Back in May of this year once again tensions rose and came to a head between the nations of Israel and Palestine, and was subject to much discussion online here in the UK and elsewhere in the Western world. A majority of voices were in favour of Palestinian statehood or at least in support of ending the violence perpetuated in the region which disproportionately impacts the poorer, and less well-developed territories held by Palestinian governance. However, amidst this conversation emerged a current of thought from members of the LGBTQ+ community, particularly white cisgender gay men, who argued that LGBTQ+ people should not support the liberation of Palestine due to the fact in their law it is forbidden to engage in homosexual acts.
The argument from these groups of people states that if a community is perceived to be homophobic then they are not worthy of their support, refuting any desire to stand with marginalised communities such as Palestinians because said members of the gay community see Palestine as inherently homophobic, thus being inherently opposed to them and their own interests.
It must be stated that it is indeed true, Palestinian law does not allow for homosexual acts, and people caught breaking this law can be subject to serious punishment and even violence and death. While this is factually true, the narrative created by some responding to this feeds into a growing current of thought in some sectors of the LGBTQ+ community who excuse discrimination against a group of people due to their perceived homophobia. This has extended into communities such as people from various nations around the postcolonial world, the Muslim community, and other religious groups.
The reaction towards the abuse of human rights in Palestine by some members of the LGBTQ+ community espoused the idea that the homophobia of a nation’s laws mean the people of said nation forfeit the validity of their own civil rights. It is important to understand where such policies and laws originate, particularly in countries like Palestine where until fairly recently a European power occupied the land and subjugated the people. A majority of postcolonial countries still hold on to anti-gay laws rattified by European occupiers who have since left said laws behind as they decolonised Africa, Asia, the Americas, and the Pacific following the end of WW11. This is not to suggest that cultures and societies in these regions before European occupation had entire openness universally towards the LGBTQ+ community but it also is fair to say that in many cultures and societies, such as pre-Christian Africa, pre-Protectorate Middle East, and pre-Raj India had healthier and sometimes openly celebratory relationships with the queer community.
I bring up this history because it is important to understand that the nations which are subject to queer criticism are not inherently homophobic as it is often understood. Many of these places have inherited homophobia from a sex-phobic and puritanical Christian Europe with a mission to ‘civilise’ the non-White world, unfortunately with great success and a lasting historical overhang seen today.
It is in fact the ancestors of the predominantly cis-white gay male voices who likely enforced homophobic policies in the very places that today are scrutinised and cast aside as lesser than by said sectors of the LGBTQ+ community today. Though it can be argued that even if this was not the case, my overarching argument that using perceived homophobia to cast aside groups in need of support is still poor and hypocritical from a marginalised community.
As members of the LGBTQ+ community, we understand what it means to be placed at the peripheries of society, and we understand what it means to be historically marginalised. It is for this reason that it is the responsibility of the LGBTQ+ community to be intersectional in their approach to social justice, using the privilege of existing in a Western country where homosexuality is not directly legally punished, to support and amplify the voices of others in a less privileged situation. This does not however appear to be the main line of thought for many within the community, several gay influences on platforms such as TikTok have publicly attacked the Islamic community, despite the current islamophobic social climate present in the US, UK, and across the West, due to the fact Islam is perceived as inherently homophobic and dangerous.
The problem with this argument is the fact that it ignores the fact that across the postcolonial world and within perceived ‘homophobic’ communities there are millions of LGBTQ+ people who exist in spaces that are unsafe for them. This narrow sightedness of some within the gay communities eliminates millions within said community because they are not born in a country or community that is seen as acceptable to white gay people. Further to this such cultural supremacist attitudes trivialise the experiences and diversity of non-Western communities and simplify their existence as homophobic monoliths that are inherently backwards, regressive, and a threat to the freedoms and safety of the LGBTQ+ community, which is simply factually inaccurate. Such an attitude perpetuates longstanding Orientalist attitudes towards non-Western groups and validates a trend of racism and narrowness already dangerously present and domineering in queer spaces.
Inherently the refusal to support the human rights of others because of perceived inherent and immutable homophobia is a major shortcoming of some within the LGBTQ+ community. It speaks to both a lack of understanding of the histories of non-Western countries and cultures as well as a long-standing racist culture within the LGBTQ+ community, especially in the gay male community, that continues to harm and limit the growth, safeness, and health of said community. By stating it is wrong for a group of people to be attacked by others, regardless of their views about the queer community one way or another, states a willingness and an understanding of the importance and validity of human rights universally. As marginalised people, the LGBTQ+ community as a whole needs to appreciate and understand that when one marginalised group is attacked, that makes it more valid for all groups to be attacked. Intersectional approaches to social justice both within one’s own country and internationally is essential to lasting and insightful activism within the LGBTQ+ community.
Disclaimer: This is an opinion article and all views expressed in this article belong to the writer. The New Feminist does not necessarily agree with all opinions expressed within opinion content.