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Friday, September 24, 2010

Leslie Feinberg's Speech at the Al-Fatiha Retreat (2002)

Leslie Feinberg gave this speech at the Al-Fatiha international retreat in Washington DC in the spring of 2002. The community event featured Joo-Hyun Kang of the Audre Lorde Project and Surina Khan of the International Gay and Lesbian Task Force as well. The event's theme was "Creating an International Progressive LGBT Movement."
Thank you for honoring me with an invitation to stand with you here at this critical moment in our shared histories, our interwoven struggles for liberation.
I am lesbian and transgender. I am a working-class, secular Jewish socialist. So let my first words be these: I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Arab and Muslim people in this room and around the world in the battle against the real axis of evil: the White House, Pentagon and Justice Department. And with every breath and every sinew, I fight for Palestinian liberation.
I am aware that many of you are engaged in struggles within your religion, culture and nations. But you will hear no criticism of Islam from me. My enemy wraps itself in red, white & blue and holds the bible aloft to sanctify its inquisition against any peoples who block its path to profitable hegemony. To be a principled ally I work to get that world terrorist, based here in D.C., off your backs by building a powerful, diverse movement here--in the belly of the beast--in solidarity with those being crushed by its weight, militarily and economically. Since Sept. 11, the most conservative wing of the l/g/b/t communities has argued that it's time to put aside our protest demands, mantle ourselves in patriotism and get behind Bush's "endless war." To do otherwise, they argue, is to become politically isolated.
I do not believe that our sexuality, gender expression and bodies can be liberated without making a ferocious mobilization against imperialist war and racism an integral part of our struggle. The degree to which any movement is progressive or revolutionary is measured by its independence from the rulers of the society it seeks to change. Are war and racism "gay" or "trans" issues? That's an old argument in our movement. And how it has been answered has signaled whether the movement collapsed or gained new vitality.
When leaders of the German Homosexual Emancipation Movement, backed their own rulers in WWI-a bloody inter-imperialist war it derailed the movement. And it wrecked the momentum of the German workers' movement. And why? Because it emboldens the most conservative and reactionary currents; demoralizes and isolates the most progressive, left-wing elements. And the movement gives its proxy to the very reactionary rulers who oppress its ranks. It's no longer an independent voice for the grievances and aspirations of the oppressed.
But decades later in the U.S., after the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion was sparked by police repression, the left wing of the gay liberation movement fought against the domestic counter-intelligence programs of the FBI and CIA. We were part of the battles to defend the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords, the Chicano and American Indian Movement. And we stood up with the Vietnamese people against the Pentagon war. That didn't isolate us. Our solidarity won significant support for the multi-national struggle for gay liberation. And that unity came swiftest and strongest from the more revolutionary and militant sectors of the oppressed.
Today the secret disappearing of Muslims and Arabs in this country is being touted by the Bush/Ashcroft terrorists as a "security measure." But all of our safety and well being is threatened by racist profiling and illegal round-ups elevated to national policy.
At the same time, the spin-doctors of war are making every appeal to the progressive movements to back the imperial juggernaut as though this is a defensive and progressive war. They said part of the reason they are bombing Afghanistan is to "liberate" women there. Then why did they earlier arm and back the counter-revolutionary forces that overturned women's rights there?
They say we should fight against nations whose religion does not welcome l/g/b/t people. Yet they have no problem propping up anti-gay regimes that do their bidding. And when they talk about anti-gay religion, they don't mean the church that is mired in child abuse revelations and blaming gay people for it. Or the Christian right wing that labels us "child molesters" to block our rights. Our fight is here! Matthew Shepard was lashed to a fence and left to die in the cold night in this country. And countless other queer-identified people of all nationalities have been lynched in the U.S. Our love and identities are still illegal in states from coast to coast. We are being bashed and denied domestic partner benefits and are victims of police brutality and the "don't ask, don't tell" witch hunts right here in the U.S.A.
Now comes another attempt to derail the movement. As elections loom, the Democrats ask us to line up with them to demand "What did Bush know before Sept. 11?" Their conclusion is to ask us to strengthen the very repressive apparatus we'd like to dismantle. And it obscures the real scandal, the real conspiracy-that the Bush administration wanted to carry out its massive war drive and knew its brutal policies would sooner or later spark the incident that would pave the way for war. It was a conspiracy to make war. Hasn't the Pentagon already leaked its "secret" that it's planning to invade Iraq-a country that has already lost 1.5 million people to U.S.-led economic sanctions? Yet won't the brass find some "provocation" to justify it?
Finally, the U.S. claims that it pumps billions of dollars into the Israeli military each year in order to provide a safe haven for Jewish people. What a vicious lie! El Nakbe, the terrible catastrophe of using terror to slaughter Palestinians and drive millions into a forced Diaspora, was established to create a well-armed colonial outpost for big oil in the Middle East. This reactionary, apartheid crime against the people of Palestine is carried out in the name of all Jewish people in order to pit Jews against Arabs. The key to righting this historic wrong is to fight Zionism and its U.S. master. The Palestinian liberation movement is an anti-colonial movement. And I work to be counted as one of the best fighters for Palestinian liberation.
I am proud that scores of young Israelis refusing induction, reservists putting down their U.S.-made machine guns, Jewish people from around the world, particularly the U.S., traveling to the re-occupied territories to defend Palestinians with their lives. We are swelling the ranks of pro-Palestinian protests in this country and were an integral part of the historic April 20 demonstrations in Washington and San Francisco that brought out more than 135,000 combined. And we will be part of the emergency anti-war conference in New York City on June 1.
Many of these Jewish activists are also lesbian, gay, bi and trans. And l/g/b/t people have played a key role in the anti-capitalist movement against globalization, the struggles against sweatshop and prison labor, against the racist death penalty, to free Mumia and Leonard Peltier and Rabih Haddad, for reproductive rights, for money for AIDS and health care and education, not for war. Now we need to unite the power of those movements to demonstrate that monopoly capitalism is the economic generator of imperialist war.
Wherever racism rears its ugly head, our movement must be there. And our movement has to be ready to join the fight against a new Pentagon offensive-from Iraq to Colombia to the Philippines. If a safe, secure world is what we want, then we have to demand U.S. imperialism out of the Middle East and Asia, U.S. imperialism out of Latin America and Africa. And many of us will not stop battling until we drive U.S. imperialism out of North America!
Free, free Palestine!
Leslie Feinberg is a renowned transgender rights, labor rights, and anti-war activist. She is the author of several books including Trans Liberation.

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