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(en) Britain, What’s wrong with ANGRY ?! - LGBTQ Bulletin of the Anarchist Federation #2

Date Sun, 04 Sep 2011 14:28:34 +0300


No Safe Haven ---- One year on since the highest court in the land declared that people fleeing homophobic and transphobic violence had a “fundamental right” to stay in the UK, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg claims the coalition has fulfilled its promise to stop the deportation of LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) people to countries where they face persecution. The picture he paints is of the UK as a safe haven to those of us suffering oppression in other less ‘enlightened’ states around the world. But the experience of activists and asylum seekers over the last 12 months tell a very different story - far from providing a sanctuary for LGBTQ asylum seekers, the British state continues to actively persecute them. ---- Last year a study showed that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) rejects 98% of claims from asylum seekers trying to escape persecution for their sexuality in their country of origin, and, if you ignore the politicians and listen to people actively involved in fighting the deportation of queer asylum seekers, there’s little reason to hope things have gotten any better.

LGBTQ migrants in this country still have to live in fear
of deportation to one of the 80 countries around
the world where not being straight is illegal.

The reality is that the UK has never been a safe
destination for LGBTQ migrants. The govern-
ment didn’t even acknowledge that people could
be granted asylum on the grounds of gender
or sexuality until 1999. Until recently the vast
majority of asylum seekers were deported any-
way, on the grounds that they could be ‘discreet’
in their country of origin. In effect, the British
government was working with homophobic re-
gimes in other countries to force asylum seekers
to stay in the closet or risk arrest, imprisonment,
torture and execution. This was the situation
up until July 2010, when a landmark ruling by
the Supreme Court granted two gay men, from
Cameroon and Iran, leave to stay in the UK
despite the Home Office rejecting their claim for
asylum on the grounds they could escape perse-
cution by hiding their sexuality.

Since then the UKBA, an organisation that
stands accused of institutional racism and
homophobia, has changed tactics: instead of
demanding asylum seekers lead a closeted exist-
ence to escape persecution, they now simply
deny that their sexual identity exists at all. One
glaring example of this practice is in the case of
Betty Tibakawa, who suffered vicious homopho-
bic attacks in Uganda and was outed as a lesbian
in a national newspaper, Red Pepper. The tab-
loid, which claims to be “committed to exposing
all lesbos”, has outed dozens of men and women
in Uganda, resulting in several arrests. (Homo-
sexuality is punishable by life in prison in Ugan-
da, thanks to laws passed while the country was
still a British colony. Ironically, many Ugandan
homophobes today claim that being gay is ‘un-
African’.)

There are countless other cases, and since no
statistics were kept on LGBTQ asylum claims
until July this year, there’s no way of knowing
just how many people share Betty Tibakawa’s
fate. But activists and charities say these prob-
lems are getting worse, not better, and with the
recent closure of the Immigration Advisory
Service (formerly the UK’s largest immigration
advice charity) due to government cuts, it has
now become much more difficult for migrants
to appeal against the rulings of the UKBA.
Combine this with other recent cutbacks, such
as to the respected Poppy Project, a charity that
helps victims of sex trafficking, and the recent
intensification of anti-immigration propaganda
from politicians and the media, from the left
and the right, and we can see all of this as a
part of a political attack on migrants, with LG-
BTQ migrants faring even worse.

As if to add insult to injury, the Home Office
was named the UK’s “most gay-friendly em-
ployer” of 2011 by Stonewall, who also invited
the conservative home secretary Theresa May
to speak at their annual workplace conference,
this year sponsored by Barclays. Quite how an
organisation responsible for deporting LGBTQ
people to countries where they may be tor-
tured or killed can qualify as ‘gay friendly’ is
anyone’s guess.

If this continuing attack on LGBTQ migrants
by the UKBA and the British state shows one
thing, it is that proclamations from politicians
and judges do very little to help people escape
from government-sponsored brutality in other
countries. Ultimately, only united self-organ-
ised action by migrants themselves, and their
allies, can hope to change this pattern of vic-
timisation, deportations and repression.

----------------------------------------

Queer?

Queer is a difficult word to define. Most simply, you could say it’s a catch all term for non-straight sexualities and genders - L, G, B, T, and all the spaces in between. But it’s more than that: queer implies a rejection of straight society, of the social rules and institutions that box people into limited sexual and gender identities. Most of all, it’s a refusal to accept what straight-society tells us is ‘normal’ (hetero-normativity). It’s a call to arms against both external oppressions and our own internalised repressions. It’s a refusal to be simply tolerated by this society, but instead demands complete freedom.

-----------------------------------------------------

Race, Nationalism and Homophobia

Everyone’s aware of the increase in anti-Muslim
sentiment in the mainstream media in the past
decade. The newspapers are full of stories that
imply that all Muslims would like to push val-
ues onto British culture which are contrary to
progress. While racist groups like the English
Defence League claim that they are the lone voices
of reason bravely speaking out against the main-
stream, the other political parties express what is
at best a watered down, tamer version of the same
fearmongering.

