Bil Browning

Palestinian statehood vs the LGBT movement

Filed By Bil Browning | November 17, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics, The Movement
Tags: gay rights, LGBT community, Palestinian statehood

Check out this interesting article today from the NY Time about Hillary Clinton's emerging role in the push for Palestinian statehood. While the original subject is fascinating, there's one point that can be expanded to also reference the LGBT movement and ties in with dress_good.jpgLisa Weiner-Mahfuz's earlier post about movement building.

Referencing Clinton's history of supporting Israel, the article tells how she recently said the US is "deeply disappointed" by "counterproductive" plans by Israelis to build houses in East Jerusalem - a stark contrast to her position in 1999. (emphasis mine)

"A bit of an epiphany," in the words of one aide, came in March 2009 on the road to Ramallah... "Everyone got quite silent and as we approached Ramallah there were these troops in berets. They were so professional, we thought at first they were Israel Defense Forces. But, no, they were Palestinians, this completely professional outfit, and it was clear this was something new."

That "something" is fundamental: the transition from a self-pitying, self-dramatizing Palestinian psyche, with all the cloying accoutrements of victimhood, to a self-affirming culture of pragmatism and institution-building. The shift is incomplete. But it has won Clinton over. And it's powerful enough to pose a whole new set of challenges to Israel: Palestine is serious now.

When will queers learn the same lesson and move from being a self-pitying, self-dramatizing group to a culture of institution building? When do we become professionals instead of knee-jerk reactionaries? Where is our institution and how do we build one?

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Bil, I'm totally confused about the question. We HAVE institutions - too many, and the wrong kind. HRC, NGLTF, the Equality Federation. Our institutions are exactly our problem. They stand in the way of progress, squelch all attempts at innovation, and believe that there is only one way to equality: theirs. How is that a model for success?

I like this call to action a great deal. The idea to move forward in a proactive and positive manner is incredibly compelling and powerful and gives hope for the future.

The challenge with this in connection to something like the Palestinian movement is that LGBT people are not quite unified like that. In trying to say what we all have in common other than discrimination I can only think of maybe queer (alternative) love. We don't have common ethnic roots, interests (beyond acceptance and celebration of our identities), or even cultural expressions.

This sort of makes sense. If LGBT is not a culture or choice but something far more profound, biological and more, than it is just as normal and spread out among people groups as heterosexuality.

But even with that in mind, I tried to think of institutions LGBT people could create/have created that would be in the mold of this productive, proud, and professional direction. Of course there are fashion labels and companies, as well as huge contributions to the performing and visual arts (so much so that it seems the stereotype that great artists in certain industries are by default LGBT).

Other than loads of those I could only think of great work being done that is in the anti-discrimination ball-park, such as youth programs to help LGBT kids who are homeless or need a kind of GSA or mentoring (like what I think the Center on Halstead in Chicago does for youth). By anti-discrimination, I mean anything that is about cutting out a space for us legally and socially.

I'm honestly curious to hear some ideas. In fact I think the article is guilty of what it laments a bit in not actually "being the change" it speaks for by giving some direction or ideas (please understand I'm not trying to be snide - I actually want to hear ideas).

Pastor Scott | November 18, 2010 4:58 AM

What the even the Palestinians have that gay folks do not is a VOTE in the governance of their movement. The leaders of their movement actually represent the “People Palestine”, they are elected by a nation disenfranchised from the land they inhabit. Not unlike the LGBTQ communities in America: constitutionally and statutorily disenfranchised in the land of the free and the home of the brave. The hydra-headed conglomerate of Gay Inc. organizations (HRC etc. . . . ), represent only themselves and their donors. They are career crusaders (and God bless them for that) and in many instances have been very effective, but they are accountable to no-one. Does it matter.? I don't know, maybe it doesn't. But I can't help thinking about what Harvey used to say about relying on "good Liberals" to do our bidding for us. "DON'T." I mean really, what did it get us from Obama, two years of empty promises, nine dead gay teenagers in September, and a Republican Congress.

No, I think it does matter that "the movement" organize a national democratic structure to guide national strategy, provide for the defense of our families and kids, and to promote the general welfare of the global genetic Gay-aspora. Membership is open to any self-avowed lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, or Q (never sure week to week what it stands for) who declares their intent to support the cause with their hopes, their participation, their gifts, and their service. As for our straight allies participate, love ya' but you can't join. After all, how many electricians are members of the plumber's union. LGBTQ leaders should be elected by LGBTQ people. Same with those in the closet: unless you are a minor, you have to "come out". Blacks didn't win their progress by pretending they weren't black. Yes, the stakes are high. With our little brothers and sisters killing them-SELVES before they even come of age, frankly the stakes couldn't be higher. But if THEY can claim their sovereignty publicly on the playground, we can damn well claim ours in the service of their safety and our own freedom. Perhaps then the term "Gay Family" will find some resonance among the sexual majority. We ARE a "people" too, maybe we should organize as one.

