With the Israeli government’s ethnic cleansing in Gaza and the West Bank approaching a third month, and with the war crimes growing ever more flagrant, frequent and egregious, it is perhaps expected that the propaganda war would also begin to intensify. Bad faith arguments abound, nakedly dishonest justifications are wheeled out without anything even approaching the commensurate degree of shame, and attacks on those expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people are stepped up by those running interference for these atrocities.
As a queer, non-binary person, the attacks on my solidarity have been depressingly unimaginative and tediously predictable. Time after time over the past six weeks, my Twitter posts have been swamped with the kind of hackneyed horseshit I’ve seen a million times before when speaking out against Islamophobia. E.g; “You’re (more usually ‘your’) a queer! They’d throw you off a building in Gaza! Why are you supporting them?”
The undisguised glee with which they imagine me plummeting from the top floor of a high-rise is never lost on me, which, in itself, speaks to the dishonesty of their argument. I can guarantee if I look at the profile of anyone posting such a reply, there is never a post expressing support for LGBTQ+ people, and the reverse is invariably true. In fact, they’ll often throw a slur or two into the response itself, as if to highlight the stupidity of their position.
Just days ago, the official Israel account was mocking LGBTQ+ people who oppose Israel's actions:https://t.co/Wo7nGkSiT3
— Erin Reed (@ErinInTheMorn) November 13, 2023
So why do I, a person who would be ‘thrown off a building’ in Gaza, support the right of Palestinian people to not be the victims of genocide?
Well, to begin with, the whole ‘thrown off a building’ mantra is a grotesque, racist distortion of the truth. The leap from ‘homosexuality is illegal in this place’ to ‘everyone of its citizens is a murderous homophobe’ is rooted in nothing but the most basic form of Islamophobia.
For a start, queer Gazans exist. From what I’ve read, some of them are even openly queer. If the statistics there are broadly similar to other areas (and there’s no reason to think they shouldn’t be), between 4 and 10 percent of Gazans are LGBTQ+. So even if I was to make the racist assumption that everyone else in the area was out to kill me (or them), why would I want as many 200,000 queer Gazans to be abandoned to the murderous criminality of the Netanyahu Government?
— Paris Marx (@parismarx) November 13, 2023
As far as acceptance of sexuality and gender diversity goes, however, I tend to believe people fall broadly into one of three camps. The first is that which has been wrongly and maliciously attributed to everyone in the Gaza strip in a further bid to dehumanise them and justify their eradication: the ones who despise queer people and would happily do us harm. The second is those who are actively supportive of us, the allies, those who speak out and act in our defence against the first group. The third, and arguably the largest group, are those who simply don’t think about us at all. The don’t really know any queer people, except for the guy with the suspiciously frosty lips who serves them their coffee, and they don’t give a shit either way.
You can argue about the relative proportions of these groups in Gaza, and I couldn’t give an authoritative answer myself because I don’t live there, but I strongly suspect that most people are too busy worrying about whether they will starve to death or their home will be destroyed to think about whether Amir is seeking comfort in the arms of Omar.
For what it’s worth, I think religious people (including Muslims) tend to fall into three similar variations of these groups: ‘it is prohibited by my holy book therefore no one can do it’, ‘it is prohibited by my holy book therefore I can’t do it (but it’s not my place to judge those who don’t follow my beliefs)’, and ‘it is prohibited by my holy book but so is lots of other outdated shit and I’ve managed to reconcile my faith with that and besides my chosen deity created everyone and loves everyone so he’s probably okay with the gays’.
The other point to note, of course, is that we cannot judge the entirety of ANY population based on its government (elected or otherwise) or its prevailing laws. In the US currently, there are literally hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ laws making their way through state legislatures, including one that bans ‘public homosexuality‘. Whatever the fuck that means. So if we were going to apply the trolls’ reasoning here, they’d presumably be okay with me advocating for Florida to be cut off from water, fuel, power and medical supplies then carpet bombed to oblivion, killing thousands?
In the UK, Suella Braverman, a dangerous and maniacal fascist, was elected to Parliament by a majority of active voters in her constituency. Keir Starmer, an authoritarian and on-the-record transphobe, is currently the leader of the official opposition, and a threat to the rights of trans people across the UK. So perhaps the ‘throw you off a building’ folk would all be okay with me levelling Fareham or Holborn and St Pancras, because if these two bastards can attain such high office, the general public who put them there must be fair game to be murdered en-masse, right?
Or do they just think that the perceived homophobia/transphobia of Arab civilians is automatically deserving of a death sentence, whereas the voting in of homophobic/transphobic politicians in leafy, middle-class suburbs of the UK is merely a ‘difference of opinion’?
The fact is that social progress does not occur under a blockade. It does not occur under a hail of bombs and bullets. It does not occur under occupation, apartheid, and forced displacement. Such progress invariably occurs in a time of peace and liberty, where ideas like ‘if God is all-loving and benevolent, why would he hate the queers?’ can be freely expressed and allowed to take root. And even in countries where we (comparatively) enjoy such freedoms, that progress, as we’re seeing now, is constantly under attack.
There is, of course, a more basic, fundamental argument to explain my solidarity with Palestinian people, which is that my acceptance of the humanity of any given group is not, and cannot be, contingent on their acceptance of mine. Genocide is wrong. Ethnic cleansing is wrong. In any and all circumstances, even if those racist generalisations on the universality of homophobia in Gaza were true. I do not need Gazans to accept or support my sexuality to deplore their deliberate starvation, dehydration, dismemberment and murder.
I do not need Gazans to validate my gender identity for my heart to break for the 50,000 pregnant people without access to basic neonatal care, for those having to endure a caesarean without anaesthesia or for those having periods without proper sanitary products as bombs rain down. The absence of a ‘Pride in Gaza’ event does not mean I will simply shrug when hospitals, schools or refugee camps are targeted by a barbaric occupying force, when journalists and their entire families are wiped out as targeted revenge for their reporting of the IOF’s crimes against humanity, or when the death toll for children alone is over 4,000.
I hold my own humanity to higher standards than the petty, vindictive, ‘if you don’t support LGBTQ+ people you are fair game for genocide’, and if you don’t hold yourself to those standards, you are in no fucking position to criticise anyone.
My final reason for speaking out in opposition to these heinous acts is, admittedly, a selfish one. Because what we’re seeing now in Gaza – the othering, the demonisation, the dishonest justifications, the claims of ‘self defence’, the gratuitous violence under the guise of ‘protecting’ something – can all be applied here and elsewhere by the governments using Gaza as a testing ground for this resurgent fascism.
We’ve already seen how Western governments are targeting anti-genocide protestors, labelling them ‘antisemites’, calling the protests ‘hate marches’, demanding that all Muslims publicly denounce opposition to the Israeli government lest they forfeit their own right to protection from Islamophobic attacks at home. We’re seeing the UK government intern people in need of asylum in floating concentration camps, with the threat of homophobic violence, disease and deportation to Rwanda being used to punish them for seeking our assistance. It’s already started.
And as a trans person, I’ve witnessed – and been subjected to – years of dehumanisation in the UK press and by senior UK politicians, right up to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. According to many of the loudest anti-trans voices in this country, I am (in no particular order) delusional, mentally ill, homophobic (yeah, I don’t know either), a rapist, a child molester, a groomer and an eraser of women.
If all these things are to be believed, I must be pretty fucking awful. Dangerous, even. A person from whom others must be ‘protected’. And if they’ve already rehearsed this ‘protection’ of those poor, at-risk people by supporting the collective blaming, violent oppression and murder of Palestinians, what’s to stop them trying it here?