship, and provides a 3rd track for spouses of Palestinian citizens of Israel, as long as they are not residents of the Occupied Territories, or states that Israel has declared enemy states.
Unequal marital privileges are part of the ethnic cleansing project of the state of Israel, and impact thousands of families, maintaining forced separations, depriving Palestinian citizens of Israel of access to state resources for their families, that are available to Jewish citizens of Israel; and restricting movement for Palestinians.
Clearly, increased access to Israel's marriage regime for same sex couples does not change or reform the fundamental role of Israeli marriage law, in enforcing occupation and state-sponsored racism. Lesbian and gay Palestinian citizens of Israel whose partners are from the Occupied Territories face the same restrictions as straight people do.
What does it mean to recognize... to get to seek recognition in a marriage system overtly created to forward an ethnic cleansing process? What does it mean to declare such recognition as a victory for equality or evidence of enlightened human rights policy?
[ MC interrupts to ask ] Dean, could we have it wrap up in about 5 minutes or so?
[ Dean Spade ] Oh, much sooner than that!
[ MC ] Oh, sorry, carry on!
[ Dean Spade ] Thank you... I'm sorry that our technical issues have made me so slow. Just have one more paragraph. [ laughs ]
The intensifying discourse of Israeli human rights leadership buoyed by same sex marriage and LGB --and in Israel T-- military service, brings to the surface in new ways ongoing tensions in queer and trans politics, about efforts at inclusion in central state institutions and systems. The demands of marriage and military participation are not only far from fulfilling feminist,queer, trans and anti-racist imaginings of sexual and gender liberation, but must also be analyzed as methods of justifying and sustaining and expanding colonial and imperial violence. It's not surprising that these demands have risen to the surface, and drowned out other images of gender and sexual liberation in corporate media owned and dominated by those who have invented and executed the war on terror, and also the same people who don't mind developing new markets for wedding day creation. The same media that has, y'know, 24 hours a day on TV in the United States, shows about buying wedding dresses,and shows about how cops are great and stuff.
The context... and y'know, movies about how the US military is amazing...
this context in the US has created ready and willing audiences for Israeli pinkwashing, which is dearly needed as more and more of the world names conditions in Israel as apartheid, and it becomes more and more essential to maintain U.S. financial support for Israeli military violence. It's become commonplace to convince straight people --as well as many queer people, amazingly, even those who would say they are anti-war-- that our liberation is about becoming soldiers and spouses, recuperating oppressive structures by putting a gay flag on them and saying they are good for gays.
I would argue that centuries of feminist,anti-colonial, and anti-racist resistance have proven that marriage and the military are not good for anyone. Today's anti-pinkwashing activists are encouraging those invested in resisting sexual, gender, and family formation norms, to develop discernment, not asking just "can we be included in existing structures?", but "what are those structures?" And if it's a prison cell, a cop, a tank, a wall, a border, a soldier, or a state family formation norm, you can wrap it in a rainbow flag all you want, and it still won't be anti-homophobic,feminist or liberating. So we have to ask: "can you have a movement for sexual liberation or gender liberation that does not contest colonization, especially when sexual and family regulation is a central tool of colonization?"
I wonder, will contemporary gay rights frameworks be remembered as pro-war, pro-military, and pro-apartheid? That's all. [ audience claps ]
[ Isabel Krupp, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, AKA QuAIA ]
My name's Isabel Krupp, and I'm a member of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, Vancouver, which I'll refer to as QuAIA from now on, just so I don't trip over my own tongue while I'm speaking. I'd like to begin by acknowledging that we're on un-ceded and occupied Coast Salish Territories, the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, Stó:lō and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. And this acknowledgement of the ongoing occupation and colonization of this land, of Turtle Island, is foundational to all of the work that QuAIA does.
