Creating Change: Pinkwashing ICE, Pinkwashing Israel

On January 12, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force issued an apology for including a panel by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the program of the upcoming Creating Change Conference. Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, an organization that fiercely opposes the violence of immigration enforcement and has been part of the inspiring national #Not1More anti-deportation campaign, issued a response to the NGLTF apology: Apology Not Accepted.  Familia refused NGLTF’s weak acknowledgement after the uproar that ICE’s inclusion in the conference had caused. The problem with ICE being on the Creating Change program is not just that it makes people feel unsafe (it is a no-brainer that you shouldn’t invite ICE to events where you want immigrant activists to be able to participate), it’s that ICE is a massive source of violence in the lives of queer and trans people and an institution that queer and trans activists are trying to end. Inviting ICE to participate in the conference suggests that there is some kind of collaboration sought, or that ICE can show up and be “LGBT-friendly.”  Familia called out the reality that by including ICE, NGLTF ignored and rejected the clear anti-deportation, anti-immigration enforcement politics and strategy that has been articulated by queer and trans immigrant activists.  We are not fighting for a gay-friendly border, a gay-friendly immigration prison or immigration raid. The only way for queer and trans immigrants to be safe is if raids, detentions, deportations and everything else ICE does ends.

There is another controversy brewing on the Creating Change program that presents a similar dynamic.  The Israel advocacy organization, A Wider Bridge, is hosting a shabbat service and reception at Creating Change.  A Wider Bridge aims to connect LGBT people in the US with Israel and promote the image of Israel as an LGBT tourism destination. It coordinates tours funded by the Israeli Consulate bringing LGBT Israelis to the US to talk about gay politics in Israel, it hosted a conference with many US LGBT leaders last summer in Israel and had those leaders participate in Gay Pride in Tel Aviv, it promotes Israeli-government funded films that portray Israel as a haven for gay rights in which Palestinians seek refuge, and it brings tours of LGBT people from the US to Israel.  Its website proudly announces that it “led the LGBT contingent in New York’s Celebrate Israel Parade, and . . . marched with the Israeli Consulate in the New York Pride Parade.”

Queer and trans activists who are working to oppose Israeli colonialism and apartheid call this propaganda work “pinkwashing.”  For over a decade, the Israeli government has been engaged the “Brand Israel” campaign, aimed to respond to the growing movement against apartheid in Israel by portraying Israel as “relevant and modern.”  An important part of this effort has been to promote Israel as a gay-friendly country, touting the fact that gay people are allowed to serve in its brutal military and promoting Israel as a gay tourism destination.  This message relies on Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism as Israel contrasts its supposed “gay-friendliness” with stereotypes of its homophobic neighbors, particularly portraying Palestinians as homophobic. Queer and trans activists around the world who oppose occupation and apartheid have called this propaganda strategy “pinkwashing” because it is a direct effort to conceal the extreme violence and harm that Israel inflicts on Palestinians, including queer and trans Palestinians, by promoting Israel as “gay friendly.”

In 2012, activists in Seattle got to know A Wider Bridge and its pinkwashing activities very intimately when A Wider Bridge partnered with the homophobic, right-wing organization Stand WithUs to bring an Israeli Consulate-sponsored pinkwashing tour to Seattle. Queer and trans Seattle activists pushed back, exposed the propaganda and got a planned tour event at Seattle City Hall canceled. We faced a very unpleasant backlash and made a film about our story (which you can watch for free online).

We made this film in hopes that it will help queer and trans people and people who care about queer and trans people to read and interpret propaganda that tries to play on our movements’ messaging to build PR for  violent governments and institutions.  Clearly, the organizers of Creating Change need some help with this–ICE and A Wider Bridge ended up on the program because they packaged themselves as dialoguing about LGBT issues.  This is the new normal–police departments, prisons, the military, immigration enforcement and politicians and nefarious governments are all branding themselves as progressive, liberal and right-on with talking points about LGBT inclusion, meanwhile continuing their murderous work that  harms queer and trans people and cannot be aligned with our liberation.  When left movements across the US are calling attention to the racist violence of the immigration and criminal punishment systems, when more and more organizations are adopting resolutions to boycott and divest from Israel and the prison industry, queer and trans organizations have to get sharp about not becoming fig leaves or propaganda sites for institutions scrambling to prop up their tarnished images as their violence is exposed.

