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Session R4790 (Competing Discourses of Masculinity in the Arab World), 2017
Right-wing American responses to discourses of masculinity and sexuality in the Arab world that do not fall into the hetero/homo binary have created a reverse discourse that seeks to encourage American hegemony in the Arab World. The situation of LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer) individuals living in the Arab World is one that is frequently discussed, and exploited for political gain in the West, creating a double-bind of both local oppression and external exploitation that activists for LGBTIQ rights in the Arab World feel obligated to both respond to and work against, lest they be seen as agents of Western hegemony while working against this local oppression. In an example that clearly shows this double-bind, during the 2016 Republican convention right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos organized a gay party called “Wake Up!” which was billed as "the most fab party at the RNC." Instead of focusing on LGBT rights in the United States, the main topic of the speakers at the event was Islam, and the “threat” Muslims posed to the LGBT community – a threat that, according to many speakers at the conference, eclipsed all other LGBT rights issues. Islamophobic blogger Pamela Geller said as much when she claimed that “[t]he Democrats pay lip service, and talk about transgender bathrooms… That's not gay rights in the 21st century. Gay rights in the 21st century is the persecution, oppression, execution of gays living in Muslim countries under the Sharia." Here, LGBTIQ activists in the Arab World are presented with the false choice of either supporting Islamophobic aggression, or resigning themselves to the local homophobia that they face. Through this construction of the Arab World as “homophobic,” Islamophobic fascists such as Milo Yiannopoulos and Pamela Geller can justify the oppression of Muslims living in the US, and war on Muslim countries abroad. I will be discussing how these reverse discourses have also used the Orlando shooting to create an Orientalist image of LGBTIQ Arabs and Muslims that is used not to advocate for their rights, but to encourage state violence against the countries in which they live.