So, recognizing the ongoing impacts of settler colonialism, and working in solidarity with Indigenous movements for sovereignty and decolonization, is really what QuAIA is all about. We're a Palestine solidarity organization,we work in solidarity with Palestinian movements for sovereignty and against Israeli apartheid, occupation, and colonization. So it's really important for us to recognize how Canada and Israel bolster each other’s colonial occupations, both ideologically and materially,through political, military, and economic support. And I'd like to point out that Canada is one of the key supporters of Israel in the world right now. So if we want to effectively fight against Israeli apartheid and occupation, we need also to come out against settler-colonialism here in Canada.
So for folks who would like to explore these connections further, there is a brilliant paper by Dana Olwan and Mike Krebs on the topic, which I highly recommend.
So I've already used the phrase “Israeli apartheid” several times. and I know that's something that Dean has talked about so I'm going to try not to overlap too much, but I imagine that some folks in the audience aren't as familiar with a critical perspective on the Israeli state. I won't have time to get into like an Israeli Apartheid 101 today, so I encourage those less familiar with this topic to seek out critical resources, which QuAIA would be happy to help provide.
But I will describe very briefly what I mean when I say Israeli apartheid.
I'm talking about Palestinians in the West Bank who live under a brutal military occupation, which takes the form of illegal Israeli settlements, checkpoints, and a system of walls, barriers, and roads accessible solely to Israeli settlers. I'm talking about Palestinians living in Israel who face discriminatory policies. Like Dean was talking about a little bit, currently there are over 25 laws which target them specifically as non-Jewish and reduce them to second class citizens. I'm talking about Palestinians in the diaspora and in UN-administered refugee camps who are by default denied their UN-sanctioned right to return to their lands. And I'm talking about over 1.8 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who are living in an open air prison under an illegal siege, described by international experts as a "slow genocide".
So again, I encourage anyone surprised by what I am saying or what Dean was talking about to seek out critical resources and particularly to seek out Palestinian perspectives.
So, there is a growing international movement – led by Palestinians – against Israeli apartheid and occupation. And in response, Israel's launched an aggressive well-funded PR campaign that Dean was talking about to market itself as an oasis of tolerance in the Middle East, as this modern liberal democratic state – specifically, the only democracy in the Middle East, right? – in order to obscure its status as an apartheid state. And I think it's important to point out is that the implication here is that Israel needs to practice apartheid,colonialism, and genocide in order to preserve these freedoms and democracy and rights for gays and lesbians, right? 'Cause like Dean was describing, gay rights discourse is a big piece of this PR campaign – Israel is working really hard to brand itself as the only gay-friendly country in what they frame as an otherwise hostile and homophobic region. And we can see really clearly how this plays into racist, imperialist, and orientalist ideas around the “West” as modern and civilized and the “East” as barbaric and backwards, right?
So this practice of appropriating the struggle for gay rights discourse to obscure, excuse, or justify state violence is called “pinkwashing”. And Dean made that very clear... And this practice, I'd like to point out, is not unique to Israel.
In the Canadian context, we see an example of this when we look at the re-branding of the tar sands and this idea, this myth of “ethical oil”, right? In opposition to so-called “conflict oil” that comes from countries like Saudi Arabia, which are again constructed through racist narratives as exceptionally homophobic.
So one of the things that this practice of pinkwashing erases is how state violence, including colonialism and apartheid, impacts all Palestinians, queer and straight, trans and cis. “There is no pink door in the apartheid wall” right? We hear this phrase, this slogan in anti-pinkwashing activism,“There is no pink door in the apartheid wall”. All of these supposed rights and freedoms of “gay!friendly! Israel!”, they don't extend to Palestinians. And as much as the Israeli state decries Palestinian homophobia, its regime of apartheid and occupation creates challenges and barriers for queer and trans Palestinians organizing against homophobia and transphobia.
