The Trump/Pence regime is claiming that it is about to launch an initiative to push for decriminalization of homosexuality in the world's nations where being gay remains a crime, often punishable by imprisonment or death. Given (i) Trump's record of lying and not fulfilling promises, (ii) the regime's abysmal record on LGBT issues and Trump's promises to LGBT hating Christofascists and evangelicals, and (iii) Mike Pence's (and "Mother's") own open animus towards gays, it is hard to put much trust in the alleged initiative. Moreover, the effort appears targeted towards Iran in particular and may be a hard, if not impossible, sell to Trump's malignant buddies in Saudi Arabia, another nation where gays face the death penalty. Even further doubt stems from the seeming lack of organization in the effort which will need to encompass Africa, the Middle East and much of the Caribbean. A piece in Out Magazine makes the case why Trump's initiative may be a charade aimed at rallying European nations to act against Iran. Perhaps I am too cynical, but I doubt it, especially since many in Trump's evangelical base are deeply involved in whipping up anti-gay hatred in Africa and continue to push back against gay rights in the USA. Here are article highlights:
The Trump administration [allegedly] is set to launch a global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality in dozens of nations where anti-gay laws are still on the books, NBC News reported Monday. While on its surface, the move looks like an atypically benevolent decision by the Trump administration, the details of the campaign belie a different story. Rather than actually being about helping queer people around the world, the campaign looks more like another instance of the right using queer people as a pawn to amass power and enact its own agenda.It almost goes without saying but the Trump administration does not have a great human rights record at home when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues. Advocacy group GLAAD has kept a record of the many times the administration has harmed LGBTQ+ people, from its transgender military ban to the reversal of plans to include LGBTQ people on the 2020 US census. And prior to his ill-conceived plan to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Trump’s administration had an abysmal record on addressing the virus.
The most telling detail of NBC News’ report is that his plan centers homophobic violence in Iran, who NBC News calls the administration’s “top geopolitical foe.” The plan has reportedly been spearheaded by the U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, who is also the administration’s top-ranked gay official, in response to news that a young gay man was hanged in Iran recently. Grenell has had his eyes on Iran for some time and just a week ago, he was trying to get several European nations to pass sanctions on Iran, unrelated to the country’s stance on homosexuality, to no avail.
Homosexuality has been illegal in Iran since the theocratic 1979 Islamic Revolution. By at least one Guardian account, since the exit of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2013, enforcement of anti-gay laws has softened somewhat. Homosexuality, according to the writer, is an “open secret” and most queer people fear homophobic reaction from fellow citizens more than the authorities.
Grennell’s sudden interest in Iran’s anti-gay laws is strikingly similar to Trump’s rhetoric after the 2016 Pulse massacre in Orlando, Florida. After the deadly shooting, Trump used the 49 deaths as a way to galvanize support for an anti-Muslim agenda rather than find a way to support LGBTQ+ people. In pushing for immigration restrictions and a Muslim ban, Trump argued, he was the true pro-LGBTQ+ candidate. Rather than honor those who died, Trump used the tragedy as a way to stoke fear among the American people, and Grennell is taking similar actions with Iran — trying to reach an economic goal by painting the administration’s opponent as anti-gay.
“We know Trump is very focused on Iran and is looking for ways to demonize it in the public opinion and this is one area where you know the US and European countries see eye to eye on Iran,” Josh Lederman, who reported the original NBC News story, told Out in a phone interview. “So it makes for them to focus strategically on that rather than sanctions, where there’s been a big gulf between the U.S. and its allies.”
The truth is, this is part of an old colonialist handbook. In her essay, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” postcolonial theorist Gayatri Spivak coined the term “White men saving brown women from brown men” to describe the racist, paternalistic process by which colonizing powers would decry the way men in power treated oppressed groups, like women, to justify attacking them. Spivak was referencing the British colonial agenda in India. But Grennell’s attack might be a case of white men trying to save brown gay men from brown straight men, to the same end.
Lederman says that the sentiment on the ground is that the initiative is “very much a work in progress” and that they made the announcement while “there’s still a lot of strategy being worked out.” However, Lederman did confirm that as of right now, activists from countries in the regions being discussed — from Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean — are not currently being brought to the discussion table.
Though plans may or may not exist to invite local LGBTQ+ advocacy groups to the table, that they are not there at the plan’s inception is dangerous. Inviting European activists to solve problems in the Middle East, African or the Caribbean — which, once again, are not monolithic in the slightest — is a toothless effort, more PR than progressive.
Again, I'd like to be wrong, but I predict that I will not be wrong. As with rebuilding America's infrastructure and addressing the opiod crisis, Trump makes promises but never keeps them. Indeed, the only promises he has consistently kept has been to Christofascist extremist who want homosexuality re-criminalized right here in America, I cannot believe these folks support the alleged decriminalization plan, particularly in Africa where they have invested large sums to push anti-gay laws.