Sunday, December 30, 2018

Ask Arthur 2018, Part 7: About current gay issues

This year’s “Ask Arthur” series is ending, so yesterday I issued a last minute invitation for questions. Roger Green obliged with two different, but very topical questions. This is now the penultimate post, and tomorrow will be the final in this year’s series.

So, Roger first asked:

Is there an anti-gay backlash in New Zealand (and Australia, since you seem to keep track) as there is in Germany?

Not in New Zealand, no. Not yet, anyway. We have a problem with far too many fundamentalist religionists (mostly Christian, but other religions, too), but there aren’t any real issues for them to fight about here: Gay couples can get married and that means they can adopt (not that it happens all that much, mainly due to a shortage of kids available for adoption). Aside from that, the human and civil rights of gay people have been protected for decades, and they are legally equal in every way. Social/religious conservatives may not like gay people very much, and some try to discriminate from time to time, but they don’t get away from it. And no one is leading the call against gay people—or trans* people, either. Maybe that’s just not the Kiwi way.

Australia, however, is another matter.

They have long had a problem with extreme conservative “Christians” who are also politically active. Their current Prime Minister (this week…) is Scott Morrison, who is an extreme conservative religionist (Pentecostal/Ass. of God). He claims to not like people using the Bible as a “policy manual”, but he’s decided to pander to radical-right anti-LGBTI “Christians” by championing the “religious freedom” scam in which rightwing “Christians” use their religion as an excuse for discriminating against—even persecuting—LGBT+ people.

And yet, the pandering so far has been just that—or, all sizzle and no sausage. As one writer for Sydney’s Star Observer recently observed, somewhat sarcastically, 2018 was “the year gay kids came into existence for the religious right”. Nevertheless, the fact that the views of religious extremists can be taken seriously and as legitimate could become a problem for Australia.

Australia has had a problem with nationalist politicians, New Zealand less so, and in both countries the main object has been Asians. Australia has endured politicians who were overtly anti-Muslim, New Zealand MUCH less so. That matters because the far right in Europe and the USA have focused on their anti-Islamic bigotry.

What is especially interesting is that most of the far right in Western Europe, and even the faction in the USA that adores the current occupant of the White House, is not anti-LGBT+ as such, but has even used their support for LGBT+ people as a reason people should join them, because they’re “protecting” LGBT+ people from the “violence of Islam”. Indeed, gay people are often leaders in the new European far-right.

In the Netherlands, openly gay Pim Fortuyn crusaded against Islamic immigration, and the current far right leader in that country, Geert Wilders, has often used pro-gay rhetoric in his anti-Islam campaign.

The situation with Germany is unique (so far), but the country that unleashed violent fascism and genocide on the world ought to be far more careful about embracing far-right politics. The article that Roger linked to pointed out that the far-right “Alternative for Germany” party is co-led by a lesbian, Alice Weidel, as if that mattered. At all. It doesn’t. She is a far-right extremist first and foremost, and being lesbian does not excuse or change that fact.

What those European examples show is the how the far-right can exploit the fear of violent homophobia from fundamentalist Muslims as a way to recruit people who would otherwise never pay any attention to the far right. It seems to me that this is a real danger, because once in power the far-right will always—always—turn on LGBT+ people, without exception.

To be clear—ALL fundamentalist religion poses an existential threat to freedom, liberty, and democracy, and fundamentalist Islam is no different. But that’s no excuse to try and use LGBT+ people as a way to advance an inherently racist agenda. If they want to do that, leave LGBT+ out of it.

Roger next asked:

And since it was linked in the previous article, Is it time to drop the ‘LGBT’ From ‘LGBTQ’?

When I read the headline, I did an eyeroll. When I read it, not so much. I do think the “Q” thing is a bit silly, personally, but I think his point is a good one. The thing that conservative politicians have successfully exploited is a reaction to “Identity Politics”, that is, people who put their identity, and political needs associated with it, ahead of everyone else and their needs. That’s been gleefully exaggerated by the Right, but their rhetoric is based on truth, and that’s what gives it power and currency.

This relates to the previous question because in the USA in particular, rightwing politicians have used and stoked the backlash to “Identity Politics” to attack and defeat the Left. They also use it to fuel their opposition to protecting the human and civil rights of LGBT+ people.

This is a subject in itself, but I’ve been increasingly concerned about how “Identity Politics” has replaced “Movement Politics”, and how oversensitive some people have become about their identity, sometimes stalling or even reversing progress. I see this all the time in LGBT+ communities that get so bogged down in catering to every initial in the collective name that they forget what it is they’re supposed to be working on.

There are far too many people these days who are part of “The Bubble Wrap Generation”, needing to be encased in layers of protection to keep them from feeling hurt or even challenged by anyone. Real life isn’t like that and—as the rightwing likes to say, “real life doesn’t care about your feelings.” That slogan works because it’s true.

It seems to me that what LGBT+ (or whatever) people need to do is to find a way to celebrate uniqueness—Identity—without making it the sole focus. When I was an activist, the various identities now represented by a letter in our collective name didn’t necessarily like each other—and sometimes they were quite hostile to other letters. But we found ways to forge alliances on specific issues at specific times, and we’d leave each other in peace the rest of the time. It worked, and all the progress of the 1980s and into the 1990s was built on that pragmatic solution.

So, I agree that the focus on adding ever more letters to the string is making us weaker overall (and one of the many posts I’ve abandoned in recent years was about that subject). Where I differ with the author is that I don’t think that assigning a single letter—Q—to describe us is going to fix anything whatsoever.

What bothers me about that is not that we’re not united, it’s that we’re allowing our differences to stand in the way of progress, and that we’re allowing outsiders—Left and Right—to exploit those differences in order to divide us further, from each other and from the Centre and Left in general, thereby creating room for the far-right in particular to advance its agenda. It’s part of what helped the current regime get into power, but overcoming those divisions might help expel it.

Thanks to Roger for these questions!

Tomorrow is the final post in this year’s Ask Arthur series.

All posts in this series are tagged “AAA-18”. All previous posts from every “Ask Arthur” series are tagged, appropriately enough, "Ask Arthur”.


Let the 2018 asking begin – The first post in this year’s series.
Ask Arthur 2018, Part 1: Perfect place
Ask Arthur 2018, Part 2: Living where?
Ask Arthur 2018, Part 3: About religious stuff
Ask Arthur 2018, Part 4: About what I like
Ask Arthur 2018, Part 5: About conversion therapy
Ask Arthur 2018, Part 6: About blogging stuff

No comments: