Opening discussion on Homonationalism and Pinkwashing

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City University’s Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS) hosted a homonationalism and pinkwashing conference at The Graduate Center. The conference aimed to unite a diverse array of speakers transcending race, class, ethnicity, gender and age, all of whom are pioneers on the topic.

The conference which sold out 6 months before the event’s starting date, April 10-11, brought to light pressing and important issues. Homonationalism and pinkwashing are currently relevant in understanding the politicization of the queer world.  

Homonationalism is a phenomenon where “sub-sectors of specific gay communities achieve legal parity with heterosexuals and then embrace racial and religious supremacy ideologies,” explained CLAGS.

A term authored by Professor Jasbir Puar of Rutgers University, homonationalism generally occurs when white gay males “join racist movements against immigrants and immigrations, especially from Muslim countries” (CLAGS).

Homonationalism is prevalent internationally but specifically within Nationalist ideologies and stands as an irreligious right-wing movement which ditches anti-gay politics for organized religion.

Homonationalism grapples with issues such as the difference in living conditions for LGBT individuals all over the world and the way in which race, religion, geography, and gender influence these fundamental differences. This topic is huge amongst scholars and academics alike, and the conference is meant as a platform to bring this discussion to the table.

“Pinkwashing is not about gay rights” a conference speaker, Jay Hickok said. Rather, pinkwashing is a tactic used by colonial governments who use gay rights as a ploy to present as politically progressive.

“This practice of obscuring or ‘whitewashing’ racial or religious oppression with claims of ‘gay rights’ is called PINKWASHING” CLAGS explained.

Pinkwashing uses gay rights as a way to gain liberal leaning political standing when in actuality it demands assimilation rather than liberation. In other words, pinkwashing embodies the Western mindset that white Americans are endowed with the duty to “save” the “less liberated” minority countries such as Palestine or Afghanistan.

“Palestinian queers are viewed as objects to be saved” Hickok explained.

In contrast, Israel is considered a country where you can be free to be LGBT, which is not the case in Palestine. Hickok explained that this creates yet another division between Israel and Palestine: where Israel is perceived as a superior force which can save LGBT Palestinians from oppression.

As Hickok pointed out, pinkwashing isn’t about providing freedom for queers in Palestine to love whom they wish or live how they want—it’s about assimilating to the white, western, “superior’ lifestyle. It’s not about them—it’s about us.

“It is in this way where something that is made to look on the surface such as an interest in gay rights or in human rights is just another means of Colonial domination. Pinkwashing is a tool to this end. It is meant to evoke a false solidarity in Western queer communities with an imagined global queer community.

Pinkwashing aims at garnering support for the Israeli settler colonialism project using queer Palestinians as shields to deflect any criticism of Israeli actions” Hickok said.

You can view videos from the conference so far here

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