So I'm gonna, I'm gonna read a little quote from a Palestinian queer organization, Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. And they say:
“As Palestinian queers, our struggle is not only against social injustice and our rights as a queer minority in Palestinian society, but rather, our main struggle is one against Israel's colonization, occupation and apartheid; a system that has oppressed us for the past 63 years"
So that's Palestinian Queers for BDS. And I think this statement makes a lot of sense when we think about how social movements for gender and sexual freedom are contingent on freedom from the daily violence of colonization, occupation, and apartheid. I also want to acknowledge that these social movements are alive and well in Palestine, and several members of QuAIA Vancouver were able to meet a number of amazing Palestinian queer and trans activists at the recent World Social Forum "Free Palestine" in Brazil, which included a Queer Visions stream.
So Queers Against Israeli Apartheid is one of a growing number of queer activist groups working to resist the pinkwashing of Israeli apartheid. And as queers and trans folks, we have the power to interrupt this practice of pinkwashing, when we come out against Israeli apartheid, we interfere with the myth-making that's vital to letting Israel get away with apartheid, colonialism, and other forms state violence.
So, to give some background on QuAIA Vancouver:
There's been a QuAIA presence in the Vancouver Pride Parade for the past several years, which I attended but personally wasn't involved in organizing, and I want to recognize that work that took place; but the current iteration of QuAIA Vancouver came together just last summer in response to 2 Israeli-funded films that were being screened at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. They were called “Joe + Belle” and “Invisible Men”. And in response to the screening of these films, we came together under the banner of QuAIA to call on the Queer Film Festival to come out in solidarity with Palestinian queers and trans folks, ultimately, to challenge pinkwashing by honouring the cultural boycott of Israel for future seasons of the Festival.
So for those of you who aren't familiar with the idea of cultural boycott -- Dean mentioned BDS. So, in 2005, Palestinian civil society launched a global movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel, which we call BDS. So this includes economic boycotts, divestment, sanctions advocacy, but also a cultural and academic boycott, which targets cultural institutions, projects, and events that continue to serve the purposes of the Israeli colonial and apartheid regime. So I want to be clear that cultural boycott doesn't target artists or filmmakers based on nationality, but rather targets officially sponsored voices that serve the interests of apartheid.
So in this context, we felt and we feel that it is very important to call on our queer institutions, like the Vancouver Queer Film Festival to come out against the Israeli apartheid regime, because if this queer film festival, if this is a queer film festival, it belongs to all of us, right? Including any Palestinian and Arab queers and queers of colour who may feel alienated from a festival that aligns itself with institutional advocates for apartheid. So as the Festival gears up again this Spring, we're going to be organizing to make this happen, to call on the Vancouver Queer Film Festival to come out in support of Palestinian queer and trans folks. So in the coming months, we'll need community support. And we want encourage everybody here today to sign up for our email list, which, there's a signup list at the back of the room, and to like us on Facebook if you're on there [ laughter ], and most importantly to come out to future events and actions. Because if we want to hold our institutions accountable, we need to show them that we care about this, right? So, yeah, because apartheid is a queer issue - (it's not only a queer issue but clearly it's a queer issue - and as queers and trans folks i think our role in this struggle is clear: There's no pride in apartheid! [ audience cheers ]
[ Anna Soole, Social Justice & Decolonization Facilitator ]
Thank you Isabel, that was a great ending.I liked that little... So, first I want to say thank you to Dean and Isabel for what you said, and I want to say thank you to Harsha for what you're gonna say, and SFPIRG for having us. And I want to acknowledge that we are on traditional Coast Salish territory. And that I am... so... my name is Anna Soole,and I'm Métis. I'm Cree, Ojibwe, Apache, Algonquin and Lakota, and I'm also French, Celtic, Dutch and German. That's a lot of things to remember.I'm kind of like a Heinz 57... and so [ laughs ] I'm gonna be speaking to my own personal experience, more than... I'm not an academic, and so my framework is much more cultural and from my own perspective. And I'm gonna share some stories,and I'm gonna share a little bit about who I am and how what we're talking about today has impacted me as an Indigenous woman.
