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28 June 2023

State oppression of queer people

Pride 2023

The State attempts to sanitise its enduring colonial violence through its appropriation of Pride. In this blog, we will discuss the multiple ways that the UK Government enacts oppression against queer people.

“Homonationalism” revisited: division

At MRN, we have spoken before about homonationalism. Homonationalism is a concept proposed by Jasbir Puar which refers to the ways that “palatable” and “respectable” LGBTQ+ people and movements are accepted into the nation, in order to legitimise racist political agendas. The function of homonationalism is to ensure migratised and racialised communities end up being pitted against queer communities, which serves as a distraction from the real systems and forces that oppress queer people around the world. 

Homonationalism is the weaponisation of LGBTQ+ rights for the purpose of stoking hostility against migratised and racialised communities. Migratised and racialised groups are demonised and labelled as “homophobic”, in order to justify subjecting them to border violence, surveillance and hostile foreign policies. 

Homonationalism is not the “be all and end all” of the State’s cruelty: it is also connected to other forms of violence against queer communities.

“Necropolitics”: death + distraction

The concept of necropolitics was proposed by Achille Mbembe. It explains how the State is primarily and deliberately concerned with bringing about both gradual or instant death for certain populations that it deems to be “disposable”, such as racialised, migratised and homeless people. It brings about instant death through police and extrajudicial killings, whilst it brings about gradual death through withholding of basic necessities. It distracts from both of these things through displays of wealth and prosperity.

We can see necropolitics in action through looking at the prosperity of European nations. The wealth of modern Europe disguises, but is also fundamentally dependent on, the centuries of colonial racial violence against, and dispossession of, the Black and Brown “Other”.

“Queer necropolitics”: queer death + distraction

The State’s protection and celebration of privileged LGBTQ+ people both depends on and obscures the active erasure, oppression and debilitation of racialised, migratised and working class queer people. This is what Jin Haritaworn, Adi Kuntsman, and Silvia Posocco call queer necropolitics

Those LGBTQ+ people privileged enough to be afforded some protection by the State are themselves complicit in militarism and imperialism: mainstream state-sanctioned LGBTQ+ movements are made up of the most privileged in the community, and will often perpetuate homonationalistic rhetoric. Essentially, the idea that the West must protect itself from the “homophobic” East, and that it must “save” queer people living in the Global South. 

Queer necropolitics can explain the ways that the British military and Metropolitan Police, both arms of the State, present themselves as “diverse” queer-friendly entities whose servicemen have attended London Pride. At the same time, they target racialised and migratised queer people at home, at the border, and abroad. The Home Office also attempts to present a “gay-friendly” facade and to pinkwash its cruelty, whilst continuing to enact detention, deportation and brutality against migratised and racialised communities.

The “politics of rightful killing”: neglect

While queer necropolitics exposes how racialised and migratised queer people are deemed as unworthy of protection and therefore subjected to oppression, the “politics of rightful killing” shows a different kind of oppression being enacted against queer people. Once the State has used queer people for its political agenda, it stops protecting them, and then neglects them to the point of death. This is what Sima Shakhsari calls the “politics of rightful killing”.

We know that Europe weaponises the deaths of queer people in the Global South by framing such deaths as the result of “queerphobic” “barbaric” cultures. In doing so, Europe frames itself as the opposite: as a queer-friendly haven of freedom and rights, and uses this contrast to justify White saviourism, homonationalist civilising missions and imperial wars, which all lead to displacement. The politics of rightful killing shows us how queer asylum seekers and refugees from the Global South are conditionally deemed worthy of protection (in order to justify Western intervention in their home country), but once these sanctuary seekers reach Europe, they have served their purpose, and so the protection afforded to them is revoked, and they are neglected to the point of death. 

by Anastasia Gavalas