Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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‘If you remove queer Palestinians, there is no movement’: Yaffa discusses Palestinian, queer liberation

Kaavya Butaney/The Daily Northwestern
At a talk by Palestinian queer, trans activist Yaffa on Monday, there was art and books being sold, all proceeds going to people in need in Gaza.

Executive Director of the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity Yaffa spoke at Northwestern Monday about Palestinian and queer liberation. They discussed pinkwashing as a justification for colonialism and their life experiences.

At the talk, Yaffa sold their books “Blood Orange and “Inara: Light of Utopia” and their art, with all proceeds going to support Palestinians in Gaza.

The event was co-sponsored by NU Educators for Justice in Palestine, the Middle East and North African Studies Program, the Department of Black Studies, the Institute for Sexual & Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing, the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, the Women’s Center and the School of Education and Social Policy Equity Book Club.

“Palestine is a queer issue because queerness is about marginalization,” Yaffa said. “Queerness does not exist in a world without marginalization. Every single form of marginalization out there is a queer issue.”

Yaffa said that in the month after the militant group Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, two dozen queer and trans Palestinians died in Gaza as a result of Israeli military action.

Yaffa also spoke about the difficulty of moving money into Gaza. In order to move money directly into Gaza, they said they had to use cryptocurrency, although they can now send money through Egypt.

Co-organizer and a postdoctoral fellow at the Sexualities Project at Northwestern Annie Wilkinson and Yaffa discussed pinkwashing — the effort of using queerness and transness for and against people of the Global South — and its application by colonial projects and powers.

Colonial powers, such as Israel, simultaneously call queerness and transness uncivilized and use the cause of queerness and transness as a reason to invade, they said.

“The audience (for pinkwashing) are the people who are anti-Black but pretend like they’re not white supremacists because they voted for Obama, and that they were okay with gay marriage for some people,” Yaffa said. “It’s those people … (who) believe that actually the world is perfect as it is.”

Yaffa said queer and trans Palestinians are capable of building infrastructure to support the community but lack the same resources as cisgender and straight Palestinians.

Many queer Palestinian activists are not recognized as queer, even if they are out, Yaffa said.

“If you remove queer Palestinians from the movement, there’s no movement,” they said.

Yaffa described their experiences growing up as disabled, autistic, trans, queer, Muslim and Palestinian, as well as being displaced through nine countries. They said they relied on mutual aid for survival through these displacements.

Yaffa went on to describe how their parents always told them that Palestine would be liberated, even if they don’t always know how to name the system.

“Liberation is just guaranteed, like why would it not happen?” Yaffa said. 

Yaffa’s organization, MASGD, works to support Muslim-racialized people, they said. This includes not just Muslims but minority groups like Christian Armenians and Palestinians. 

Wilkinson explained why hearing from Palestinian queer and trans voices is critical to her.

“It’s really important as a queer feminist scholar to show up for Palestine in all our identities,” Wilkinson said. “Queer liberation and the things that I work for as a scholar and also as an activist scholar are inextricably bound with Palestinian liberation.”

Fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in human development and social policy Karla Thomas, who was the event’s co-organizer, said hearing about Palestinian joy, rather than only suffering, is also important.

“To bring out Palestinian artists and writers, and have them share their stories has been a focus of ours, even as we continue to protest and boycott,” Thomas said. “We want to bring out the whole humanity of Palestinians.”

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @kaavya_butaney

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