Jessica Hoffmann

No Homonationalism

Filed By Jessica Hoffmann | December 19, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement
Tags: Europe, European Union, homonationalism, Islamophobia, racism

In November, I spent several weeks in Sweden, Germany, and Austria presenting IMG_3461.JPGMakeshift Reclamation, a multimedia program showcasing grassroots feminist arts and activism. Traveling like this means immediately connecting with feminists/queers/radicals in every town you pass through, which is a great, and illuminating, way to travel. And everywhere we went, activists of color and conscious white activists talked about homonationalism.

I didn't really get homonationalism before -- I mean, how pervasive it is throughout Europe, how scary it is, how much it demonstrates differences between U.S. and European political climates. (Though there is anti-migrant, or migratist*, racism and violence in both the U.S. and Europe, the forms and underlying narratives of it are different.)

Pictured: Rosa Lila Villa, an LGBTQ community center and housing project in Vienna; the banner reads "Pervs Against Deportation."

So what is homonationalism? There are many ways to define this (lots of them rather theoretical), but here is how I understand homonationalism playing out in Europe as explained to me by queer activists in numerous cities: consider the EU a "migratist fortress," as a friend put it in Vienna. While some might understand the EU as a relaxing of borders, it is so only among European member states who are collectively strengthening a fortress-like EU border to restrict the movement of people from outside the EU into it.

And, of course, there are deep racial underpinnings of this. The focus of the anti-migrant discourse and policies in the part of Europe I traveled through are people from Africa and the Middle East. Within that context, increasingly powerful right-wing parties in many EU nations are mobilizing the support of white gay EU citizens for anti-migrant policies by casting African and Middle Eastern migrant populations as culturally homophobic -- that is, using Islamophobia and other racist narratives to whip up fear in the minds of white gay EU citizens and encourage them to support racist, migratist policies (that support a right-wing, neoliberal economic agenda), which leads to an overall climate of racist violence and fear. (When we passed through Malmo, Sweden, there was a wave of sniper shootings of people of color on the streets.)

When I expressed my confusion at a gay-embracing right wing, several people explained that many European governments are staunchly secular (which is different from the politics of church-state separation and "religious freedom" in the U.S.), and their right-wing isn't the kind of socially conservative religious right we're familiar with in the U.S. That's how a conservative party in, say, Sweden can successfully present itself as "gay-friendly."

Now, I'm no expert on this, just someone who was disturbed at what I learned on my travels. While the European context is different from the U.S. context, it's worth paying attention to specifically -- and in the wider sense of perceiving the threads between anti-migrant policies and violence, the creation of the normative gay citizen, neoliberal economics, and racism worldwide.

I encourage you to learn more, perhaps starting on
nohomonationalism.blogspot.com.

And mostly I encourage you to support and engage in LGBTQ movements that resist and create alternatives to *all* forms of oppression.

See also: some posts from earlier in the year by Alex Blaze and Yasmin Nair on homonationalism:

(H/T Che Gosset, Ain't I A Woman in Sweden, and Rosa R. *I learned a lot from Lann Hornscheidt and Alyosxa Tudor's articulation of "migratism" as a system of power at the Interfem conference in Uppsala, Sweden.)

And maybe sometime soon I will have time to write a post about what it was like to be a queer anti-Zionist American Jew in Germany....


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So important to see these connections made!

"When I expressed my confusion at a gay-embracing right wing, several people explained that many European governments are staunchly secular (which is different from the politics of church-state separation and "religious freedom" in the U.S.), and their right-wing isn't the kind of socially conservative religious right we're familiar with in the U.S. That's how a conservative party in, say, Sweden can successfully present itself as "gay-friendly.""

This is absolutely true. The "great man" of Dutch neo-fascism was an out gay man, and Joerg Haider, leader of the Austrian ultra-conservative/ bordering on fascism party (which is ruling the country), was found out to be gay after his death from an accident a while ago.

In my own community, I have seen a shift from relatively peaceful coexistence between gay and emigrant communities (who often live in the same quarters of town), during the 80s and 90s, to lots of tension, starting with 9/11 and rising islamophobia. Before 9/11 there was virtually *no* islamophobia over here. Bush propaganda has not only influenced the US but the EU too. Complicating this issue is the fact that there *is* a lot of intense violence against LGBT people by men with a migrant background (though not only from them). The right makes use of that in their campaingns, adressing gay voters directly.

