This month, Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Lindsey Graham gave what appeared to be an encouraging nod to Caitlyn Jenner, claiming she was "welcome in his party." Make no mistake: Graham still believes in all his "family" values. So why extend a hand to the new Ms. Jenner?
"In the eyes of radical Islam, they hate you as much as they hate Caitlyn Jenner," the South Carolina statesman told CNN. "They hate us all because we won't agree to their view of religion. So America, we are all in this together."
So Graham believes LGBTs should hate Muslims just as much as they supposedly hate us. I don't buy it.
I am sure that the race for the Republican nomination will be a raucous ride of easily quotable and GIF-able nonsense. But for me, this quote is one of the most dangerous statements a candidate can make. I have always believed that the LGBT community was immune to the elementary logical toy that is "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." Now, with Republicans starting the trend this early, I start to worry.
The political alliance between far-right and sexual minorities is mind-boggling, but nothing new. Europe is the main exporter of this philosophy, where politicians from France to The Netherlands have leveraged Western fears of Muslim immigrants into a cruelly effective tool of inclusion. This fear has LGBT protesters crossing picket lines to stand shoulder to shoulder with the very people who had been screaming to keep them second-class citizens. Now, it seems, the same thinking has finally made its way through at least some ranks of the American Republican party--though probably much earlier than many of us suspect.
In Terrorist Assemblages, Professor Jasbir Puar introduced us to the term "homonationalism," which she described as the "patriotic inclusion of gay and queer subjects." The 2007 book challenged the queer community to beware how misrepresentations of Muslim culture could be used to co-opt their political support for xenophobic far-right policies. The focus was mostly on post-9/11 attitudes and statements, but with the rise of ISIS, easing tensions with Iran, and diplomatic and economic pressures over U.S.-Middle East oil competition, it seems the political field might be finally ripe for this dangerous intersection of blind patriotism and expanding LGBT rights to take root.
Do not misunderstand: I am no apologist for Middle Eastern countries and their treatment of the LGBT community. But I am not willing to stand with men and women who would invalidate my love, take away my civil rights and basically eliminate my chances at my personal pursuit of happiness just because they want me to carry a torch in the proverbial witch hunt against "radical Islam"--something Republicans and Americans in general seem too quick to describe without the adjective.
Graham's right--we are all in this together. What "this" is, however, is not an apocalyptic struggle of Western progressives against Eastern traditionalists. It is the centuries-old battle against our worse demons, our urge to secure our own happiness at the expense of another's. The LGBT community has a stake in this political fight, but it should be on our own terms--not someone else's.
I feel about as safe traveling to Dubai as I would traveling to Texas or Missouri or any other state in our great, progressive union that has systematically oppressed and denied the rights of whole communities as recently as this year. There is a human face to every struggle and a human story to every community. Let those stories speak for us and our fears, not the loudest voice at the microphone.