Alex Blaze

War is anti-LGBTQ

Filed By Alex Blaze | October 26, 2009 6:30 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: Afghanistan, iraq, terrorism, transgender, un, war

I wanted to point to two articles about the intersection of pacifism and LGBTQ activism.

First, via Transracial, the UN has a new report about gender discrimination in counter-terrorism measures, which included a few sections on the unique burdens and dangers imposed on transgender people:

Counter-terrorism measures disproportionately affect women and transgender asylum-seekers, refugees and immigrants in specific ways. For example, enhanced immigration controls that focus attention on male bombers who may be dressing as females to avoid scrutiny101 make transgender persons susceptible to increased harassment and suspicion.102 Similarly, counter-terrorism measures that involve increased travel document security,103 such as stricter procedures for issuing, changing and verifying identity documents, risk unduly penalizing transgender persons whose personal appearance and data are subject to change.104 This jeopardizes the right of persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities to recognition before the law. In this regard, the Yogyakarta Principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity identify that States must "ensure that procedures exist whereby all State-issued identity papers which indicate a person's gender/sex ... reflect the person's profound self-defined gender identity".105

The report mentions something that often gets lost in discussions in the safety of LGBTQ people, that we're often get the short end of the stick when it comes to both terrorism and counterterrorism, which could also be applied to how we get shafted both by criminals and law enforcement here in the US.

The second article, by foreign relations journalist Chris Hedges at TruthDig, goes into that a bit further....

His column discusses the way mixing both hate crimes legislation and money to prolongue the conflict in Afghanistan is problematic and self-contradictory.

The brutality of Matthew Shepard's killers, who beat him to death for being gay, is a product of a culture that glorifies violence and sadism. It is the product of a militarized culture. We have more police, prisons, inmates, spies, mercenaries, weapons and troops than any other nation on Earth. Our military, which swallows half of the federal budget, is enormously popular--as if it is not part of government. The military values of hyper-masculinity, blind obedience and violence are an electric current that run through reality television and trash-talk programs where contestants endure pain while they betray and manipulate those around them in a ruthless world of competition. Friendship and compassion are banished.

This hyper-masculinity is at the core of pornography with its fusion of violence and eroticism, as well as its physical and emotional degradation of women. It is an expression of the corporate state where human beings are reduced to commodities and companies have become proto-fascist enclaves devoted to maximizing profit. Militarism crushes the capacity for moral autonomy and difference. It isolates us from each other. It has its logical fruition in Abu Ghraib, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with our lack of compassion for our homeless, our poor, our mentally ill, our unemployed, our sick, and yes, our gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual citizens.

Klaus Theweleit in his two volumes entitled "Male Fantasies," which draw on the bitter alienation of demobilized veterans in Germany following the end of World War I, argues that a militarized culture attacks all that is culturally defined as the feminine, including love, gentleness, compassion and acceptance of difference. It sees any sexual ambiguity as a threat to male "hardness" and the clearly defined roles required by the militarized state. The continued support for our permanent war economy, the continued elevation of military values as the highest good, sustains the perverted ethic, rigid social roles and emotional numbness that Theweleit explored. It is a moral cancer that ensures there will be more Matthew Shepards.

Fascism, Theweleit argued, is not so much a form of government or a particular structuring of the economy or a system, but the creation of potent slogans and symbols that form a kind of psychic economy which places sexuality in the service of destruction. The "core of all fascist propaganda is a battle against everything that constitutes enjoyment and pleasure," Theweleit wrote. And our culture, while it disdains the name of fascism, embraces its dark ethic.

Indeed, adding hate crimes legislation into the Defense Authorization bill took attention away from the debate on war funding and put it on LGBT people. But, then again, it's the way the right would want it - they want the war to continue, slightly more than the Democrats do, and would rather not discuss it with the American people since average people don't benefit much from wars against vague enemies or from "nation-building" half a world away.

Queerness in all its forms (that is, ambiguity and individuality when it comes to sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and sexuality) is problematic for authoritarian figures of all stripes, and any war is going to involve, on some level, both sides fighting against queer populations.

It's what's troublesome when some queer liberals discuss the Global War on Terror; usually someone will eventually mention that the other side (i.e. Muslim people) don't particularly like queer people, so the side we're on should be pretty easy to pick. Fuck them, it's not like they like us all that much.

Which is troubling because it's not like militaristic folks in the US are all that pro-queer either. It's no surprise to me that the US has the biggest and most-used military in the world and is alone among Western nations when it comes to banning LGBTQ people from the military. And the poeple who want war the most are generally the same ones who are against our rights. Those Democrats who are quick to prove their moral values creds tend the be the same ones who fantasize about fighting more wars against more enemies... especially when they're never the targets of bombs or have to fight in a battlefield themselves.

A security state will always oppose fluidity and individuality. The reason people in power invoke danger and construct threats is to shore up power for themselves, and authoritarianism is the natural enemy of people deciding for themselves how to live. When fearful, people seek out stability and start to see ambiguity and complexity themselves as enemies.