In none of this article have you mentioned the myriad of reasons that gays, lesbians and feminists have embraced "homonationalism". First of all, most immigration into Europe comes from the Middle East, Africa, Pakistan and other parts of the world where gay rights and women's rights are scoffed at as "western constructs". Homophobic attacks, anti-semitic hate crimes and even anti-female attacks & rapes are being perpetuated in Europe overwhelmingly by immigrants most specifically Muslims. Gay citizens of these advanced, progressive, gay friendly countries aren't being pandered to. Gays and lesbians are sick of kumbaya left-wing politics which makes eternal victims out of criminal immigrants, while casting (white) gays as somehow "racist" for wanting to protect the national cultures which embrace them.

In Europe nationalism is a populist, center-right phenomenon. In places like Israel or Québec, nationalism transcends the left-right paradigm and often is left-wing just as often as right wing. In Québec, where I live, immigrants, ethnic minorities and specifically Muslims are eroding the secular values of Québec, which include gay rights and women's rights. So I as a Gay, Left-winger embrace this homonationalism as a natural defense against regressive, sexist, violently homophobic and backward immigrant cultures.

I tend to agree. I know there are GLBT and pro-GLBT Muslims out there, but they're the exception rather than the rule, and there need to be efforts to nip Islamic extremism in the bud, in Europe as well as here.

The fact remains that most Muslims are at least opposed to GLBT rights and very often literally think we should be killed. Remember that all of the countries where homosexuality is a capital offense are Muslim countries, and it's a crime to be gay in nearly all the other Muslim countries.

I'm really baffled by this rush among the radical queer set to embrace people who overwhelmingly hate us while showing no interest in advancing GLBT rights and even opposing GLBT equality and seeking to perpetuate legal discrimination against us. If ever there was an example of the folly of thinking "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," it would be this.

I have an idea for this writer and all the other radical queers: Dress in your scantiest outfit, stand in in the middle of Riyadh, Tehran or Karachi and make out with a member of the same sex and see how eager people there are to be your friends.

In the US and the EU what characterizes the situation of immigrants is that they're paid lower wages, subjected to racist violence by police and skinhead street fascists, find it difficult to get into unions, are ghettoized and in the US often receive few or no social services.

Efforts to brand immigrants as criminals or religious nut cases, aside from being blatant lies, make things much worse, enabling everyone from employers who want to pay low to street thugs and ultra right politicians.

We should support open ended asylum for LGBT immigrants in danger of violence or being jailed from every part of the globe and offer them social services so they can find jobs or attend colleges.

All immigrant workers and their families should have the same rights and benefits that other workers have including the right to travel freely and to enjoy dual citizenship.

Hm, let me think. If Homonationalism is just a defense against reactionary Islamistic societies, and a way to protect us against misogyny and homophobia, then why is it that the gay Fascist leaders I described are also into anti-feminism, and preach that women return to their "natural" duties as mothers?
Remember: Many fascists started as left wingers, Goebbels was an avid communist before he discovered National Socialism . So by calling ourselves left wingers, we are in no way protected against slipping into fascist or racist thinking. It's a slippery slope.

"Remember: Many fascists started as left wingers, Goebbels was an avid communist before he discovered National Socialism." Source?

I don't know about Goebbels but Friesler, who led the People's Court was a commisar before he joined the Nazi Party

The Bolsheviks made use of Freisler as a commissar for camp food supplies in a Russian, later Bolshevik, prison for German POWs in the aftermath of WWI. After the "Bolshevik Revolution, the prisoner camps in Russia were handed over to German administration, and the title of commissar was merely functional, not political." wiki

In a web search I couldn't find any references at all to Goebbels being anything but a NAZI pig at any point in his political life.

The only major example of what ShipofFools refers to is the Italian fascist dictator Mussolini who was a social democrat for a time but was expelled by the Italian Socialist Party for his support for Italian entry into the World War in 1915.

Very few fascists started as left wingers although both NAZIs and fascists pretended to be for workers. As soon as they came to power they crushed the unions. The first concentration camps were full of trade unionists, gays, leftists and Jews. If the ultraright comes to power one of the first things they'll do is fire up the ovens for muslims and for GLBT folks.

