The Bent Bars Project would like to publicly support and celebrate the ongoing work of SUSPECT and other queer and trans groups of colour in Berlin who are actively challenging racism within gay organisations and Pride activities. We also applaud Judith Butler’s decision to refuse the Zivilcourage Prize at Berlin’s 2010 Pride celebrations in order to highlight racism, particularly anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant racism within white gay movements in Europe.
As an organisation that works to build solidarity and connect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer communities across prison walls, the Bent Bars Project is painfully aware of how racism and criminalisation work to expand imprisonment and increase violence, not only against LGBTQ people, but against all those who are disproportionately targeted by the criminal justice system.
Despite a long history in which LGBTQ people have been, and continue to be, targeted by the state violence, imprisonment, border controls and criminalization, many gay groups are taking up political strategies that allow such harms to be imposed on others. Whether allowing the language of “gay rights” to justify war and military occupation abroad, supporting hate crime laws which strengthen racist criminal justice systems or repeatedly suggesting that particular groups (e.g. Arabs, Muslims and immigrants) are inherently homophobic, backwards and ‘uncivilized’, many LGBTQ groups in Europe and North America are feeding harmful patterns of racism and violence.
Given the globally devastating effects of imprisonment, militarism and border controls, it is now more important than ever for queer and trans groups to refuse complicity with such trends. Judith Butler’s decision to turn down the Zivilcourage Prize and instead dedicate it to the organisations GLADT(www.gladt.de), LesMigraS (www.lesmigras.de), SUSPECT and ReachOut (www.reachoutberlin.de) marks an important example of such refusal and highlights the vital work of anti-racist queer groups in Berlin and elsewhere.
Bent Bars Project Organising Collective, London UK