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The Danger of Homonationalism

Written By Camille

It’s June, Pride Month, in honour of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States.

It’s June, our social media are filled with rainbows, and big companies and brands switched their logo to the colour of Pride.

It’s June, Rainbow washing month has started. Rainbow washing is when large corporations exploit the rainbow Pride colours to imply to customers that they support the LGBTQI+ community without putting in any effort or producing a meaningful outcome for queer folks.

Awareness has risen over the danger of rainbow washing which is taking away the real meaning of Pride month (to raise LGBTQI+ issues and fight for our rights) it is also damaging as it misleads well-intentioned people into thinking they’re supporting the LGBTQI+ community when in reality they’re lining the pockets of corporations. However, a similar and less-known process happens in politics. 

Homo-nationalism.

This refers to the idea that western values are exceptional and that gender and sexual equality are part of western values. This notion is used to justify the rejections of certain minority groups and cultures in the name of Gender and Sexual equality. Far-right anti-immigrant movements frequently employ rhetoric taken from feminist discourse to argue that Muslims, and by extension migrants, especially males constitute a threat to the safety of western women and queer communities as well as women’s independence and freedom (Lentin 2018). The goals of feminist groups seeking to free women and queer people from heterosexual patriarchal dominance have therefore intersected with the racist designation of all non-white males as sexual predators and intolerant toward LGBTQI+ minorities (ibid.). Far-right parties are using feminist and queer groups to support racist and especially Islamophobic discourses and political measures.

But are they really defenders of LGBTQI+? In short, of course not. But please stay with me to understand the issue a bit more.

In recent years, radical right-wing parties such as VVD in the Netherlands or Rassemblement National in France have gained popularity among citizens in Europe as they have entered a process of de-demonization through moderate speeches aimed at displaying a facade of respectability. Hence, such parties claim to defend women’s rights and LGBTQI+ rights by opposing immigration. They also use the rhetoric of homo-nostalgia, implying that queer people were safe in Europe before immigrants disturbed their security. Therefore, they appeal to queer voters who feel unsafe in their country and hope for protection.

  •  But why is that a problem? And more than a problem, a safety issue?

1.   It assumes that immigrants and especially Muslims are incompatible with democratic values which in itself is already problematic enough to write a whole post about.

2.   It is a lie. If extreme right-wing parties were so concerned about LGBTQI+ rights, maybe, just maybe, they would not oppose every possible improvement to queer people’s situation.  

Let’s take a look at the Rassemblement National, on the one hand, in their discourses they clearly depict immigration and Islam as a threat to French values which they claim to be based on centuries of Christianity. Marion Marechal Le Pen openly stated in 2015; “We are not a land of Islam, and if French people can be of the Muslim faith, it is only on the condition of complying with the mores and the way of life that the Greek, Roman influence, and sixteen centuries of Christendom have shaped” (Marechal Le Pen 2015). Furthermore, the same year, Gilles LeBreton explained that the Rassemblement National had similar interests to the Church naming, protecting women, protecting Christians, and opposing Islamic terrorists (LeBreton 2015). In order to depict Islam and Immigration as a security issue for French citizens, the Rassemblement National uses the vocabulary of war by employing words such as threat, danger, attack, enemy, fear, fight, and defend. Using the same rhetoric, they portray themselves as the defender of France, believing that only their political program could protect the French citizens. In an interview for Europe 1, Marine Le Pen stated, “I have spent my life expressing my wish to see our country come out of the words which are her own. I think that only the proposals of the National Rally will be able to solve the multiple and multiplying problems of the country” (Le Pen 2019), showing that in her opinion, only the Rassemblement National is capable of protecting France.

