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They'll dump the corpse and clean the knives. It's over, they'll think. But it won't be.

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An unidentified African woman hangs a poster against racism in Durban, South Africa, Aug. 28, 2001. Jose Goitia

Gay Issues Nixed At UN Racism and Intolerance Conference

by Kelly Cogswell

AUGUST 30, 2001. Homophobia is the ghost at Macbeth's feast in Durban, South Africa. Every mention of queers is in danger of being knifed from the agenda of the UN-sponsored World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which begins there tomorrow.

As at the recent UN Conference on AIDS, the queer issue assassin is the Vatican- conservative Muslim bloc, now supported by the United States.

They'll dump the corpse and clean the knives. It's over, they'll think. But it won't be. We'll be there as shadows, under each and every agenda item. After all, there are as many lesbian, gay, bi, and transgendered people in this world among "racial" and "cultural" minorities as among the majorities.

We are immigrants, too. In fact, we are a sizable demographic chunk of many immigrant communities in developed countries. Exiled, often isolated from the supposedly sheltering network of immigrants who continue to abuse us as they did in the home country, we become intimately acquainted with the xenophobia and racism of the dominant culture, as well as that of the local gay community. Lesbians everywhere face, in addition, whatever misogyny is on offer.

But increasingly, the biggest threat to our well-being is our gayness. From Southern Africa to Central America, lgbt's more and more find themselves singled out as enemies, not by the usual homophobic family members or neighbors, but by presidents, lawmakers, powerful political factions, and governing clergy.

In Egypt, the government is trying 52 men for "contempt of heavenly religions" for simply sitting in a gay-friendly bar, while the newspapers discussing the "homosexual question" ask only whether homosexuals should be given a chance to repent before they are burnt or stoned.

In Namibia, President Sam Nujoma makes regular anti-gay attacks blaming "foreign influences" for homosexuality there. He declares queers enemies of the state, and has threatened to arrest and deport us. Police officers have been urged to "eliminate" homosexuality.

In Guatemala, Venezuela, Argentina and other points in Latin America, police consistently engage in "gender" profiling, singling out transvestite sex workers for harassment, and ignoring transvestite murders. In El Salvador lgbt activists are on hit lists.

In the United States, where the gay community is increasingly strong, each step forward brings a backlash. Congress passed the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act. Local civil rights laws for queers are passed then come under attack, or are rolled back. Anti-gay violence is as common as ever.

In Yugoslavia, where anti-gay statements are de rigueur for right-wingers, leaders of several ultra-nationalist parties actively encouraged their supporters to disrupt Belgrade's Gay Pride celebration in June. A mob of several hundred attacked the participants while cops stood by and did nothing until they themselves were attacked.

While some of the anti-gay violence and oppression is spontaneous, most gay pogroms are cynically engineered by politicians eager to distract their constituents from crumbling economies, corruption, or new power-shifts in multi-ethnic societies. Singled out by international silence, queers have become the last globally acceptable scapegoats.

Nobody does anything when Nujoma and his neighbor, Mugabe, bond over queer-baiting, or when the snickering heads of cathedrals and mosques throw us to the dogs.

If the trend keeps up, queers face escalating state-sanctioned discrimination and violence. Call it the law and the lash. And the international community in Durban will be haunted by it.

For Homophobia at the UN Special Session on AIDS.

Related links:

The World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance Durban, South Africa, August 31 - September 7, 2001.

While gay issues aren't on the agenda, there will be Gay Participation at the World Conference Against Racism, as there was at the UN AIDS summit.

For the IGLHRC paper "The Intersection of Race and Sexuality" to be presented at the WCAR.

For Complete Coverage Gay Mundo

For Complete Coverage Race/Class

Gay Mundo
gay pride The Gully's ultragay coverage. Includes musings on activism, info on queers from Taiwan to Puerto Rico and more.

Color and Cash
race and classThe Gully's complete coverage of race and class, two intertwined pillars of American society. Includes their double-barrelled global impact.

Africa Emerging
News, opinion, politics from Algeria to Zimbabwe. Including homophobia in Southern Africa and the colonial legacy everywhere.

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