Posts

Not Another Death Threat: Queer and Trans Muslim Realities in America

By Almas Haider

There should be a name for the particular depression of living as a queer trans Muslim of color in America. A specific PTSD of walking the streets in constant fear of being racialized as Muslim and have your gender and sexual orientation questioned. The pleasure of not just having one day a year, September 11th, to expect extra harassment, but surprise holidays like “Punish a Muslim Day.” The joy of calling your mother and father, asking them their plans for the day, and telling them to “be mindful, keep your phone charged, and go home and call me if you don’t feel safe outside today.” Because to be a queer trans Muslim of color in America means to live in a state of anticipation of what hate violence we can expect next.

In the past two years since Trump’s campaign and subsequent election, there has been a surge in anti-immigrant legislation and hate violence. According to a study conducted by South Asians Americans Leading Together (SAALT), from Election Day 2016 to Election Day 2017 there have been “302 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab communities in the United States.” 82% of these incidents were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment, a “45% increase from the year leading up to the 2016 election cycle, levels not seen since the year after September 11th.” [SAALT]

This rapidly escalating level of hate violence was not created in a vacuum. This cycle of violence is directly tied to the racist and xenophobic legislation and systems of the United States. The latest manifestation of this has been the Muslim Travel Ban which will be heard by the Supreme Court on April 25th. The executive order, “bans citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days, suspends the entry of all refugees for at least 120 days, and bars Syrian refugees indefinitely,” creating yet another form of institutionalized Islamophobia in the U.S. [ACLU].

In response, on March 26th the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) and seven LGBT South Asian and API groups submitted an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Donald Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban. The brief showed how the ban has a direct impact on the lives of LGBTQIA people and tears families apart.

This brief is in part a direct response to an attempt to pinkwash the Muslim Travel Ban. Language included in the Ban says it will protect Americans by barring entry to “those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation” [Human Rights First]. This insinuates that people living in Muslim-majority countries are queerphobic and transphobic, a marketing and political tool most infamously being used by Israel to justify Palestinian genocide.

How quintessentially American: the Ban would bar queer and trans immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers from seeking a complicated form of “safety” in the U.S., while claiming that the ban will help keep queer and trans people safe. This will in turn further the narrative of queerphobic and transphobic tyrants reigning in Muslim majority countries, justifying ongoing U.S. imperialism and intervention in the Middle East and creating more refugees. And the amount of physical and verbal violence queer and trans Muslims of color experience within the U.S. will continue to increase.

As the policies of the state become normalized in our everyday lives, the next turn in this cycle of queer, trans, and gendered islamophobia is the increase in hate crimes against our communities. For queer and trans Muslims of color, these attacks target multiple identities that we hold. According to the 2016 FBI Hate Crimes Statistic report, hate crimes against racial and ethnic minorities drastically increased in 2016. 25% of incidents were motivated by anti-Muslim bias alongside 18% anti-queer and anti-trans bias incidents. This makes queer and trans Muslims of color disproportionately likely to be victims. [FBI report]

Through our organizing as queer and trans Muslims, we aim to change that.

For the last two years, on September 11th, we have been crafting actions across the U.S. The purpose of these actions has been to educate, empower, and hold our community who experience the nuances of being profiled as queer Muslims of color. Our actions, drawing inspiration from Black Lives Matter and the movement for Palestinian liberation, have ranged from mock “security” checkpoints to guerilla performance art.

We are questioned and detained not just because of the languages we speak, our ancestral homes, and places of worship and communal gathering, but also because of how we express our gender and sexual identity through our appearance and the political movements we align with. Through these actions we have focused on the ways that Islamophobia and transphobia reinforce each other, how Black Muslims are particularly impacted by queer and gendered islamophobia, and building solidarity internally within our LGBTQIA community.

On the 15th anniversary of September 11th, we spearheaded 20 local organizations to create “checkpoints” in high-traffic areas of Washington, D.C. The Washington Post showed how we aimed to replicate various “checkpoints” and experiences that Muslim Americans and those perceived to be Muslims have to go through every day, including being stopped by the Transportation Security Administration, being verbally and physically harassed in businesses, and routinely called terrorists.

In 2017, after a year of direct and blatant attacks on our communities by the Trump administration, we focused on creating spaces of not only resistance, but also of healing and safety. We named the Muslim Travel Ban and other forms of state violence as the root cause of queerphobic, transphobic, and Islamophobic hate crimes. We drew connections between queerphobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, anti-Blackness, xenophobia. We questioned how we show up for one another. And we committed and successfully created spaces for all of our communities to mourn both the lives and the safety that has been taken from us since the election.

Through this work we as queer and trans Muslims of color have recognized and grown our power in a country that seeks to alienate, imprison, and murder us within and outside its borders. And as we wait in anticipation for the the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Muslim Ban, we begin our plans for an annualized and formal nationwide series of actions on September 11th. We now look to September 11th and every day, not with fear, but with the resolve and strengthened ability to create a different world. And ask our accomplices to be ready to join us.

Almas Haider is the Racial Justice and Immigrants’ Rights Committee Chair of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance and Community Partnerships Manager at South Asian Americans Leading Together.

You can learn more about and get involved with the work of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance to combat Islamophobia, transphobia and queerphobia at www.nqapia.org.

