Note: an update appears at the bottom of this piece.
Ok, we’ve all seen this movie before by now. Every queer in Toronto has seen the prequel, the sequel, and everything in between. It gets kinda old at a certain point, but nevertheless, let me make a brief recap:
Every year since 2009, Toronto local activist organization Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) has signaled its intention to march in the Toronto Pride Parade, and every year pro-Israel lobby organizations and their allies have, by one means or another, attempted to have them kicked out (and consistently failed at that).
Indeed, Israel lobby groups and even their handful of queer allies have gone so far as attempting to defund Pride Toronto, over nothing more than one queer group that is critical of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians. And this is even after their primary talking point was completely discredited with last year’s report from the city manager on the situation.
This has all culminated with Pride’s recent institution of the so-called Dispute Resolution Process (DRP), which is aimed at resolving potential disputes between different Pride Participants— or even non-participants, apparently. Indeed, it was just on the eve of Pride weekend that we found that Canadian Israel lobby group B’nai Brith failed yet again in its attempts to have QuAIA ejected from the parade, this time through the DRP. (The full detailed result of the arbitration can be found here.)
But it turns out the other side can apparently lodge an unlimited number of complaints. Hence only days after the previous ruling was released, we received a new complaint from an individual I’ve previously never heard of— one Joe Clark. And in a word, Joe’s complaint (which has been posted online here) against QuAIA (and Pride, and the DRP itself, and, well, everybody) is hilarious Not necessarily hilarious in a good way, mind you, but hilarious nonetheless As a QuAIA member, I’ll take a moment to present a few of the highlights below.
Joe spends a lot of effort in his DRP submission whining about the formal process up to this moment, which I won’t bother commenting on due to the fact that I’m not that bored. However, it’s when he turns his guns on Pride that we see Joe’s true disposition come out to play. For example, Joe claims that QuAIA’s argument that all queer groups should be able to participate in the Parade is bunk because, he says, “Pride already bans participants.” Joe claims:
Another aspect of its own festival that Pride Toronto fails to understand is the plain fact that it already bans participants. In practice, dykes and transgenders have two or three parades and marches they can attend, while gay men (real gay men, not claimed gay FTMs) have exactly one parade available to them, the culminating Pride Parade. [emphasis added]
Wow… cissexism much? This is the guy who wants to tell me what I can and cannot say as a queer trans woman at the Pride Parade? Or for that matter, even at the trans march?
Joe also seems to fundamentally misunderstand the rules behind the trans march when he states
The Trans March is almost completely undocumented but discourages what transgenders insist on labelling as “cis” persons, including men.
In fact there is no requirement that you have to be trans to participate. The only requirement for participation in the trans march is that you have to support trans people’s rights and issues— now, that might result in Joe being discouraged from participating after all, but it’s not because he’s a cis man (sorry, Joe— a “cis” man— ha!).
After a lot more of this kind of blather, Joe then goes onto make a truly remarkable claim, which appears under the impressively stupid subheading “‘Palestinian queers’ are an imaginary group at best whose actual enemies are their own government and Islam” Joe proceeds with his Islamophobic rant:
QuAIA would have us believe its nexus with gay-pride parades somehow revolves around Palestinian “queers,” though QuAIA also insists it defends all Palestinians subjugated by Israeli “apartheid.” Palestinian queers are a hypothetical group. Even if more than one gay or lesbian Palestinian person in the disputed territories exists, in no way could they be considered a “community.” And in no respect would these persons accept Western conceptions of “queers.” Even the legitimately constituted gay and lesbian community that gave birth to Pride would surely be repugnant to Palestinian “queers.” These people, if they exist, may be homosexual, but they are not part of QuAIA’s imagined community.
In any event, the true enemies of Palestinian queers are not a fabled apartheid by Israel but two intertwined forces – their own religion, Islam (a virulently anti-gay ideology whose adherents elsewhere execute gays in the public square), and their own Islamic government. That’s why Pride Toronto can and does welcome not one but two Iranian refugee and defence groups: Because Islam kills gays.
First of all, obviously Palestinian queers exist (I know several of them personally in fact), and there are Palestinian queer groups who are actively engaged in queer liberation work (as well as Palestinian liberation work) in Israel/Palestine today. And the idea that only Western conceptions of queerdom have legitimacy is disgustingly bigoted and Euro-centric.
Further, what’s truly “repugnant” here is the idea of singling out Islam for condemnation when it comes to homophobia, which is transparently Islamophobic (and anyways I know plenty of gay Muslims who take great pride in their spirituality). And it’s ironic that Joe mentions the gay and lesbian community that gave birth to Pride considering that in 2010 the founders of Pride spoke out decisively against any attempt to ban QuAIA from participating in Pride.
So, while we can all see that Joe is really racking up on those social justice points here, returning to the complaint itself, Joe requests (as a remedy for all this messy stuff-of-which-Joe-does-not-aprrove) the “Banning of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid from Pride Toronto marches and parades for the statutory maximum two years.”
Personally, I thought we did pretty good job at the Trans March this year (though it may be worth noting that technically our contingent was organized through Dykes and Trans People for Palestine, however QuAIA members participated as well). But maybe I’ve got it wrong… I wonder, what do other trans people think about Joe Clark telling me what I can and cannot say at the trans march?
Maybe Joe knows best?
Update: inchoaterica has drawn attention in the comments section below to the fact that just a few days ago, Joe commented on a Torontoist story about the recent passing of Toronto social worker and trans activist Kyle Scanlon; their he engages in what I can only describe as a stunning example of directing heartless, abusive language at the recently deceased:
Check Joe’s comment, the fourth down on the Torontoist article here.