I am a Palestinian, I am gay

Fahad Ali on discussions of queer rights in the Middle East.

Recently, a popular anti-homophobia Facebook page shared a post attacking the Palestinian Authority’s treatment of gays. This was less of an indictment on the status of LGBTIQ rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, and more of a blatant attack on the “backwards” nature of Palestinian society. One of the comments drew attention to the fact that “the Palestinians” were twisted to call for Lady Gaga to cancel her Israel tour in line with the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions measures to be applied to Israel until it complies with international law.

How dare could the Palestinians call for such a thing? It was unquestionably a sign of their brutish nature. Since Gaga’s fans (who are here being equated with all queers for some reason) were subject to such harsh persecution in the Middle East, the Palestinians had committed an even greater affront. Those poor, gay Arabs! If only they could be baptized in the sounds of ‘Born This Way’ they might finally throw off their desert rags and join civilization.

There’s something Western discussions of queer rights in the Middle East miss without fail: the voices of queers in the region. White saviourism, of course, cannot allow these voices their own agency. How can you save something that can so clearly save itself? We are only legitimate targets if we are cut down, helpless, and voiceless.

Where do I fit? I’m gay, and I’m also a proud Palestinian. There is no self-loathing in me for reasons of my sexuality, nor is there any for reasons of my heritage. I don’t fit into the saviourist narrative. I am the truth in my very being, as Frantz Fanon might have said. For this reason, I am dangerous.

We do not need to come out, as you do. We don’t need rainbow flags – we will make our own banners out of the pigment and ink of our own world. We will not be told how to seek our own liberation: it is our fight, not your blood sport.

I will not be told that I am any different from my people. I will not be told that the bounties of Zion are within our reach, when in truth they lie beyond a 25 foot wall of concrete; a manifestation of apartheid. I will not have my struggles stolen and made into a breastplate for Goliath.

Remember the cleansing of the land. Remember the refugees, numbering some three-quarters of a million. Remember the blood split in the Holy Land. We call it ‘Nakba’. Catastrophe. Remember too why we have been made to live like this: it was greed that stole our land and imperialism that codified hate.

I am an Arab, I am a Palestinian, I am gay. My gay haven is not a glittered parade in Tel Aviv. It is a liberated Palestine.