And, before I do... one of the things in the work that I do -I do decolonization work- one of the things that's really important to me is acknowledge the space that we're in. And the space that we're in is what? Just call it out, what do you see? Concrete!What else? Rows! Exactly! So, we're in a space that is specifically a settler space. And so I just want to acknowledge that we're talking about decolonization, we're talking about colonialism, settler colonialism,inside a settler space. And in my culture, does anybody know how we would be set up? In a circle. And so a circle keeps us accountable to each other, so I often have a lot of conflict about sitting on a panel, because I feel uncomfortable with a table between me and a group. I feel uncomfortable being the voice, when there's so much knowledge in a room. And so I just want to acknowledge that,and my own conflict with it. And acknowledge ways... maybe in the future... maybe how can we look at that as a group, the people that are here, how can we look at that and changing these systems that we're inside of even in this moment?
So, just about me, I wanna acknowledge... I'm from a working class, Metis family, and I'm personally, financially, somewhat precarious, queer, and I have no high school diploma. But I present as a white, straight, middle class,educated and employable person, so I carry a level of privilege that my contemporaries who wear their station more visibly don't necessarily have access to. But that is specifically related to my experience as an Indigenous woman, because when Dean was talking about marriage, that was the topic that struck me the most, that I wanted to speak to the most.
Talking about marriage and colonialism in my family, both of my grandmothers are Indigenous, and they both went to day school,which is a lot like residential school, and one of my grandmothers ran away when she was 12 years old from Quebec to Vancouver; and my other grandmother, her whole family left Edmonton, where we were well-established, well-known,activist family that had everything stolen from us, and the University of Alberta is now built on our homestead. So everybody came here, and both of my grandmothers out of survival married white men. And so I, every single day of my life, walk through the world carrying the legacy of colonization on my skin. Because I carry a privilege that was designed, and the design was for me to not identify as an Indigenous person. And so it's a radical act for me to never identify as white. Although I recognize my white privilege, I identify as genocide white. So my friend D. Williams, she was talking about this concept of genocide white -or genocide brown depending on the experience- and for me that makes sense, because the reason my skin is white is because of genocide. And so it's a complicated experience for me[ laughs ] to say the least.
When Indigenous women married white men, they lost any status they might have. Metis women actually didn't have any status until the 80's -actually we didn't have any status until this month [ laughs ] We have status now. What we had was citizenship in the 80's, and so my grandmothers, they made their choices according to that history. And it impacted my life. It impacted abuse that was in my family and in my, and in my own... on my own personal body. And so, uh, I carry that with me every day.
So I wanna... I just wanna read my notes because... it's nerve-wracking to talk in front of a bunch of people especially when you're not in a circle![ laughs ] It's really nerve-wracking! So I'm just gonna look at my notes...
OK so the next thing I wanted to touch on is that I was raised by a single mother,she never got married, and I never thought about marriage growing up. It wasn't something that like a lot of girls in particular, people who are raised as girls, are expected to think about their wedding day. There's a lot of pressure, socialization to think about your wedding day, think about what it's gonna be like to get married, plan on getting married... I never had that. And my experience was actually that my mother was... was really... she really didn't want me to get married. And... but I also saw the other side of it,which was that my mother was a single mother, and she didn't have access to a lot of the things that my friends had access to, my friends parents. My mom couldn't get a loan without a man in the 80's, and so we were very poor for a long period of time until my mother joined the system, worked for the city, and literally broke her back working for her whole life so that we could survive. So it's a complicated system.
The reason we get... a lot of people feel the pressure to get married, is because the structure that we live inside doesn't support not being married. And so, what I wanted to sorta think about or get people thinking about is if you only have 1 concept of what is possible, of course you're gonna want to live inside that concept.
So the paradox of human agency, speaks to the idea that people's choices are never straightforward. The context of our present particular times and places, constraints and possibility, shape not only our choices,but even what we can imagine for ourselves. So right now the queer community, especially in the US, because in Canada we have marriage rights, but in the US the queer community is trying to fit inside a structure that is the only structure that people can comprehend. And if there's only one structure, people are not going to be able to... if there's only one possibility, if it seems like there's only one possibility, people aren't necessarily going to be able to create the world that they would want for themselves in a different system.
