On Saturday I attended a talk by Indyra Mendoza, an activist with the LGTB Coalition Against the Coup in Honduras, who was in LA for a speaking tour. Her message was simple and powerful:
Murders of trans women and gay men in Honduras have escalated rapidly since the coup. She reported that there were 17 documented murders of trans women between March 2004 and March 2009; there have been 15 in the last four months alone. LGBT activists believe most of these murders have been assassinations by military and police, but authorities' refusal to perform autopsies have denied them the opportunity to prove that the bullets a series of trans women, and a few gay men, have taken to their heads have been military-issue.
More after the jump.
Mendoza spoke in a gallery displaying a timeline of queer history in LA. As she talked about murders of trans women and gay men -- and the rape of at least one lesbian -- by military and police in Honduras, she stood in front of a collage documenting vicious police raids of gay bars in LA, not so many decades ago. (And of course, police raids on U.S. gay bars have happened much more recently than that.)
Hard not to wonder what connection has been dropped from consciousness for an LGBT movement to be pushing for, and celebrating, so-called hate-crimes legislation that serves mostly to strengthen a homophobic (and racist and classist) system of policing and imprisonment.
Then Mendoza talked about how infuriated she was when she visited Southern California congressmember Brad Sherman (D) earlier this week. She started telling him about gross human-rights violations since the coup in Honduras, and he "shut down," she said, refusing to discuss the matter with her because one member of the Honduran resistance has notoriously made anti-Semitic comments. As people nodded knowingly or muttered or shifted in their chairs, I acknowledged my own internal tension, hoping the conversation was not about to go down certain paths, wondering if I was the only Jew in the room ... and then a man whose name tag identified him as being connected to HRC interjected: "It's strange, because Sherman has a great record on our issues."
Mendoza reiterated that he simply wouldn't listen to her, wouldn't hear what she was saying. (And she insisted that none of us tolerate any form of hate, being clear that she did not support this one organizer's anti-Semitic comments, and trying to refocus on the larger issue: that the entire resistance movement, and the potential to do something about brutal human-rights violations, shouldn't be written off because of the comments of a single individual.)
"But," the man continued, "I think he has a 100 percent record on our issues." (Indeed, according to Project Vote Smart, "HRC gave Sherman a grade of 100" for 2007-2008.)
"Not on imperialism," said someone behind me.
The man with the HRC name tag shook his head, uncomprehending.
And I thought of the commenters on Mattilda's roundtable "Why Gay Marriage Is the End of the World" who said that things like "ending capitalism, abolishing prison, ending militarism ... " are "progressive statements and goals and should not be part of the LGBT Agenda [sic]" -- and so many other similar claims that things like militarism or policing or economic exploitation are not "gay issues," that multi-issue or intersectional politics are too diffuse, are detracting from the real or proper focus of LGBT movement.
Trans women in Honduras are being murdered at alarming rates by police and the military, and U.S. congressmembers are using shallow but sensational screens to avoid condemning a human-rights-violating dictatorship, and there is no way to resist those murders without resisting militarism, colonialism, neoliberal capitalism, etc., etc., etc. (No real way to resist anti-Semitism without resisting colonialism and militarism, either, contrary to certain bizarre, and horrifically dominant, narratives.)
Mendoza said it's an unusual moment for LGBT activists in Honduras in that they're participating, as LGBT activists, in a larger progressive movement--the movement in resistance to the coup. Social-justice groups of many kinds are struggling in coalition against the dictatorship that has taken power and that is brutally repressing already-marginalized communities, understanding together that every marginalized community is vulnerable to exploitation, violence, and other forms of oppression under an unjust regime. They're working together, on multiple fronts, simultaneously, to resist.
And they're asking people in the U.S. to urge our representatives in Congress not to acknowledge as legitimate a human-rights-violating dictatorship.
Learn more about feminist and LGBT activism in Honduras here.