As the hellish war between Israel and Hamas unfolds, there are very strong emotions being expressed about who is to blame. But regardless of what your stance is, I hope we can all agree that dehumanizing people is never the answer.
Unfortunately, some people online are justifying the brutality against Palestinians in Gaza by weaponizing Hamas’ homophobia, using that as a valid reason to wage war on an entire group of people. Homosexuality is a crime in Palestine. In 2022, a gay Palestinian man who went to Israel for asylum was found brutally murdered in the West Bank. Because of Hamas’ cruelty toward gay people, a very uninformed and insensitive opinion is currently floating around: that Israel’s actions against anyone in Hamas-controlled territory are justified. One U.S.-based queer publication went as far as to claim that “if you’re an LGBTQ+ parent, you should worry about Hamas gunning down your kids.”
Let me be absolutely clear. Homophobia exists in every country at varying degrees. And no entire community deserves the wrath of war because their government outlaws queer expression.
If you live in a country with a government that has institutionalized homophobia or transphobia — which, let’s face it, is most countries — then you know that this is an inherently tragic justification for mass violence. Governments are seldom an accurate representation of all the people they govern, and bombs don’t selectively choose who they’re going to kill.
There are innocent queer people trying to survive in Palestine. And their poignant calls for justice have been resounding globally over the past week through Queering the Map — which is likely the one of the only means for expressing themselves in this way.
Queering the Map is a community-based platform where queer users all over the world map moments they’ve had with other queer people — romantic, platonic and otherwise. Anyone can post to the site, though creator Lucas LaRochelle told The New York Times they and other volunteers review and approve the messages before they are posted to filter out trolls or hateful posts.
Several accounts coming from Gaza have gone viral in recent days. Though they are unable to be verified, they are completely devastating to read. At the time of this post, the site has been down for about 48 hours and I have reached out to the creator to find out if this is, in any way, related to the posts from Gaza.
“Idk how long I will live so I just want this to be my memory here before I die,” wrote one user. “My biggest regret is not kissing this one guy. He died two days back.”
“I’ve always imagined you and me sitting out in the sun, hand in hand, free at last,” wrote another. “We spoke of all the places we would go if we could. Yet you are gone now.”
As someone whose family comes from countries that are not seen as beacons of LGBTQIA+ progress, I know that there are beautiful queer and trans communities in all of the places that are easily dismissed as monolithically homophobic.
The queer people in countries that sanction being queer and trans live lives that are often subversive, complex and absolutely worth living. There are also those who don’t function as openly queer people, but hope to be able to some day. LGBTQ+ progress means keeping queer people alive, especially in places where they have even more obstacles to overcome.
Whenever I read new posts on Queering the Map, it becomes more and more clear that this was a war started by governments, and like all wars, the worst of the suffering is going to be absorbed by everyday people — including queer and trans Palestinians.
It doesn’t seem like this conflict can have any real winners, and we can’t let our political stance get in the way of seeing the reality of others’ humanity. We can acknowledge the political issues of any country, but whenever we let go of our ability to see people as worthy of life, we are losing on a much deeper level.