Trump and Homonationalism
On June 12, 2016, a gunman opened fire on Pulse Nightclub killing 49 individuals of different genders, sexualities, ethnicities, and faiths (Aftab, 2017). President Trump condemned the killing of trans and queer folks when he stated that “49 wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist. This time the terrorist targeted the LGBTQ community. No good, and we’re gonna stop it. As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a foreign hateful ideology” (Aftab, 2017). However, many quickly pointed out the irony in this statement since both Muslim and LGBTQ individuals have been the targets of Trump’s hateful ignorance and discriminatory rhetoric. Moreover, Trump seems oblivious to the fact that people can be both Muslim and LGBTQ. In addition, both communities have been negatively impacted by policies passed by the Trump administration.
Trump’s remarks towards the LGBTQ community, but specifically white and cisgender LGBTQ folks, are a perfect example of Jasbir Puar’s theory of “homonationalism” (2017). This theory explains the ways in which some LGBT and queer people are “recruited into racist and imperialist projects” (Trevenen & Degagne, 2010, pg. 100). In queer theory, Israel and its treatment of the Palestinian is the example that is often used to illustrate the theory. Israel regularly boasts about and uses its “gay rights” as a strategy to present itself on the world stage as more inclusive, modern, and diverse than the Arab countries that border it. In 1967, due to continued conflict over a small piece of land called the West Bank, Israel took control of the West Bank and allowed Jews to settle in the area; many Palestinians consider the land to be illegally occupied (Lieberman et al., 2017). In addition to the continued military occupation of and promotion of illegal settlements in the West Bank, Israel is responsible for the persistent and unlawful killing, torture, imprisonment, and subjugation of Palestinians (Lieberman et al., 2017). As a result, in order to avoid international criticism, Israel’s markets itself as a gay tourist destination by flaunting its gay rights, such as gays in the military, and positing itself as “modern” when compared to other surrounding Middle Eastern countries.
Jasbir Puar’s concept of “homonationalism” (2007) theorizes that homonormative nationalism creates “acceptance and precarious protection of some LGBTQ people” (Morgensen, 2010, pg. 107). Homonationalism is a structure of neoliberalism and a process whereby queer subjects are implicated and included in the “ascendancy of whiteness, imperialism, and secularism” (Lenon & Dryden, 2010, pg. 6). Certain queer people who are white, cisgendered, and able-bodied “belong” and are included into (some) Western nation-states and given their liberal human rights. Subsequently, nation-states can use queer rights as a way to portray themselves as “modern” and “inclusive,” as well as, use ideal queer subjects to distract from the abuses of Other queered people. For instance, Trump’s “concern” for queer folks at the Pulse nightclub, but not queer Muslims who his discriminatory policies affect. As a result, queerness becomes a “process of racialization [that] informs the very distinctions between life and death, wealth and poverty, health and illness, living and dying” (Puar in Trevenen & Degagne, 2010, pg. 100). Queer subjects who are “folded into life” and given their rights are “interpellated by or aspire to the tight inclusiveness of homonormativity offered in this moment” (Puar, 2007, pg. 10). Queer Muslims are not “folded into life” rather they are marked as “sexually pathological and deviant populations targeted for death” (Puar, 2007, pg. 24). Notably, in September 2017, the Trump administration made an announcement that would effect both Muslims and LGBTQ folks: they announced the end of DACA which protects almost 800,000 undocumented immigrants from detention and deportation (Cahill et al. pg. 11, 2018). Amongst these 800,000 young undocumented immigrants, it is estimated that almost 36,000 are members of the LGBTQ community (Cahill et al. pg. 11, 2018). Furthermore, in January 2017, President Donald Trump issued an executive order to indefinitely ban Syrian refugees from entering the United States which includes LGBTQ refugees fleeing the nation in fear of persecution (Merica, 2017). As the Trump administration has enforced policies which affect both the LGBTQ and Muslim communities, it is evident that Trump does not actually care about protecting LGBTQ individuals.
Muslims have been the target of numerous policies that effect their day-to-day lives and create a precarious position for them in American society. One week into his presidency in January 2017, Trump announced his intentions to fulfill his campaign promises by putting into effect a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” (Romero, pg. 39, 2018). As a result, almost 700 travellers were detained and 60,000 visas were “provisionally revoked” (Romero, pg. 39, 2018). The first version and subsequent versions of the ban were blocked and challenged by the federal courts, but the third version has remained indefinitely (“Understanding Trump’s Muslim Bans,” 2019). This ban has separated families, as well as, endangered Muslim individuals who are already vulnerable to racism, violence, and discrimination.
Muslims are not the only group that has been targeted by the Trump administration. In November 2017, just minutes after Donald Trump was sworn into office, any mention of the LGBTQ community was erased from White House, Department of State, and Department of Labor websites (O’Hara, 2017). In February 2017, the draft of an executive order circulated; this executive order would “free companies and individuals that do business with the federal government to decline to work with gay and lesbian couples on adoptions and other services” (Klein, 2017). In January 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services created a new department that protects healthcare workers who refuse to treat LGBTQ patients or those living with HIV by claiming moral objections or religious freedom (“HHS Announces New Conscience and Religious Freedom Division,” 2018). In May 2018, the Trump Administration removed protections for incarcerated transgender people which were created to mitigate their exposure to sexual assault and abuse while imprisoned (Holden, 2018). In October 2018, the State Department announced a policy which stated that the same-sex, unmarried partners of United Nations employees will no longer be granted visas to stay in the U.S. (Barnes, 2018). So far in 2019, the Housing and Urban Development Secretary has refused to reinstate housing protection guidelines that would prevent LGBTQ Americans from experiencing discrimination while attaining a home, which include access to homeless shelters (Ogles, 2019); as well as, President Trump and his administration have implemented an executive order which bans transgender Americans from openly serving in the armed forces (Holden, 2019).
With this in mind, it is obvious that Trump does not care about the safety or well-being of queer individuals. He used this tragedy as an opportunity to speaks to the “cultural moment of national inclusion for homosexuality,” but only for the “right” kind of homosexuality (queerness), that is, queer subjects that are white and cisgendered (Morgensen, 2010, pg. 106). He feigns concern and uses his “power to protect” in order to advance his policies which are homophobic, xenophobic, transphobic, and racist (Aftab, 2017). Hopefully, Trump’s policies will enrage, inspire, and bring together queer people from all walks of life in order to combat his hatred and ignorance.
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