Actually, the gay-friendly right wing parties don't exist in every European country. In most of Europe's countries, the conservative right wing parties are against gay rights (or oppose only a part of these rights). You see that in Italy, Portugal, Spain, Poland, Germany, Slovenia, etc... Although they oppose gay rights, they still try to confront gays and Muslims and gain the LGBT vote. The french far right "Front National" party, although it opposes gay marriage and has a strong catholic base, tried these last few days to conquer the LGBT vote by saying that Muslims are a danger for the gay community.
Then you have the countries, that are socially very liberal, where gay rights and tolerance are part of the culture...
In these countries, the right wing parties are, with exceptions, "gay friendly" : Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium, Norway. It's not secret that former Netherlands' far-right leader was gay (Pim Fortuyn).

PS -- I wrote this a few days ago. Had I written it today, I clearly would have talked about homonationalism and this DADT vote - but I trust you all can make that connection.

Oh no you are sadly mistaken. The same corrosive "homonationalism" is alive an dwell in the USA as many of us learned to our surprise and sorrow when someone posted a piece entitled "LGBT Activists at Forefront of DREAM Act Movement" supporting the DREAM Act on an LGBT Activist's list.

The poster was immediately and most vociferously attacked by the queer version of the "ahmurika 4 ahmurikens" movement. At least one of whom I was amused to notice was only lately arrived in the USA themselves, (a fact that they somehow neglected to disclose to their 'nativist' allies) but who somehow failed to show any fellow feeling whatsoever for those who did not have the immigration advantages that skin-tone, education, caste, class and wealth had conferred upon them.

Using the same logic that has been seized upon by other LGBT prognosticators and pundits (*cough*Dan Savage*cough*) they thundered on and on about how the ignorant brown-skinned hordes that they imagine the DREAM Act favors seem to them to be somehow culturally pre-disposed to be ant-liberal, religiously conservative and most definitely anti-LGBT. Sadly as history has proved over and over, being a member of a despised minority group yourself has not yet been shown to in any way cause anyone to develop a conscience or have the slightest bit of sympathy for other oppressed people.

Oh, I certainly did not mean to suggest that homonationalism is not a problem in the U.S. It very much is (I mean, take this DADT business and the entire mainstream LGBT movement for which that's been a key issue for one obvious example).

And it's also not only the U.S. and Europe -- see, e.g., Israel's global pinkwashing campaign.

Just wanted to articulate my understanding of how this is playing out in Europe at the moment, which is in some ways similar to the U.S., and in some ways different. I think understanding it as a global phenomenon with specific regional (er, national) forms is important.

http://www.canonmagazine.org/spring10/crews.html


"Homonationalism, a term which fuses the notions of homonormativity and nationalism, operates as a central axis in the work of Puar. She describes homonationalism as a nexus of various biopolitical forces and political logics linked to the rise of the homosexual as a citizen of the nation.

National recognition and inclusion, here signaled as the annexation of homosexual jargon, is contingent upon the segregation and disqualification of racial and sexual others from the national imaginary. At work in this dynamic is a form of sexual exceptionalism—the emergence of national homosexuality, what I term “homonationalism”—that corresponds with the coming out of the exceptionalism of American empire"

Thanks for posting this, Jess! I was hoping you'd be posting a report after your trip - it's fascinating to see how these complexities play out in different countries and contexts. And now I'm going to follow those links...

"Homonationalism" is a misnomer. Homoracism or homofascism are more accurate. What unites all the EU and North American islamophobes is racism. Islamophobia is a resurgent form of racism that's been around since the crusades when barbaric European brigands (pirates on land)launched raids on muslim territories to steal land and wealth and to colonize.

The resurgence of Islamophobia began in government and political circles in the US and Europe with the establishment of the zionist colony in Palestine. It rapidly spread to wider layers of the population after the horrendous anti-civilian terrorism of 9-11 followed and the illegal US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The attack on Iraq is an example of pure brigandage - land piracy - designed to steal oil profits.

In US internal politics Islamophobia takes the form of supporting Obama's four racist wars against Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Everyone who supports Republican or Democrat politicians who vote for war funding is voting for islamophobia. In addition everyone who supports enlistment or who opposed DADT on 'national security' grounds is directly supporting racist Islamophobia.

In Europe Islamophobia has far older roots and like anti-Semitism is a product of christian bigotry. In the modern era fascists and religious bigots both used anti-Semitism and Islamophobia to launch scapegoating campaigns. For now muslim immigrants and our own communities are the main targets of fascist politicians and street fascists - skinheads - in Europe.

