Editor’s note: Haneen Maikey, the director of alQaws, delivered this speech to protesters on Wednesday July 29, 2020 in Haifa.
So much has happened since we gathered here last year, and there is so much to address. We are here today because the question of gender and sexual diversity hasn’t left the headlines in Palestine for over 12 months. It reappears time and time again, in political discussions and social debates, each time exposing discrepancies, double-standards, and heinous violence. In spite of that, we have also witnessed the strength and bravery of Palestinian gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and trans folks. We have seen our friends, families, and allies finally raise their voices in support of our struggle.
We are here because the majority of us are hurt and exhausted from our daily confrontations with homophobic and transphobic violence. But we are also here because we are motivated by love and fury to continue this fight.
We will combat all attempts to subjugate us, be it in the name of tired societal traditions or false morality. We are here today to outright reject any fear-mongering, from public threats to physical and emotional blackmailing. We will not be erased or silenced!
We are here to reject the co-optation of our struggle for narrow social, political and economic gains. No longer can Palestinian gays, lesbians, transgenders, and queers be reduced to a hushed taboo. No longer can we be muzzled by our hypocritical leadership. LGBT and queer issues are issues that will always concern our society at large. It’s time for others to realize we are here to stay and fight!
We gather here to protest the deceitful silence of the therapists and medical communities who betray the ethical duty to patients by enabling the practice of conversion therapy. The least they can do is call it by its name: torture! We demand that these professionals speak out on issues so central to their work! No longer can the media reduce us to hot topics in moments of crisis for mere ratings and likes! We demand engaged journalism that facilitates fruitful and healthy public discussion.
We’re here to call on our families to stand with our struggle. While we understand the challenges you may encounter, we urge you to step down from your roles as guardians to customs, traditions, reputation, and hearsay. Supporting your children and their mental and emotional wellbeing should be your priority, not what people may say about you or us!
We’ve come to Haifa, from all over Palestine, to protest the suppression of our activities and events—from Jaffa to Nablus to Ramallah! Your persecution only fuels us to create larger, louder spaces for queer life in Palestine.
We’ve come to put an end to the Israeli occupation’s attempts to exploit our pain and “pinkwash” our struggle. Over the past two decades, the colonial propaganda of pinkwashing, although persistent and well-funded, hasn’t been able to erase us! If anything, the failures of pinkwashing have only emphasized that queer liberation necessitates the liberation of Palestine and all Palestinians!
To our friends and supporters present at this demonstration: thank you for your visibility. Change will not commence without you. Let us not be consumed by polarizing discourse. Let us make space for all Palestinians, a space for curiosity and questions. Let us change together. And let that change be vast and inclusive!
We are here to assert that transformative change comes through the tireless work of the Palestinian LGBTQ community, both through their activism and in their day-to-day existence as queer people. Each day we fight the violence against us, whether inside the house or on the streets.
To our LGBT and queer communites across Palestine: let us remember that our fight is deep-rooted and positioned against all systems of oppression. Our struggle must move us towards global liberation, towards a world that is more just! Let us take responsibility for our struggle and our pain. Let us be fueled by a hunger to tear down this cruel world and build one anew.
And finally, to the people unable to be here with us today as a result of the pandemic, or concerns about appearing in public, or the colonial barriers fragmenting us across Palestine: we embrace you! Thank you to the many folks behind the scenes who have worked tirelessly to make this demonstration happen. We know you are with us. We know you are present. We hope that we did justice to your hopes and dreams, as well as your pain. We wait for the time that we all can gather together in a free, liberated Palestine!
This speech was originally published by Al Qaws on July 29, 2020 and is reprinted with permission.