Jessica Hoffmann

LGBT Resistance to the Coup in Honduras

Filed By Jessica Hoffmann | November 16, 2009 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Brad Sherman, HRC, Indyra Mendoza, international solidarity, LGTB Coalition Against the Coup in Honduras, police raids of gay bars, state violence, transphobia

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.

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Its strange that, when it comes to Iran, American queers are quick to call out violence against queers, even on the flimsiest of evidence at times. But an undemocratic military coup? Why aren't we hearing more about this? Has there been much mainstream coverage?


There has been very little coverage of this in U.S. media -- mainstream or independent. The coup itself has received little coverage -- there were headlines when it happened, but there hasn't been much U.S. coverage in the months since. And on the specific issue of violence against queer and trans people? There's hardly anything out there in any English-language media.

Blogs like Vivir Latino have been providing some ongoing coverage of the coup situation - .

But, really, there's very little out there on the escalating violence against women, LGBT folks, and other oppressed groups. That's largely why Mendoza and a few other organizers with the LGBT movement in Honduras were in LA this past week - to get the word out and ask for solidarity from people in the U.S.

What does solidarity mean?

I'm weary of that concept because previous instances of Americans trying to "help" queers who face violence abroad have often been rooted in a colonialist holier-than-thou attitude towards the people of the other country first and an actual willingness to help people second.

At least Mendoza was asking for help though instead of "help" being imposed unilaterally on Honduras. That'll probably keep the usual crowd away, though.

Too true. Rest assured, I'm not advocating for missionary/colonialist "help." Solidarity is no doubt a tricky thing, but I think a good start is to listen to, and be guided by, the people seeking it.

I often wonder if we don't get stuck in our need to label things part of this or that "agenda."

For example - and this is random early morning thinking, btw... When you chastise those who say, "things like militarism or policing or economic exploitation are not 'gay issues,'" is it not possible that technically they're right and we're thinking of this wrong?

For example, why can't we see this more as concentric circles? If the "LGBT agenda" is a narrow group of priorities aimed specifically at only our community (as in they only help us - ENDA, for example, or DADT repeal), why don't we let that BE the LGBT agenda. Militarism, policing, and economic exploitation are all worthy fights too, but - at least with me - I have to step outside of the LGBT agenda sometimes to work on other issues. I actually like going out of those bounds and "escaping" the all-gay-all-the-time mantra.

If we think of all the agendas as overlapping and concentric, technically all progressive agendas become one, but it allows for some specialization. The question becomes, of course, how to ensure that people step outside of the arbitrary boundaries they establish for themselves.

While the coup in Honduras can be dismissed by some as not breaching into their "LGBT agenda" sphere, I think pointing out the commonalities - violence against our people - helps to sharpen that focus and bring it back into that narrow agenda. It provides a bridge between the two, if you will; it is the overlap that could bring more attention to both issues.

Anyhow, random thoughts over a still steaming cup of coffee.


Thanks for your thoughts. (And I'll respond in kind, over my still-steaming coffee ... )

I do agree that "we get stuck in our need to label things part of this or that 'agenda.'" It's certainly exhausting and not all that useful to spend lots of energy policing agenda borders (or any other borders, for that matter!). And it's important to see the intersections and overlaps and opportunities for working together among different areas of focus.

The thing I'm trying to point to is that systems of domination/oppression/violence are inextricable, and do not exist in a vacuum -- so that systems of violent policing, or militarism, are part of the same beast as systems of gender binarism and heteronormativity in which state and other violence against queer people occurs. I do understand that we all have areas of focus in our political work (and in every other aspect of our lives), but want to challenge the idea that there is a way to end violence against any marginalized group without addressing root causes of violence, and intersecting systems of violence.

In 2012, when some red state's government decides to enact "God's Law" and a theocratic anarchy breaks loose for a few weeks, including the government sanctioned murders of LGBT's, will we remain as silent, as detatched, as emotionally emasculated as we seem to be discussing systematised governmental murders of OUR brothers and sisters in Honduras?