On the other hand, according to the Rassemblement National, the LGBTQ+ community is selfish in their desire to want kids. They would not offer a stable situation for their children and would promote the marketing of women’s bodies. The RN often links women and families in their discourses. According to them, protecting women involves protecting the traditional family model, which is a family with two parents, a mother and a father (Lesselier 1997, Arnautu 2015, Arnautu 2018). However, the RN also consider the traditional family model to be the base of the French Republic and therefore, challenging this model would involve challenging France as a whole (Goddyn 2015). This association between the concept of traditional family and French values allows the RN to depict same-sex marriage as a danger to France (Le Pen 2012). This is hetero-activism, promoting heteronormativity as morally superior to alternative sexual/gender identities and hence ‘‘better for society,’’ is becoming increasingly prominent in Europe’s current wave of misinformation about LGBTQ+ communities (Strand & Svensson 2021: 9). While opposing same-sex marriage, the RN depicts LGBTQ+ rights as a lobby of ultra-minority that threatens the majority’s power in favour of communalism. A gay group would have substantial political clout and put its agenda ahead of majority rights. The idea of “lobby” has a pejorative connotation, with pressure groups threatening democracy. This expression is used to scare. Using it, they are still talking about discriminated minorities who organize themselves to defend their interests. Therefore, according to representatives of the RN, mayors should be able to refuse to officiate same-sex weddings if it goes against their values, often religious (Le Pen 2012). In their discourses, they depict themselves as understanding the real concerns of French citizens, while others only focus on minor issues. Hence, they consider that they are the only defender of children who, according to them, have the right to know their parents and grow up in a family with a mother and a father. Furthermore, they are the only defender of the women’s body that LGBTQ+ communities try to market. Lastly, they are the only defenders of the economic interest of the French people that other politicians neglect. In this way, they, therefore, show themselves as the only viable solution for French citizens

Both issues are depicted as incompatible with French traditions that have to be protected against perversion, terrorism and communalism that would favour minorities and disfavour the majority. The question of same-sex marriage and rights to adoption as well as the question of immigration are seen as dangerous for French women and children in particular. In point of fact, both discourses use the frame of security by employing words such as threat, security, attack, danger, protecting, and defending. This permits us to depict issues that are not security issues as problems of first concerns that need to be addressed by politicians. Additionally, in both cases, the representatives of the Rassemblement National use amalgams to render the primary issues more threatening than they actually are. They do so by linking homosexuality to zoophilia for example and mentioning terrorism in speeches about the burqa. The Rassemblement National not only oppose advancement for minorities facing inequalities but accuse such minorities to push their agenda into French and European politics by the use of lobby, ideology and indoctrination of children at school.

However, by using the frame of homo- and femo-nationalism against immigration the Rassemblement National offers many contradictions in their discourses. In fact, as they depict LGBTQ+ minorities as a danger to French values, they claim to defend LGBTQ+ against immigrants pictured as barbaric. The Rassemblement National uses the rhetoric of homo-nostalgia considering that France was safe for LGBTQ+ people before the beginning of immigration while they themselves pose a threat to LGBTQ+ minorities. They also, until the elections of 2022, stated that if the party was elected Marine Le Pen would repeal the right to same-sex marriage in France, hence leading to a backlash for LGBTQ+ minorities. Furthermore, the Rassemblement National clearly depict Islam as repressive for women without considering that women could choose by themselves to wear the hijab without being forced or indoctrinated. At the same time, the Rassemblement National refuses women the right to dispose of their bodies as they like by opposing Medically assisted pregnancy, complicating access to abortion and depicting surrogacy as the marketing of women’s bodies. As a result, the Rassemblement National employs ambivalent rhetoric that, in both circumstances, prevents women from doing what they desire with their bodies. The Western forms of sexual liberalism embodied in the improvement of the conditions of women and homosexuals have thus become the new banners of contemporary nationalism, despite the fact that the program of the Rassemblement National does not contain any element relating to the improvement of the right of women and continues to hold to a form of hetero sexism refusing to grant equal rights to homosexuals.

A second contradiction appears in Rassemblement National’s discourses. While, on the one hand, Islam is depicted as regressive, and incompatible with Republican and democratic values; on the other hand, Christianism is excused for being homophobic and sexist. Indeed, Marine Le Pen clearly stated that religion was an opinion that should not influence politics while talking about Islam yet also stated that a mayor should be able to refuse to officiate a homosexual wedding if it was against its religious values. Furthermore, many representatives of the Rassemblement National repeatedly explained that French values were based on Christianism and that the RN had a common interest with the Christian church.   Therefore, the Rassemblement National uses a double standard regarding the relationship between religion and politics. Christians are allowed to oppose women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights in the name of French values while Islam is portrayed as incompatible with French values due to the assumptions that it is a sexist and homophobic religion.