So, uh, this is not just a... this is also about the politics of identity. It's about the politics of union, and it's about the politics of family, because if I'm gonna grow up and become an old woman, and not have a family to take care of me,I'm basically going to be living in poverty. And so, there's a lot of pressure on meas a woman, to have children. And there's a lot of pressure on me as a woman, to have children, and be in a couple, a specific kind of couple, with a romantic partner, preferably a male, a cisgendered male. So there's all of these pressures that I'm expected to live inside of, and, yes I want to have children, but I don't want to have that pressure or that expectation, I don't want it to be coming from the fear of ending up alone.
I have an excerpt from an article that I wrote about whether or not I wanted to be a mother... thank you! It's perfect, it's how I wanted to end...
So... the dominant culture has come to view family as a small scale intensely private unit. In a healthy, traditional aboriginal community,a child doesn't have just one mother. She has aunties, cousins, sisters, grandmas, and family friends. Often, a biological mother is not the most significant female in the child's life, and this is not viewed as neglectful, as child psychologist Dr. John Bowlby would have had us believe when he said mid 20th century, when he mid 20th century coined the term "maternal deprivation". In fact, it would be quite the opposite. The child has so many caregivers in an aboriginal community -or a traditional prior to colonization aboriginal community- that she is able to connect with and bond to the women, men, or Two-Spirited people, that are right for her at that time in her growth.Previous bonds with other women aren't lost or broken but maintained and evolved as the child evolves. This works because the well-being of the family community is valued above the individual.
Whereas in contemporary settler colonial culture,the individual is valued above the whole. Bowlby's legacy has clearly entered the dominant ideology of motherhood. The requirement is that the individual mother should have total responsibility for her own children at all times. This has informed the decisions of colonizers to remove children from these traditional Indigenous family situations,which we saw in the 60's Scoop, which was taking Indigenous children out of their homes and putting them into foster homes, and it's still happening to this day. Indigenous children are taken out of their homes and put in foster homes more than any other children in Canada.
... lost my place...
...because the ethic of domination has been used to corrupt, violate, and attempt to destroy these traditions through privatization of the family, it's often challenging for the individualistic culture of the colonized and colonizers to understand or see the merits in multi-shared child rearing. In my ideal world, an interdependent community of peaceful, practical, creative, spiritual people, working together to respect and tend to the earth,and each other, sharing responsibility for each other's well-being, and the well-being of the children, whether a mother is single or attached is irrelevant, as the child has many dedicated, loving role models of every gender, who are positively engaged in every aspect of the child's life. Prospective parents make informed decisions about when and whether to have children, and access to birth control is unquestioned. The elderly are cared for by the whole community,regardless of their blood ties, and all community members basic needs are met.
Some might label these values as anti-racist,eco-feminist, with socialist leanings... but I prefer the title Indigenous Feminist,and I wear that with pride.
And I have one final thing, because I only have prob-ably one minute left. I found this on Facebook today. [ whispers to a fellow panelist ] Would you be willing to hold this up? Thank you. And I'll describe it for people who...who can't see it.
So, it's a series of three circles at the bottom. The 1st circle has a series of multiple blue circles in it, and outside is multi-coloured circles. And this is labeled as "Exclusion". So all around the border of the circle has the multi-coloured circles. The 2nd circle has the blue circles in the centre, and a smaller circle on the outside. And it's got all the multi-coloured circles in it.Labeled as "Segregation". The 3rd circle has blue circles inside of it, and another circle inside of it with multi-coloured circles. And that's called "Integration". The final circle has all the circles, blue and multi-coloured, inside of it, which changes the entire formation of what it looks like. And that's called "Inclusion".
