It’s 2016. Donald Trump is running for president, and in his nomination acceptance speech, he talks about Orlando- the Pulse Nightclub shooting, and the threat to LGBTQ people from terrorists. A far-right candidate from a conservative party, expressing support for LGBTQIA people – Dystopian. But a closer look into this speech reveals it isn’t as pro-LGBTQ as it is anti-immigrant. Trump was doing what many of his right-wing contemporaries were doing, from France to Israel and later here in India. And thus, Twinks4Trump was born, a campaign by cis gay men expressing their allegiance to ‘daddy Trump’, one of the many run by Queer people who love the nation-state.
Homonationalism, coined by Rutgers University professor Jasbir K. Puar in 2007 is, to put it simply, the intersection of gay identity and nationalist ideology. This sexual nationalism marks a global shift from Queer identities being pervasive to the idea of the nation, to one which is now a benchmark for progressiveness. Earlier, LGBTQ movements were considered ‘left-liberal’, but now as countries take note of the economics of LGBTQ politics and the vote banks which come with it, this discourse is no longer ‘left-wing’. It also is a way of openly pursuing a xenophobic and Islamophobic rhetoric all in the name of ‘loving thy gays’. Thus, the rights of LGBTQ communities become greater than the fundamental rights of immigrants and other minority groups.
In 2017, far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, leader of the once-fringe National Front party, gained support from LGBTQ voters due to her anti-immigrant stance. This comes from a political party that would abolish same-sex marriage — one whose founder wanted AIDS patients rounded up and branded homosexuality “a biological and social anomaly”.
Similarly, the Israeli occupation of Palestine has been justified by citing the homophobia of Palestine. Through the appropriation of gay rights discourse, Israel has sought to “conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians’ human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life” (Schulman 2011). While it is true, dignified living and human rights are what LGBTQ people are fighting for worldwide, but this cannot be at the cost of brushing other human rights violations under the carpet. The trade-off between queer affirmative policy and inclusion of other marginalized groups is an illusion, as there doesn’t have to be comparison and choosing between two marginalized identities.
Since the scrapping of article 377, Pinkwashing has taken over India. There has always been an absence of a concrete stance by all Indian political parties when it comes to queer issues. However, post September 2018 far-right parties have co-opted this movement. Similarly, far-right queer people are no longer afraid to declare loyalty to their fascist belief systems. Thus, there is this artificial separation created between queer struggles and other marginalized groups, as if, queer liberation can be ensured at the cost of other identities. When the article 370 was abrogated in 2019, usually far-right leaders, who usually called homosexuality as ‘unnatural’ and ‘pervasive’ expressed newfound concern for Kashmiri Queer people. Several tweets were put up, of ” “welcoming LGBTQ brothers and sisters of Kashmir.” At the SOAS School, London, a session on “Resisting Fascism building Solidarities – India: Kashmir and beyond” was organized by South Asian Solidarity group in October 2019. During the event, five far-right activists, barged in, claiming to be queer individuals and declaring“Gay for J&K”, “[Article] 370 is homophobic”, and “Regressive Left, don’t betray us”. The protestors alleged that people against Kashmir’s special constitutional status were homophobic, and argued that its removal meant that the queer community would have the same rights in the state as other minorities.
In February 2020, a sedition charge was put against 51 young activists for shouting slogans in solidarity with Sharjeel Imam, an anti-CAA-NRC activist. The police was allegedly helped by members from the queer community itself, who later went on to say, they disassociate from these radical slogans. This is ironic, since in the early Pride Parades in India a very common phrase was “Kaunsa Kanoon Sabse Battar? AFSPA, Sedition, 377”. Post this incident, various far-right queer people went on to say “the left does not own the queer community”.
There is also the example of Pride Kashmir, that emerged in June 2020. A non-political students organization that supports Indian occupation of Kashmir and celebrates abrogation of 370. They called for a pride parade at Lal Chowk, Srinagar. Sonzal Welfare Trust, that has been working for the queer community in J&K strongly condemned this and called it an ‘invalidation of the struggles of LGBTQ Kashmiri Muslims’.
It becomes vital, to understand this process of realigning the LGBTQ+ ideals to fit goals and ideologies of neoliberalism and the far right. This competitive marginalization, will at the end leave a group of people disenfranchised and others protected, and only the identities will change. As put by Sonzal Welfare trust, this is a “smokescreen of rainbow solidarity”. In the Indian context, it is especially hypocritical, because, in June 2019, India abstained from voting in the UNHRC for the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity resolution to appoint a UN expert to tackle violence and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. This conditional solidarity has to stop, for LGBTQ liberation is hollow without being liberation for all other identities.