  •  So, why does it matter?

Radical right-wing parties have gained influence in European countries and within the European Parliament in recent years due to their de-demonisation strategy and the use of homo-nationalism discourses. Yet, if LGBTQ+ minorities believe that their interests are being represented by radical right-wing parties while these parties also frame their rights as a threat to the political and social stability of the country there is a serious risk for such minorities to vote for radical right-wing representatives. In several countries, extremist parties and movements are propagating and defending ideologies that are incompatible with democracy and human rights such as homophobia or xenophobia, which refuses groups of human access to fundamental rights. Thus, deconstructing and delegitimizing radical right-wing propaganda may be the best way forward in breaking down their influence.

A similar situation exists with regard to women, known as femo-nationalism, which refers to the use of the argument of women’s protection to oppose immigration and favor racism. This is a perfect illustration of how feminism and LGBTQ+ rights must cooperate.

So let’s use Pride month to affirm our rights! Fight for them! And expose homonationalism.

For more about homonationalism: 

Rahman M. (2014) Islam versus Homosexuality as Modernity. In: Homosexualities, Muslim Cultures and Modernity. Palgrave Politics of Identity and Citizenship Series. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Wekker, G. (Gloria) (2016). “Of Homo Nostalgia and (Post)Coloniality”. In: White Innocence: Paradoxes of Colonialism and Race, 108-138. Durham: Duke University Press.

Puar, J. (2013). Rethinking Homonationalism. International Journal of Middle East Studies, 45(2), 336-339. 

References: 

Arnautu, M., (2015). Communiqué de Presse de Marie-Christine Arnautu, Député français au Parlement européen, Vice-présidente du Front National, Conseiller municipal et métropolitain de Nice. RN – Rassemblement National. Available at: https://rassemblementnational.fr/communiques/communique-de-presse-de-marie-christine-arnautu-depute-francais-au-parlement-europeen-vice-presidente-du-front-national-conseiller-municipal-et-metropolitain-de-nice/

Arnautu, M., (2018). PMA pour tout.e.s : désir égoïste, marché lucratif. [online] RN – Rassemblement National. Available at: https://rassemblementnational.fr/communiques/pma-pour-tout-e-s-desir-egoiste-marche-lucratif/  

Goddyn, S., 2015. L’Union européenne prétend émanciper nos jeunes filles et menace le mariage homme-femme!. RN – Rassemblement National. Available at: https://rassemblementnational.fr/communiques/lunion-europeenne-pretend-emanciper-nos-jeunes-filles-et-menace-le-mariage-homme-femme/ 

Lentin, A., (2018). Race, gender and femonationalism. Available at: https://www.alanalentin.net/2018/10/09/race-gender-and-femonationalism  

Lesselier, C. (1997). “’Préférence familiale’ et ‘préférence nationale’: le programme du Front national.” In Claudie Lasselier and Fiammetta Venner (Eds.) L’extrême droite et les femmes, pp. 105-110. Villeurbanne: Éditions Golias.

Le Pen, M., (2012). In an interview for BFMTV – Le Pen : “vous imaginez Mitterrand obéir à l’Inter-LGBT”. [online] BFMTV. Available at: https://www.bfmtv.com/politique/front-national/le-pen-vous-imaginez-mitterrand-obeir-a-l-inter-lgbt_AN-201211230039.html 

Le Pen, M., (2018). Bientôt la Charia dans notre droit ? Ne nous parlez plus jamais des valeurs de   l’Union européenne !. RN – Rassemblement National. Available at:   https://rassemblementnational.fr/communiques/bientot-la-charia-dans-notre-droit-ne-nousparlez-plus-jamais-des-valeurs-de-lunion-europeenne/ 

Marechal Le Pen, M., (2015). Marion Maréchal-Le Pen et “la condition” pour que les musulmans soient Français. Linfo.re. Available at: https://www.linfo.re/france/politique/682219-marion-marechal-le-pen-et-la-condition-pour-que-les-musulmans-soient-francais

Strand, C. and Svensson, J., (2021). Disinformation campaigns about LGBTI+ people in the EU and foreign influence | Think Tank | European Parliament. Europarl.europa.eu. Available at: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/document/EXPO_BRI(2021)653644