And I've worked in many non-Indigenous organizations as an Indigenous person, and it's, of course I'm the Indigenous person who looks white, right? So I get hired because I look like everybody else, and I can easily fit into white culture. Or so people think until they know me.[ laughs ] And so, what we're talking about here is literally changing the structure of society. So, not changing, not getting queer people to be able to get married and join the military, but what we're talking about is getting rid of the military. Changing the ideas of marriage. Changing our ideas of what partnership and family looks like. Thank you. [ applause ]
[ Harsha Walia, No One Is Illegal ]
That was it! [ audience laughter ]That visual's incredible. Thank you to the organizers and thank everyone for being here, thank you Dean and Isabel and Anna for really amazing presentations.
I want to start by acknowledging that we're on un-ceded, occupied, Coast Salish territories, lands of the Musqueam, Tsleil Waututh, Squamish and Stó:lō people. And also too, as other speakers mentioned, to really understand in a deep way what it means to root our work within an anti-colonial framework, and what it means to really truly be in alliance with Indigenous struggles against settler colonialism. And everything that that means, right? It means multiple things. It means fighting in defense of the land,it means fighting violence against women, it means fighting against prisons and police,and the military, and all of the aspects of settler colonialism that seep into our lives and our societies, and the ways in which we live here on Turtle Island.
I wanna pick up where folks were kinda left off,and what people were talking about... and particularly some of the stuff that Dean was talking about in terms of the co-optation of queer and trans liberation movements as well as women of colour movements, particularly for imperial, capitalist, and colonial ambitions. And particularly to talk about that in the intersection of immigration, both historically and currently.
Y'know, first I do want to say that it's not new, right? There's this kind of new framework that's been developing, particularly with homonationalism when we talk about it, or pinkwashing when we talk about it, but I really think it's important to understand that this recent branding has a long legacy and has a long history in terms of colonial politics. And y'know in particular colonialism has always cast people of colour communities as barbaric, and savage, and backwards,as you were mentioning Isabel. And this is not new, right? The kind of gay-saving rhetoric and the ideology of it is also not new. I'm gonna give some historic examples of that.
Most people think that that is a recent kind of... a recent evolution of y'know "save the women!"[ laughs ] but they've both always worked together. And so the kind of "save 3rd world women", "save women of colour" and y'know, "save 3rd world gays", have always been attendant processes of colo-nialism, and have always been part of that project. And the thing that is most deeply offensive and ironic about that of course is that colonialism itself has imposed the most hetero-normative, patriarchal system on communities of colour, right?Particularly through the Victorian era. So you have this simultaneous kind of rhetoric and discourse of saving communities of colour, while at the same time imposing the most rigid and oppressive family and community and societal structures on our communities, right? So, there's nothing kind of new about this.
So I want to look at some examples, particularly through a lens of immigration. There's of course y'know a lot of conversation that we've had, Isabel laid out a lot of amazing history in terms of pinkwashing, Dean also talked about it in the context of pinkwashing, also the examples as we know of course of the occupation of Afghanistan, where, y'know, the entire rhetoric of occupation and colonialism both locally and globally has been rooted in this white saviour industrial complex if you will, but I also want to look at it through the lens of immigration, which isn't often talked about, and the ways in which state controls and border controls are operating through these ways as well.
So, y'know, a lot of people here probably know about the Komagata Maru, right? So, the Komagata Maru was the ship in 1914 that turned, that was turned away -376 predominantly Punjabi immigrants- was turned away from the shores of British Columbia, here on the west coast. And y'know, that's known as a very obvious example of anti-migrant history in Canada. Y'know, the tory government recently made an apology -or a kind of half-apology- for the Komagata Maru, in the same vein as the apology for the residential schools, in the same vein as the apology of the Chinese Head Tax, y'know, totally token, offensive, symbolic gestures,but y'know, people know about the Komagata Maru.