As Pastor suggests, a major problem is the manner of organization, which is almost entirely centralized at the national level, without any way to be involved at the local level or vote for leadership at the national level. The Democratic Party has a gay Democratic club in my area, but the same cannot be said for the major LGBTQ organizations. Participation is limited to occasional fund-raisers attended by a dignitary from Washington. This is frustrating and leads many people to not participate at all.

This is an easy one...

We need an institution that builds and supports and sustains our community, in all its diversity.

We need to use the laws which discriminate against us to our advantage. We need to open gay businesses in gay neighborhoods staffed by gay employees.

We need a national LGBT trust fund which buys properties in gay neighborhoods and sustains them as such for prolonged periods of time instead of selling out after we've gentrified them.

We need to promote our culture in these gay enclaves by promoting gay artists and gay political activism.

When we can maintain a visible presence in such a way, and when we have concentrated our electoral strength in such gay enclaves we will get the politicians to pay attention to our community as a distinct one.

In the name of pluralism and "integrationism" we have diluted the very things we need to identify ourselves as a community - namely permanent neighborhoods in which one can find all the hallmarks of our culture.

All of SF's gay folks should be able to live within 5 minutes walk of the Castro and every city in America should have a Gayborhood we are proud of.

Let's start there.

These are some good ideas in a good direction, they seem hopeful and point towards building community.

My question is what is a hallmark of gay culture? and Why should gay people continue to live in gay communities?

I'm not clear on what is gay culture without being reductive and limiting it to the expression of a few. What unifies us intrinsically that is expressible as culture? There are definitely some things that we can point to in gay neighborhoods, music, nightlife, and characterizations, but these, understandably and rightly fail to grasp the vast nebula of the experience of many gay people.

For example, here in Barcelona there has never been a gay neighborhood as the factors that tend to foster them weren't so strong. It seems gay neighborhoods developed initially for safety and opportunity, then blossomed in the late 90's into destination spaces for nightlife and commerce. This was mostly in the US and in a handful of cities in Europe. BCN was always rather radical and accepting of misfits, the city as a whole became a gay space.

In BCN there has been a commercial attempt to create a fake gayborhood around nightlife which caters mostly to tourists and some expats, but is dying out. They missed the crucial community element that has allowed older gay spaces to stay around a little longer. In BCN you can be gay pretty much anywhere, this is not true of most cities though. So gay spaces are helpful to feel/be free, but hopefully/ideally this will change so that they are not so necessary for that reason alone.

As younger gay people are able to come out in more and more accepting spaces in the West, there has been no need to create an exclusive gay space. They can be gay just like those around them can be straight. This makes sense if gay is not a choice but an inherent form of being that transcends ethnicity, culture, and race just as heterosexuality does.

That is not to say that there is so much work that needs to be done in telling the story of what it is to be gay in all sorts of ways. And community is a great way to do this so the stories are not lost.

It doesn't seem gayborhoods are the answer, they seem to be fading out except for their commercial element. Also, they suggest that there are places gay people can't go to in a city, which would be/is horrible. Besides the other downside is that it means fewer straight people know gay people and can point to them as the faceless other, guilty of being depraved and perverse or whatever their own imaginations want to visit us with.

Wow, I find this pretty racist and I find the lack of or awareness or concern about the racism disturbing. Why does this aide call the victims of ethnic cleansing and torture "self-pitying" and "with all the cloying accoutrements of victimhood"? This is as offensive and racist as calling Jews who survived the Holocaust "self-pitying" and playing the victim. The Palestinians haven't suddenly discovered "something new" in their struggle for liberation. They have adapted to changed circumstances on the ground, just as the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto adapted to the Nazis' assaults. When more than a million people are forced to live in what is described as the world's largest open air prison camp and the world stands by as one of the world's most powerful military drops bombs and illegal chemical weapons on you, you don't exactly have the full freedom of choice in your actions.

The description of the Palestinian shift is inaccurate and therefore does not justify comparison with the LGBT struggle. The comparison based on this false description reinforces the homophobic idea that LGBT people don't really have it all that bad. Such superficial readings and commentary have no place in the struggle for liberation.