[Image by Micah Bazant]

[Image by Micah Bazant]

My regret about our film, Pinkwashing Exposed: Seattle Fights Back! is that we did not focus enough on A Wider Bridge. At the time, it made sense to focus on how Stand With Us co-coordinated the events, because they are such an obvious right wing Israel advocacy organization which an insincere interest in queer issues that is only about the propaganda opportunities for Israel. It seemed like focusing on Stand With Us made the pinkwashing more obvious. In the months that followed the completion of the film, it became clear to me that we should have also focused on A Wider Bridge, whose pinkwashing strategy is more insidious. Many people who would be suspicious of explicit Israel advocacy because they have some vague sense that Palestinians are suffering under occupation are swept up in the friendly images of gay Israelis sharing their experiences and inviting people from the US to visit.  Many people who know nothing about the occupation are learning about Israel from an Israel propaganda organization and not realizing it because it seems like a gay organization. A Wider Bridge denies that it is engaged in pinkwashing, but there is nothing secret about it being an Israel advocacy organization. It is not an organization focused on LGBT Jews, or an organization focused on LGBT Israelis, it is an organization focused on linking LGBT people in the US to Israel, the settler colonial nation engaged in apartheid, condemned by the world.  It is an organization whose promotion of Israel is designed to make people think of Israel as a site of liberation and freedom rather than a regime producing colonization and genocide. As a Jewish trans activist who has sometimes attended Creating Change over the years, I like the idea of having a Shabbat service at the conference, but I do not want Creating Change to invite any Israel advocacy organization to lead it or host programming focused on promoting propaganda about Israel.

I believe that the organizers of Creating Change intend for the conference to be a place of progressive queer and trans politics–they would not want it sponsored by Wal-Mart, featuring workshops by gay climate change deniers, celebrating the leadership of gay conservatives. Over the years, there have been many, many controversies in which activists have called out the failures of the conference to live up to its progressive aims–most frequently regarding issues that impact queer and trans people of color.  That is an important process and the work that activists have done to raise hell at Creating Change has forging new collaborations, changed queer and trans politics, and even changing the conference in some ways. Pinkwashing is now a ubiquitous and effective strategy for harmful institutions to promote a false image of themselves, and queer and trans activists have to sharpen our ability to discern it and hold organizations like NGLTF that purport to cultivate queer and trans liberation accountable when they partner with pinkwashers.  The organizers who exposed the ICE participation in Creating Change won an important victory over pinkwashing by getting ICE taken off the program. Now NGLTF needs to take an active role in preventing pinkwashing of Israel at this year’s conference.

creating-change-creating-chains-2
[Image from leaflet handed out by Gay Shame activists at Creating Change 2005 in Oakland.]

Article on Norms and Normalization

Craig Willse and I wrote an entry on Norms and Normalization for the Oxford Handbook on Feminist Theory.  Read it here!

First Edition of Normal Life Back in Print from Duke

Thanks to the hard work of many people at Duke University Press, Normal Life is back in print after the tragic closing of South End Press last summer. Look for a second edition of Normal Life with new writing about pinkwashing, the mainstreaming of trans politics, Chelsea Manning and more this fall from Duke. For now, enjoy the new greener color scheme on the cover of the first edition.

Three videos about ending violence

Please watch and share the three videos below that I made in collaboration with the Barnard Center for Research on Women and the Columbia Center for Gender and Sexuality Law. During our Fall 2013 conference, Queer Dreams and Nonprofit Blues, Hope Dector and I interviewed dozens of activists and scholars about the themes from the conference.  These are the first three videos from the collection we are making.  We hope that these bring the critiques so many of us have learned deeply from put out by INCITE!, CUAV, The Audre Lorde Project, FIERCE!, SRLP, the Young Women’s Empowerment Project and others to life in short videos that are easy to distribute and use in activist groups and classrooms.

More Laws = More Violence: Criminalization as a Failed Strategy for Anti-Violence Movements

After Nonprofitization: Reevaluating Anti-Violence Strategies

What are Alternatives to Nonprofitization and Criminalization for Anti-Violence Movements?

New Writing

Just updating this website and wanted to add some new writing.  Morgan Bassichis and I recently published an article called “Queer Politics and Anti-Blackness” in the new anthology, Queer Necropolitics, edited by Jin Haritaworn, Adi Kuntsman and Silvia Posocco. Craig Willse and I recently published a new essay called “Sex, Gender and War in the Age of Multicultural Imperialism,” in the inaugural issue of QED: A Journal of GLBTQ Worldmaking. The entire issue is themed around Chelsea Manning.

I also realized I never posted an essay that I published in an issue of Signs that was focused on the 20th anniversary of Kimberle Crenshaw’s initial work on the concept of “intersectionality.” My essay is called “Intersectional Resistance and Law Reform.” I also published a short essay in the new book, After Homosexual: The Legacies of Gay Liberation, edited by Carolyn D’Cruz and Mark Pendleton. The book reflects on the 40th anniversary of the publication of Dennis Altman’s Homosexual: Oppression and Liberation. My essay, “Too Queer to Be Square,” looks at how queer politics has conservatized in the last 40 years and what queer and trans activists are doing to resist that.

Finally, please don’t miss this exciting collection of essays about the 1983 film, Born in Flames, that Craig Willse and I edited for Women and Performance to mark the film’s 30th year. If you haven’t seen Born in Flames, please go watch it right now!