The thing that most people don't know about is the sodomy cases that were happening at the same time as the Komagata Maru was happening. So during 1909 and 1925, there was a number of sodomy cases that were being tried particularly in the west coast of Canada. And the largest proportion of men being tried under sodomy laws at the time were Sikh men. And in particular there was a really high profile case in 1915... has anyone seen Rex Vs. Singh? If not... check out the movie, it's a really important movie, y'know, that links and ties the connection between anti-migrant sentiment and homophobia and transphobia, and in particular with the criminalization of communities and the assertion of state power in the act of criminalization.
And so in 1915, there was a relatively high-profile "case", where there were two Sikh men, they were two Sikh millworkers, and their names were Dalip Singh and [Naina] Singh, and they were two men who were tried for sodomy in 1915. And this was a time of... right.. one year after the Komagata Maru was turned back, right? So, this is again happening in a period when there's heightened -particularly anti-Sikh anti-Punjabi, anti-south Asian- sentiment in BC, where newspapers are filled with y'know, "turn back the Hindus!", "Hindus are invading our shores!", while at the same time there's also a simultaneous crackdown on working class gay men, in particular, working in the mills.
And so, the sodomy cases really are a confluence of the ways in which the state is simultaneously criminalizing under sodomy laws, and simultaneously criminalizing under anti-migrant laws. And again, the largest proportion of men tried under these cases during 1909 to 1929 were Sikh men Sikh migrant men. And so again I say that to show kind of an historic trajectory, of the ways in which the state has been actively criminalizing communities of colour, particularly queer and trans communities of colour through state processes.
And so I wanna move quickly to the current context, because again there's often a sense that all of this is new. And again in the current context we see the same kind of thing, where on the one hand the Canadian state is actively excluding queer and trans communities of colour, while at the same time it's upholding the myth of being welcoming for persecuted queer and trans folks from the global south.
And so we see that these parallel discourses, are necessary. So one of them is the kind of homonationalist dis-course; y'know, similar to the Israeli pinkwashing: "We're so welcoming", "We're this bastion of queer and gay rights", "Western civilization frees everybody", y'know, "Western civilization is where equality rests"; while at the same time, the reality on the ground is one that is actively of persecution. We see, particularly through immigration laws,the ways in which heteronormativity -and particularly an assimilation politic-at various levels is being reinforced. So one really kind of obvious on the face example,is that until 2002 same-sex relationships -so this is just same sex relationships, we're not even talking about diverse queer familial relationships- same sex relationships were not even recognized until 2002 under the Canadian immigration Act as being able to be qualified under the Family Class, right? So this is 10 years ago, or how many years ago?10 years ago, right? This is very recent, in terms of Canadian immigration policy.
But just to move to kind of more recent examples, and then to talk about the ways in which homo-nationalism has been an active part of Jason Kenney -who is the current Minister of Deportation, as some of us like to call him- there's a number of ways in which we see... I wanna talk about 3 of many examples,
I'll only give 3 examples ... of the ways in which that active exclusion is happening, and persecution is happening, of queers and trans folks who are trying to immigrate and particularly claim asylum within Canada, and then the final thing is kind of fortification of homonationalism through the immigration system.
So the first is, y'know, the citizenship guide. So the citizenship guide was a brand new citizenship guide for Canada, espouses Canadian values... and we find out through the citizenship guide that Canadian values means
-absolutely no reference to queer and trans liberation struggles, it doesn't even mention same sex marriage. But what it does have is a number of recruitment ads into the military. And this is the example of y'know what Canada is presenting itself as, in terms of for newcomers and for people becoming citizens.
The Immigration and Refugee Board has a number of new judges that Jason Kenney and the Conservatives recently appointed, who are openly anti-queer judges. Openly anti-queer. One of them actually spoke at a fundraiser that was an openly anti-queer fundraiser. And he gets appointed by Jason Kenney, to do what? What kinds of claims is this person supposed to be hearing? Anyone take a guess? ... Yeah, basically, he is looking at claims based on gender and sexual persecution. And so this is the kind of system that we have in place, right?
