Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz

Queers Without Borders

Filed By Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz | June 07, 2010 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media, Politics, Politics
Tags: Exxon Valdez, Gulf of Mexico, oil spill, Pointe Aux Chenes, racial justice

The oil gushing in the Gulf of Mexico is keeping me up at night. The destruction, ignorance and inaction are just so HUGE. For generations to come the waters, plant life, fish... well let's just say the entire fucking ecology of the Gulf Coast will remain in ruins.

know_peace.jpgOn June 1st, First Nations people from the Pointe Aux Chenes Indian Tribe, comprised of 700 members whose ancestors were forced from their lands and resettled to Louisiana more than 100 years ago, met with First Nations people that survived the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. In an article detailing the meeting written by Patrick Oppmann on CNN.com he states:

"The Pointe Aux Chenes tribal members say no federal or state officials have come to advise them on what to do. However, a small delegation of Native Americans has made the long journey from Alaska to share their experience dealing with the aftermath of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster. "There were severe human impacts with the workers who tried to clean up the oil spill in Alaska," said Faith Gemmill, who spent 14 hours flying to get to Louisiana. "These are persistent impacts, they don't go away."

As the oil continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico I have to ask if there is any moral leadership in the world. Does political leadership have to be based on profit, greed, power and the destruction of sacred land? Does it?

The anti-immigrant hatred spewing out of Arizona and spilling out across the country churns in my stomach. It speaks so profoundly to the fact that many people in the United States, including our government, are obsessed with building and policing borders in a country that was built on immigrant and First Nations labor. In a recent piece written for Bilerico Project by the First Nations Collective they addressed why building and maintaining borders is anything but upholding the values of democracy:

"As Indigenous-identified Two-Spirit people and allies, we have made an active and political choice not to enforce the borders of the Americas because we believe they are arbitrary and were never decided with our communities in mind. They separated generations of families that crossed the modern-day border on a seasonal basis or lived in different parts of traditional lands. We also hold strongly to the belief that our Mother Earth cannot be divided by borders. As Indigenous people we uphold the value and sanctity of land--for it is our very tie to land that is at the center of our identities."

The latest xenophobic twist sweeping the country (yet again) is that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have been targeting BP's job sites in Louisiana to hunt for undocumented workers who are risking their lives and health to clean up the gushing oil spilling into the Gulf. In an article for RaceWire Kai Wright details the disturbing twists and turns.

As the xenophobia continues to spew across the country I have to ask myself why creating borders is seen as profitable and necessary when the people who have historically crossed them have sustained the economy of this country for hundreds of years? We live on their stolen land and profit from their labor so how is anything anti-immigrant just when the economy of the US thrives on backs of people who were not born here?

The blood pouring into neutral waters as a Flotilla headed for Gaza filled with peace activists and humanitarian aid is brutally attacked makes my heart ache. Dozens of people were brutally murdered or injured trying to reach Palestine with desperately needed medical supplies and food. The Flotilla was on its way to Gaza to break an Israeli blockade that has created nothing short of an occupation. In a recent article written by Hagai El-Ad for ColorLines Magazine he describes the dire economic and humanitarian conditions people in Gaza are facing:

"The blockade of Gaza is in fact the siege of an entire civilian population. True, the Hamas government in Gaza is a brutal, anti-democratic regime that violates human rights on a regular basis. It deprives [captured Israeli soldier] Gilad Shalit of his most essential basic rights and does not hesitate to attack innocent Israeli civilians. But the price for the crimes of the Hamas government is being exacted by Israel on a civilian population of 1.5 million people under siege, unable to leave Gaza, their lives kept just above the bar of a humanitarian crisis."

As the blood pours into neutral waters and the occupation of Palestine continues to deprive Palestinians of civil and human rights, I have to ask myself why borders, blockades, occupation and apartheid are used to divide people? I'm almost positive it's because war and military machines are seen as so profitable. But what I know, in my bones, is that peace is priceless no matter how profitable war and oozes are in dollars and cents.

So, why should queers care about any of these issues you might ask? None of these are queer issues right? We are not talking about marriage equality so we don't need to pay attention... Do we? The answer is yes we do need to pay attention because any issue that impacts the planet impacts the LGBT community. Queer people don't fit into borders because we are immigrants, we are First Nations, we are humanitarian activists who boarded a Flotilla to deliver medical supplies to Gaza and we live in the Gulf Coast where our way of life, our economy and our environment has just been destroyed by a massive oil spill. We are all of these things and much more.

What would a national queer agenda that included environmental, economic, racial, disability, reproductive and worker justice issues look like? Well, for starters, our political, legislative and organizing priorities would overlap more with other movements (as their priorities overlapped with ours).

For example, more organizations in our movement could have taken the lead from organizations like Queers for Economic Justice as our economy bottomed out over the past several years. I know for sure that economic justice organizations all over the country have a whole host of legislative and political priorities that the LGBT movement could be working on in this critical economic moment. Yet, since the national movement, for the most part, defines LGBT in such narrow ways they often can't see see that LGBT community simply has no borders.

A larger percentage of the LGBT community is impacted by an economy that has bottomed out, HIV, immigration status and other social and economic conditions more than they are by some of the narrowly defined and well funded issues the national LGBT organizations and leaders have chosen to focus on. We need a national movement that caters to the masses not just the few.

The following words by Gloria Anzaldua, I believe, articulate the power of individuals and movements that move beyond borders:

"Living in a multicultural society, we cross into each other's worlds all the time. We live in each other's pockets, occupy each other's territories, live in close proximity and in intimacy with each other at home, in school, at work. We are mutually complicit - us and them, white and colored, straight and queer, Christian and Jew, self and Other, oppressor and oppressed. We all of us find ourselves in the position of being simultaneously insider/outsider. The Spanish word "nosotras" means "us." In theorizing insider/outsider I write the word with a slash between nos (us) and otras (others). Today the division between the majority of "us" and "them" is still intact. This country does not want to acknowledge its walls or limits, the places some people are stopped or stop themselves, the lines they aren't allowed to cross.... [But] the future belongs to those who cultivate cultural sensitivities to differences and who use these abilities to forge a hybrid consciousness that transcends the "us" vs. "them" mentality and will carry us into a nosotras position bridging the extremes of our cultural realities."

So LGBT movement let's work together to be the change we want to see in the world!

Art work by Ricardo Levins Morales


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Excellent post, my sister! Love the Gloria quote at the end. Nosotras. As BP's profits were spewing into the Gulf, a nasty burning smelly smoke/haze hovered over the Boston area. What is this? I thought my neighborhood was on fire, so I called the local fire station. Turns out my neighborhood was on fire: my neighborhood that includes a place called Quebec in a place called Canada was alit by 50 forest fires. A southerly wind blew the smoke all the way to Boston. Our fire, our smoke, our acrid air. Our waters, our fish, our plant life, our planet. Nosotras. We go down together or we fix much of what is so ailing our world. Free Gaza.

Well said, Lisa. The future of our movement, if it is to have a bright future, lies in broad community involvement, and recognizing that justice isn't achieved by "just us."

Let's hope that people get it soon. It's so tiresome to hear so many people ask about why we cover some issues when they're not "gay issues." Duh.

This is a great argument for scrapping the identity politics model and doing away with the LGBT movement as it is.