David Cameron is just one of the many politicians
who, with increasing regularity, uses gay rights as
an excuse to attack anyone who is not considered
British enough. While his personal voting record
on LGBT issues leaves a lot to be desired, and he
opposed scrapping Section 28 right until the end, he
feigns concern for us when looking for reasons to
criticise ethnic minorities. While he usually claims
that Britain is a Christian country when opposing
advancements for LGBT people, he will happily
claim Britain’s values are secular and argues for a
“muscular liberalism” in his controversial speech
criticising multiculturalism. He, of course, is not the
only one. Many politicians, not to mention journal-
ists, are quick to pay lip service to gay rights and
women’s rights when stirring up hatred for Muslims
and other minorities when they normally wouldn’t
give us a second thought.

This cynical attempt to confuse the usual game of
spot the bigot is typical of a divide and rule tactic.
We are understandably scared of potential homo-
phobia and quick to accept an easily recognisable
enemy when a more nuanced understanding of
people’s identities could complicate our attempts to
try and feel safe on a day-to-day basis. Expressions,
by those in power, that create an “us” and “them”
are welcomed by many LGBT people relieved to be
included in an “us” and not, as usual, considered
a “them” as we already face social exclusion in so
many ways. Portraying certain people as backwards
and intolerant has the convenient affect for the rul-
ing class of drumming up patriotism by implying
that white British culture isn’t homophobic. Straight
British people can pat themselves on the back and
British LGBT people can just assume that every
white homophobe they’ve met was an exception and
every non-white homophobe they’ve met must be
representative. This oversimplification fails to take
into account all the white, British homophobes we
meet on a day-to-day basis. As usual it strengthens
the misconception that there is only one version of
British culture, that is apparently the dominant one,
and which is apparently beyond reproach. It also
renders gay Muslims, their cultures and their organ-
isations invisible, as well as ignoring all the straight
Muslims who are showing solidarity and fighting for
LGBT acceptance.

If we are to create links between individuals fac-
ing different forms of oppression, not to mention
facing multiple forms of oppression, we must speak
out against the racism promoted on our behalf. At-
tempts to cosy up to those in power will ultimately
fail as they can only act with their own interests
in mind. The only thing that will bring about real
change is solidarity between ordinary people. We
have a responsibility to openly reject this attack on a
section of our class as it doesn’t further our interests
in any way. We refuse to be used as a tool by the rul-
ing class for aims that only benefit them.

---------------------------------------------------

Queers Against Cuts

Following a callout issued by Queer Resistance (a
newly formed “collective of queers and allies across
the UK coming together to fight the cuts”) for the
March 26th anti-cuts demonstration, a hundreds-
strong pink-and-black bloc assembled on the TUC
demo. This was a significant event - marking the first
visible queer intervention in the anti-cuts movement.
But what do public spending cuts have to do with
queers? And what role does the queer and LGBT
movement have in the anti-cuts struggle?

Part of the answer to this question is straightfor-
ward: many of the proposed cuts will dispropor-
tionately effect us. Tuition fee rises have the most
impact on those students without support from their
parents, including many queer people who may be
estranged from their families. Cutbacks in healthcare
spending will lead to us losing sexual health and HIV
services. And the youth, counselling and support
groups many of us depend on are also set to be axed.
So of course queer people are up in arms.
English Defence League Rally London 24th October 2010
Rally, London.

But that’s far from the only reason for a queer pres-
ence on an anti-austerity demonstration. The cuts
are, fundamentally, an attack on working class people
and communities. They will disproportionately hurt
the most disenfranchised and economically vulner-
able sections of society, while protecting and enrich-
ing the wealthy few on whose orders these cuts are
being carried out. This kind of persecution is some-
thing every queer person has experience of on some
level, even if they don’t realise it.
So beating the cuts is more than just a queer issue.
But as queer people we are used to our communi-
ties coming under attack, even in times of relative
economic prosperity. In the 1980s, Lesbian and Gay
Miners Support Groups raised thousands of pounds
to support the miners strike - then, as now, working
class people were fighting to defend themselves and
their communities.
In 2011 the lines of attack are a shade more subtle
than in 1984, but the fight is substantially the same.
While LGBT communities are increasingly hol-
lowed out by commercialism, so other communities
are also being sold off piece by piece in the name of
economic progress and the fabled big society. In both
cases we, as members of those communities, end up
more isolated, vulnerable, and disconnected from the
bonds of solidarity that we rely on for support and
for survival. It’s the urgent need to defend ourselves
against this process that leads us to march, as queers
and as workers, against the cuts and against all forms
of oppression.

----------------------------------------------

Contact us
Website: www.afed.org.uk
Email: info@afed.org.uk
BM ANARFED , London WC1N 3XX

------------------------------------------

About us: Anarchist Federation

The Anarchist Federation is a growing organisation of anarchist commu-
nists from across the British Isles who aim to abolish capitalism and all
oppression to create a free and equal world, without leaders and bosses,
and without wars or environmental destruction. Day to day, our individual
members and local groups are politically active in many workplace and
community struggles. We coordinate worldwide through the International
of Anarchist Federations. As well as encouraging new members, we wel-
come ideas for joint activities with other groups.
_________________________________________
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