And the other thing that we have that y'know completely continues to re-entrench heteronormativity as well as capitalist values and assimilative values, is the Humanitarian and Compassionate Claim in Canada right? So this is like the claim that, if you are trying to stay in Canada, and your sponsorship has been refused, or you're one of the many refugees who are increasingly being deported by Jason Kenney, or you're thrown into prison, as women and kids are increasingly being thrown into prisons, the Humanitarian and Compassionate Claim is something you can apply for, and you have to have an income, if you have a spouse and children, then that looks good, if you're taxpaying, that looks good; y'know so it's basically the system where immigration is increasingly becoming a tool of capitalism and colonialism and oppression and heteronormativity, in terms of the kinds of immigrants...
And y'know it's similar to the examples that Dean was giving, in terms of an immigration system that is not based on justice, at all, right? It's based on people who are gonna fulfill the needs of the Canadian state and the Canadian economy. But at the same time, so while we have this, y'know, this level of persecution, oppression happening, what do we have Jason Kenney do? Jason Kenney sends an email to everyone who ever signed a petition for Alvaro, who is a young, queer, Latino man in Toronto who was facing deportation, and he, he spams that email list... -because when you sign those email petitions, you give your email to Jason Kenney- he sends every one of those people an email about how Jason Kenney is helping queers in Iran to come to Canada. So this is what Jason Kenney does. So there's a number of policies that are actively anti-queer, anti-refugee, anti-migrant, but everyone who's advocating for queer liberation, for queer rights, for migrant rights, for migrant justice gets emails about how the Conservative government is saving queers in Iran. Which is, y'know, part of the pinkwashing, the imperialist agenda of the Tory government, but really of the Canadian state, right?This is just its current formation.
So I just want to echo in ending, what everyone has already said, right? Which is: How do we imagine -and how do we particularly because I'm talking about a lens for migrant justice- how do we imagine a lens for migrant justice that isn't dependent on people as labour, or people as commodities? That really truly respects and values the diverse ways in which people are communing, the diverse ways people are forming relationships, the diverse ways in which people imagine family, right? Because one of the other things that Jason Kenney has done is to say that people can't bring their parents and grandparents any more, because grandparents are using our tax... are using our healthcare, right? So Jason Kenney is active in this immigration system, is actually devaluing the various ways in which people have families, which include extended families and doesn't just include your spouse, right? It includes the ways particularly for communities of colour, in which family includes many many people in our lives. Listening to Anna talk it was making me weepy, because I grew up not calling my mother but two other women, my moms, and when I tell people that here, people think it's really bizarre, and assume that my mother was not part of my life.
But... so how do we imagine a kind of immigration system where people are valued based on basic principles of justice and dignity, right? And also, an immigration system and a welcoming of migrants that is fundamentally anti-colonial, that respects that this land is not terra nullius, this land has been in the stewardship, has been taken care of by Indigenous peoples for a very long time.
There's Indigenous laws on these territories. How do we respect and honour and live under these laws? How do we pledge allegiance to Indigenous sovereign law, sovereign Indigenous laws, right? Rather than pledging allegiance to a totally fucked up colonial capitalist system that makes us believe that people are expendable, that make us believe that the only way to get ahead is to assimilate, right? That the only way that we're gonna get ahead is by buying into capitalism, by buying into colonialism, by buying into cops and prisons and sweatshops and apartheid, rather than y'know, believing that we can actually pledge allegiance to our communities, and pledge allegiance to all our diverse families. And pledge allegiance to the sovereign Indigenous laws of these lands. Thank you.
- Video Language:
|Radical Access Mapping Project edited English subtitles for Romantic Notions: Gay Soldiers, Cops & Spouses|
|Radical Access Mapping Project edited English subtitles for Romantic Notions: Gay Soldiers, Cops & Spouses|
|Radical Access Mapping Project edited English subtitles for Romantic Notions: Gay Soldiers, Cops & Spouses|