I wouldn't put it quite as Hedges did, that war seeks to destroy feminity, but more that it accepts rigid, suffocating, and destructive definitions of either masculity or femininity and opposes everything else. Part of that definition of femininity is submission, part of that definition of masculinity is cruelty, but neither is the inherent, peace-time definition of the words.

But, for those of us who live even a little bit outside of those gender roles that we were assigned at birth, we should know that the real enemy is authoritarianism and fundamentalism in all forms, which is why the anti-war position is the pro-queer position.

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I too was troubled that hate crimes laws are being called "prevention" and that they would increase jail terms and were attached to military spending. Now more than ever we need to ensure people are aware of these issues - and aware that some of our "leading" gay-rights organizations like HRC continuously support candidates who are extremely pro-war.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | October 27, 2009 6:29 AM

In capitalist societies, war always drives politics and culture to the right. It formats political life as a question of dog kill dog, a formula mirroring capitalist economic and political relations - dog eat dog.

The two right wing parties in the US, the Democrats and the Republicans, are parties that exist solely to protect the interest of the rich and totally support the US drive to control the world's resources, denying them to billions to enrich a few.

The Democrat and Republican Parties can never be reformed or ‘taken over’ because they’re owned by the rich in a country where political parties are commodities like everything and everyone else.

These parties are responsible for genocidal wars from Palestine to Pakistan, for the global economic collapse caused by Clinton and Bush’s deregulation and Obama’s attacks on unions and the imposition of austerity measures on working people. The US and it's satellite states are attempting to colonize Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

It’s no accident that both of the rightist parties are also anti-GLBT, and it's hard to say which of the two is worse. Clinton and the Democrats are responsible for passing DOMA and DADT and there's no likelihood of either being repealed. The Republicans sponsored DOMAs in 40 or so states using cults as front groups and paying them handsomely with 'faith based' bribes. Obama's campaign turned Roves strategy against him and is expanding the bigot base it took from the GOP in 2008 by catering to bigots – “gawd’s in the mix” and solidifying that base with faith based' bribes.

Clearly, supporting either of those parties and their rightist programs like TARP, union busting, and bigot catering is unprincipled and amounts to an abandonment of the GLBT struggle for equality.

In the context DOMA and DADT and the alliance between bigoted cults and the politicians like Bush and Obama who cater them, hate crimes laws won’t end hate crimes. A central reason is that with A laws like Clinton’s DADT and DOMA on the books hate and the promotion of hate crimes is government policy. Only the suppression of cults and anti-LGBT political parties will put an end to hate crimes and that awaits a fundamental transformation of US society.

In the meantime, hate crimes laws are a small victory but they'll be ineffective unless we use them to focus on the collusion between the cults, politicians like Obama and McCain and violence. Their constant attacks on our rights embolden thugs. The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes law will be a valuable tool to insist that the police, prosecutors and judges treat anti-GLBT criminals to real justice instead of a wink and a slap on the wrist.

Pacifism is not an answer to the wars of the rich. Like hate crimes and rule by an economic aristocracy war will be suppressed when the rich are suppressed by a revolutionary transformation of society.

1776. Again, please.

Thanks for posting this, Alex. The bloodthirstiness of the gay pro-hate crimes legislation crowd never ceases to amaze me. I should also point out that enhanced penalties under hate crimes laws also include the death penalty. So much for the vaunted progressive politics of the gay community.

Anyone who's interested in a recent critique of hate crimes should check this out:

Thanks for bringing up the anti-Islamic comments, Alex. Its true, there are places in the world where you can die for being gay. One of those places is America. There are people who subscribe to religions in which some factions in that religion advocate the murder of gay people. One of those religions is Christianity. There is nothing inherently anti-gay about Middle Eastern people, and Islam itself isn't the opposite of whatever we stand for. Queer folk who buy into that are buying into what the Bush administration feed them, and--in a way--are STILL feeding them.

Islam isn't evil. Neither is Christianity. Neither is Judaism. They just all happen to have some evil followers. Like Gandhi said: "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

Being pro-war-on-terror because "Muslims kill gays" is the same as being racist. Its just racism with a footnote.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | October 27, 2009 5:20 PM


Islamophobia is a new but virulent form a racism promoted by some very odd bedfellows - zionists and European fascists.

Kofi Annan told a UN conference on Islamophobia in 2004: "When the world is compelled to coin a new term to take account of increasingly widespread bigotry, that is a sad and troubling development. Such is the case with Islamophobia."

A 2007 article in Journal of Sociology defines Islamophobia as anti-Muslim racism and a continuation of anti-Asian and anti-Arab racism.

"Social Work and Minorities: European Perspectives" describes Islamophobia as the new form of racism in Europe, arguing that "Islamophobia is as much a form of racism as Anti-Semitism, a term more commonly encountered in Europe as a sibling of Racism, Xenophobia and Intolerance

The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) released several publications related to the similarities of racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, including "The Fight against Antisemitism and Islamophobia: Bringing Communities together (European Round Tables Meetings)" (2003) and "Muslims in the European Union: Discrimination and Islamophobia" (2006).

In this country islamophobia is the basis for the illegal invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Tariq Ali puts it in perspective in a debate with a pro-war islamophobe about a year after 9-11 and shortly before the invasion of Iraq.