'Fags go home, you have no testosterone...' - chant heard at the Charlottesville Rally, 12th August 2017.
The past week has seen a great deal of discussion about the deeper significance of extremism - in the form of ultra-nationalism, white supremacy and neo-nazism - seen in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend. These discussions have honed in on the deleterious effects of toxic racism, anti-immigrant sentiment and the general hatefulness expressed by those participating in the rally. However, movements such as these also pose a formidable threat to LGBT rights. In all instances, the provision and protection of rights for the LGBT community have been clear barometers of evolving democracies, marking a move away from draconian laws and restrictions. Beyond this, however, remains the fact that the progress of LGBT communities is a crucial indicator (if not the most crucial indicator) of the progress of all oppressed people within any society. This is evidenced by the fact that even in advanced democracies there are still debates as to which toilets transgender people are allowed to use and whether or not gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to marry. Acts of atrocity are not only splashed across the pages of history, they remain an everyday occurrence in the lives of LGBT people around the globe.
The increased visibility and boldness of white supremacism in the US could be dismissed as a flash in the pan: a disgruntled group of individuals lashing out because of their desire to return to some supposed 'ideal' and because they're feeling oppressed; a group of spoiled white boys making a brouhaha because they're not getting their way and because society appears to have forgotten about their rightful place at the top of the hierarchy. However, there is something far more nefarious at the foundation of protests such as these, and it poses a great danger to the LGBT community in addition to other minority groups. The extremism expressed in the chant above is indicative of a deep homophobia, transphobia and general expression of hatred towards those who are not heterosexual, cisgender white males. It also threatens the effeminate or genderfluid male who is not deemed 'masculine' enough for the likes of the alt-right white supremacists. The use of the word 'faggot' is a clear act of violence to all queer people everyhwere: the LGBT community can, along with people of colour, people of various religions, immigrants, women and many others, be added to the list of victims of this harmful brand of rhetoric.
Movements such a neo-nazism and white supremacy are predicated on principles of exclusion, ideals of purity, righteousness and some imaginary moral higher ground. For these discourses to effectively mobilise support, there needs to be a strong ideological creation of in-groups and out-groups. In this instance, the in-group consists of the following qualities: White American Christian heterosexual cisgender male (or female as was evidenced by the rally). They are most likely working or middle class and identify as ultra right-wing and Republican. The out-groups are those who are seen as a threat on any level: people of colour, those of different religions (particularly Jews and Muslims), immigrants (or those perceived to be immigrants or 'un-American' regardless of where they were actually born), the entire LGBT community, liberals, Democrats and feminists (indeed, almost all women apart from those who gushingly support white supremacist males) to name but a few. I think you get the idea: essentially anyone who wasn't carrying a tiki torch in Charlottesville.
As the underlying ideals of the LGBT community are acceptance, tolerance, diversity, difference as well as the collective lessons learnt after decades of stuggling against oppression, it is quite easy to see the pernicious threat posed by White supremacy and neo-Nazism. It is no coincidence that scores of LGBT individuals lost their lives during the Holocaust. Their very identity was seen as unnatural and for this reason, they were rounded up, tortured, experimented upon and in many instances, murdered. It is also no coincidence that contemporary hate crimes in the US are more likely to be committed by white, religious fundamentalist, right-wingers.
At the Republican National Convention in July 2016, Peter Thiel, a the gay Silicone Valley billionaire delivered a speech in support of Trump's presidential campaign. In it, he said:
'Of course, every American has a unique identity. I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all, I am proud to be American.'
I wouldn't for a second assume that the diverse members of the LGBT community make up some kind of homogenous unit that all think the same and cherish the same political ideals. But the likes Peter Thiel, who lacked the foresight to see how his endorsement would go on to hurt LGBT people everywhere, should be ashamed. His 'pride', and his speech that night paved the way for the kind of hatred levelled at LGBT people in Charlottesville over the past weekend.
This is not a time to be unclear; this is not a time to condone hatred. At a precarious time in history, when LGBT communities are finally starting to see the light of day in some parts of the world but remain benighted in others, we cannot, we must not become complacent and we need to be unequivocal about our rights, our protections and our freedoms: a threat to one LGBT person anywhere is a threat to every LGBT person everywhere.
A chant in Charlottesville may well go on to have reverberations that will echo everywhere.