If you’ve ever heard an LGBTQ person speak against all Muslims or the Middle Easterners as anti-queer, then you’ve just experienced the effects of homonationalism. Here’s a quick explainer of what homonationalism is and how it effects local and global LGBTQ communities.
What is homonationalism?
Homonationalism is whenever a person or group claims solidarity with the LGBTQ community as a way to justify racist and xenophobic policies, especially ones against people of color, immigrants, Muslims or other countries. Homonationalism often takes the view that other people, cultures or countries are inherently homophobic and that Western countries are more culturally, morally, and politically advanced and egalitarian (that is, they believe that all people deserve equal rights and opportunities).
While countries undoubtedly differ in their characterization and treatment of LGBTQ individuals, homonationalism oversimplifies each country’s political reality. Even if a country’s government, religion or powerful actors oppose LGBTQ rights, it’s important to remember that each country also has LGBTQ people, pro-LGBTQ allies and organizations operating within it, even if only in secret. When we take actions against such countries, we harm pro-LGBTQ individuals as well.
What are some examples of homonationalism?
During the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, Trump said, “I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of the hateful, foreign ideology, believe me.” The foreign ideology he referred to was Islam, which included many Middle Eastern countries he later included in his travel ban (and several he did not).
Israel often advertises itself as a champion of gay rights, but has policies in place that actively harm many LGBTQ Palestinians living in their midst. This is referred to as “pinkwashing.”
Is homonationalism a good or bad thing?
Homonationalism treats politics as a “you’re either with us or against us choice” and forces LGBTQ people to align with political ideologies, even when those ideologies actively work against queers. For example, while Trump claims he’ll protect LGBTQ people from anti-queer Muslims, he has still rolled back LGBTQ rights in the U.S. and works with a largely anti-LGBTQ political party. Homonationalism often covers up human rights abuses or distracts people from a supposedly “pro-LGBT” country’s anti-LGBTQ policies.
Homonationalism also reinforces homonormativity, the belief that LGBTQ people are no different from straight people and that “good queers” should want the 4 Ms (marriage, matrimony, military and money) whereas “bad queers” oppose the 4 Ms and are a drain on society. This overly simplistic thinking reduces queer people to their willingness to uphold dominant social systems and acts if there’s a right and wrong way to express one’s political individuality when nothing could be further from the truth.
(Featured image by renaschild via iStock Photography)