 

Feminist Valentine

Calvin Burnap and I made a Valentine for you all.
Download to share as PDF | as JPG | as individual JPG images
image of romance book cover with text reading 'The Romance Myth'
Image of Tom Cruise in Jerry McGuire - you complete me with text reading 'Romantic love is the most important relationship people can have, It's worth dying for, It completes you, Romantic love is EXCLUSIVE, If it's real, you won't find anyone else attractive or get crushes on anyone else.
Image from Twilight with text reading 'Obsession, jealousy and possession are natural and okay - it means he likes you, If it's real, it will last forever and should lead to marriage and happily ever after'
Image of Catch Him and Keep Him book cover with text reading 'Compete with others to gain romantic attention from desirable partners, Women must be sexually willing and adventurous to keep men, but if a woman enjoys sex or pursues it she's a slut, Women should give up everything for their kids and husbands or they are selfish'
Image of The Little Mermaid with text reading 'To get romance, women must be skinny, sexy, and able to perform every cultural fantasy about femininity and submission, yet also independent and confident'
Image of cis heterosexual couple in sunset with text reading 'What the romance myth feeds - dependency and resentment, cheating, and domestic violence, 30 percent of relationships, queer and straight alike, include domestic violence'
Image of Cosmo cover with text reading 'Research shows that 80 percent of women are unhappy with what they see when they look in the mirror, That makes sense because the current media ideal for women's bodies is achievable by less than 5 percent of women in terms of weight and size, Top models weigh 23 percent less than the average woman, Eating disorders are the third most common chronic illness among women, 81 percent of 10-yr-old girls in the US have dieted at least once, The single largest group of high school students considering or attempting suicide are girls who feel they are overweight'
Image of Simpsons with Marge cleaning while Homer sleeps and Bart plays with text reading 'Economic vulnerability, especially for women, One partner is coerced into unpaid domestic labor, and often can't get out of the relationship because of loss of job experience and earning potential'
Image of Kim Kardashian and Chris Humphries at their wedding with text reading 'Who Benefits from the Romance Myth - 38 billion dollar hair industry, 33 billion dollar diet industry, 40 billion dollar wedding industry, 24 billion dollar skincare industry, 18 billion dollar makeup industry, 15 billion dollar perfume industry, 13 billion dollar cosmetic surgery industry'
Image of ad for The Bachelor with text reading 'Men, of course, these dynamics are also true in lesbian and gay relationships, and not all men are in relationships that match these standards, but for the most part, men still do less dishes, change fewer diapers, and have more orgasms, All the bosses and corporations who get the benefit of unpaid domestic labor that makes it possible for paid laborers to come to work because their food, emotional, childcare, sexual, and other needs are met at home'
Image of Toto revealing the wizard in the film The Wizard of Oz with text reading 'Dispel the Romance Myth'

Videos and interview

Here is a recent interview on Society and Space–thanks to Natalie Oswin for asking very interesting questions!

I have some new video projects to share.  Here are four short movies that Reina Gossett and I made with Hope Dector from the Barnard Center for Research on Women. Please join us for a live online discussion of them on February 7.

Reina Gossett + Dean Spade (Part 1): Prison Abolition + Prefiguring the World You Want to Live In.

Reina Gossett + Dean Spade (Part 2): Practicing Prison Abolition Everyday

Reina Gossett + Dean Spade (Part 3): What About the Dangerous People?

Reina Gossett + Dean Spade (Part 4): Gun Control + Producing Dangerousness

Also, I am excited about two new videos out from Washington Incarceration Stops Here!

Please share these videos!

Reviews, news, interviews

Thanks to Dan Irving for a generous review of Normal Life in GLQ and to Rachel Levitt for this review of Normal Life in the inaugural issue of QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking.  I also want to share a new interview that just came out at the Youngist. And finally, thanks to Jordan Flaherty for this excellent Al Jazeera America story about police profiling of trans people. I can’t figure out how to embed the video here so I’m sharing this image of a Trans Day of Action poster that I love instead.

 

 

War and Marriage

This week a new article by me and Craig Willse went up on Organizing Upgrade that aims to capture some of the important left critiques of marriage that have been obscured by the pro-marriage messages of same-sex marriage advocacy.

Also, this interview about why the new campaign for military inclusion for trans people won’t benefit our movements went up on BuzzFeed.  As the President pushes us toward war in Syria, its especially important to build shared analysis about anti-war politics.  Military service inclusion campaigns invite us to be the new poster children of a purportedly fair and equal military, meanwhile the brutal violence of US militarism continues around the globe. I am hoping both these pieces will stimulate conversation and be useful among activists and in classrooms.

New video and slideshow

Earlier this year I was invited to share a manifesto at the Tate Museum in London as part of the Gender Talents show. I couldn’t make it, so I made a video with Basil Shadid to capture some of the themes of Normal Life.  The Barnard Center for Research on Women just released the video on their website.

Impossibility Now from BCRW Videos on Vimeo.

The images in it go by quickly so I also made an annotated slideshow that you can watch at your own pace and learn what the images depict. You can also watch the video on youtube to see a version with captions (press CC).

While I was gathering images for the film I got completely stumped a couple times about how to illustrate certain ideas.  Two artists came to my rescue and created powerful images that I needed.

This one is from Mickey Dehn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This one is from Talcott Broadhead.