Given the long tradition of anti-GLBT sentiment and active persecution by religious and fascist groups any support for their Islamophobia is a reason to draw sharp lines between the LGBT movement and any homosexuals - let's not honor them by calling them GLBT - who swim in the sewer of Islamophobic fascism.

Bill, I usually admire your writing, but not today. Neither you nor anyone else has the right to excommunicate people from the GLBT fold for differing from their views, however passionately held. That's quite appalling. We're all passionate, or we wouldn't be here. None of us has the right to excommunicate.

Read it again, Anthony. "any support for their Islamophobia is a reason to draw sharp lines between the LGBT movement and any homosexuals - let's not honor them by calling them GLBT - who swim in the sewer of Islamophobic fascism."

I'm not sitting ex-cathedra issuing a papal bull. My priestly minions are not scurrying about preparing bonfires for the wicked.

I'm calling for a division of the house between racists and non-racists. No Islamophobes, no David Dukes, no people who think African Americans are all bigots, no racists period. We shouldn't have anythng to do with them. Racism, unlike religious affiliation or prolitical differences is a sufficeint and a crucial reason for division.

Yes Bill, but you're making a series of assumptions whose logical outcome is that the overwhelming majority of GLBT Americans are racist islamophobes and are therefore unworthy of the GLBT designation. You say "Everyone who supports Republican or Democrat politicians who vote for war funding is voting for islamophobia. In addition everyone who supports enlistment...is directly supporting racist Islamophobia." I think it is unquestionable that the vast majority of GLBT adults have, at one time or another, voted for a Republican or Democrat politician who voted for war funding (almost everyone in Congress, after all), or have implicitly supported enlistment in their battle against DADT.
Ergo, they are all racist islamophobes. This assertion may seem reasonable to you; it certainly doesn't to me.

Anyone who thinks they're for LGBT rights and votes for Democrats or Republicans is making a terrible mistake because those parties are run, top to bottom, by bigots like Obama and McCain. However, their blunders in the voting booth don't make them bigots, just people who allowed themselves to be fooled, duped, tricked, conned and swindled.

Anyone who opposes racism and votes for Islamophobic or pro war Democrats or Republicans is making the terrible mistake of voting to support genocide in Iraq and mass murder of civilians in Palestine, Afghanistan and Pakistan but that doesn't mean that they're all rabid racists, just people who allowed themselves to be fooled, duped, tricked, conned and swindled.

That's true in most cases but there are a lot of rabid Islamophobes out there and a lot of racists in general. If they're open about their racism we should have nothing to do with them. They're the enemy.

In terms of responsibility people have to begin recognizing that in the real world you are what you vote for. I understand that some people are reluctant to come to grips with the awful consequences of their votes, and their broader support for Democrats and Republicans, but I have no sympathy for their dilemma. None at all.

It's time to grow up and get out of the last closet, the political closet of supporting the Democrats and Republicans.

Yeah you know, I am getting pretty sick of knowing about and being able and willing to speak of, the evils committed and upheld by the institution of Sharia law, which is the embodiment of Islam, and anathema to our (GLBTI people's) very existence (like, they kill us, dig?) that makes me somehow "Islamophobic".

It's reductionist, reactionary and quite ignorant to label someone who is justifiably angry about something as having an "irrational fear".

Just have a little squiz at who voted in the UN that it's OK to line us up and kill us (extra-judicial execution).

But I'm not about to embrace any skinheads who decide queers are OK really, as long as they show enough hate to join the club. That's just really screwed up too.

I read this article twice and still don't get it.

It must be a Euro thing.

We must fight Islamophobia and all attacks on Muslims in this country and in Europe, just as strongly as we recognize and fight against the European wave of anti-gay and anti-Semitic attacks.

Yeah you know, I am getting pretty sick of knowing about and being able and willing to speak of, the evils committed and upheld by the institution of Sharia law, which is the embodiment of Islam, and anathema to our (GLBTI people's) very existence (like, they kill us, dig?) that makes me somehow "Islamophobic".

It's reductionist, reactionary and quite ignorant to label someone who is justifiably angry about something as having an "irrational fear".

Just have a little squiz at who voted in the UN that it's OK to line us up and kill us (extra-judicial execution).

But I'm not about to embrace any skinheads who decide queers are OK really, as long as they show enough hate to join the club. That's just really screwed up too.


damn, that was a browser weirdness that posted that twice, sorry folks.