Texas SB4’s Impact on LGBTQ South Asians – Why We Should Care

Texas SB4’s Impact on LGBTQ South Asians – Why We Should Care

By Amrit Uprety of KhushATX and Sasha W. of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA)

This past week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld Texas Senate Bill 4 (SB4) one of the most rigorous anti-immigrant laws passed since Donald Trump took office.

Last May, Governor Greg Abbott signed SB4 into law which would allow racial profiling and subject anyone perceived to be an immigrant — in other words, all communities of color — to unlimited questioning about their immigration status, all by local law enforcement officials with little or no training in immigration law. It prevents any city in the state of Texas from becoming a “sanctuary city,”  and levies heavy penalties against local officials who push back against federal immigration authorities.

Resistance to the bill was clear and rapid.  Just one day after the bill was signed into law, city and county officials in Texas filed a lawsuit to block implementation. The four largest cities in Texas joined the lawsuit.  Then, LGBTQ Asian and South Asian  community groups in Texas, including KhushATX in Austin, Coalition of Houston Asian Americans, and Dragonflies in Dallas joined the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance to file anamicus brief illustrating the impact of the law on the LGBTQ and Asian American community.

According to the Census, South Asians and Asian Americans make up the fastest-growing immigrant groups in the country — we are the largest percentage of documented and undocumented immigrants coming to the U.S. And, as we know, many of our South Asian immigrant community is also LGBTQ. Nationally there are 267,000 LGBTQ immigrants from Asian countries, that includes various South Asian nations, including nearly 40,000 who are undocumented.

SB4 would subject South Asians and all people of color to profiling, discriminatory stops by police and interrogation about their immigration status. If the law goes into effect, our LGBTQ and South Asian community members will be caught in the crossfire.

As LGBTQ South Asians, we are no strangers to discriminatory policing and racial, ethnic and religious profiling. As queer people of color, SB4’s legalized profiling evokes the history of police raids of LGBT bars — Stonewall, which helped to catalyze the LGBT movement, which was a riot against this queer and transphobic policing. As South Asians, our communities have faced increased Islamophobia and profiling since 9/11, which has skyrocketed.  This kind of everyday profiling happens at airports, on public streets, and in our places of work and worship.

As queer and trans South Asians, we must fight back against being profile for “looking” immigrant, trans, queer, Muslim, South Asian, Latinx, Black. KhushATX, with other LGBTQ Asian American groups in Texas and throughout the South, worked with NQAPIA to oppose SB4. We hand-wrote 50 letters to government officials to block the law from taking effect, and we asked them to continue resisting this racist, xenophobic bill.

You can learn about what’s happening with our LGBTQ South Asian immigrant family in Texas. Don’t ignore the struggles and the beautiful resistance of the South. If you are in or have family in Texas, read and share this oped. And stay ready to support our family when we are called — whether it be in the form of a handwritten letter, a phone call, a protest, or a rally — to show up and hold space in solidarity with our LGBTQ immigrant family.

Learn More

Fact Sheet about Texas SB 4’s impact on LGBTQ Asian Americas and South Asians, and translation in Urdu.

Family is Still Family: Public Service Announcements

Chinese PSAsIn the Asian and Pacific Islander (API) community, young people often see coming out as an act of shaming and dishonoring their parents and their ancestors, but staying in the closet takes a greater toll, causing isolation, depression, and even suicide.

Our “Family Is Still Family” television PSA Campaign—the first-ever multi-lingual public service announcements created especially for API parents—offers a powerful message: offer your LGBTQ child a lifeline, support their coming out, and keep the family strong and unified.

These groundbreaking ads feature parents, some of whom are foreign-born immigrants with limited English proficiency, who declare acceptance and unconditional love for their LGBTQ children.

Last year, the “Family Is Still Family” PSAs, produced in association with the Asian Pride Project, aired on local Asian ethnic television stations during LGBTQ Pride Month in markets across the U.S., including Boston, Chicago, Hawaii, Los Angeles, and Sacramento.

South Asian PSAs

Multilingual Videos

NQAPIA worked with the Asian Pride Project to develop a series of short, multilingual videos of AAPI parents who love their LGBTQ children. You can find all of the videos on YouTube.com/nqapia.

Chinese
Mandarin with English subtitles – Deanna Cheng, a Chinese mother of a gay son
Cantonese with English subtitles – Rosetta Lai, a Chinese mother of a lesbian daughter

South Asian
Hindi with English subtitles – Kamlesh and Harcharan Bagga, Indian parents of a gay son
English with Hindi subtitles – Vinay Chaudhry, an Indian father of a genderqueer child

Korean
Korean with English subtitles – Clara Yoon, a Korean mother of a transgender son

Japanese
English with Japanese subtitles – Marsha and Tad Aizumi, Japanese parents of a transgender son

Southeast Asian
Vietnamese with English subtitles – Ha Nguyen, a Vietnamese mother of a gay son
English with Lao subtitles – Phanida Phivilay, a Lao mother of a lesbian daughter

Filipino
English with Tagalog subtitles – Carol Mannion, a Filipina mother of a gay son

Family is Still Family - Filipino

None of the parents are actors. They are all everyday parents from different parts of the country.

Learn more about NQAPIA’s Family Acceptance Campaign

Download the leaflets

Attend the workshops

#RedefineSecurity Statistics

We’ve created our own 1-pagers and infographics on critical racial/religious profiling issues.  Take a look!

Countering Violent Extremism (1-Pager)

Homeland Security (1-Pager)

FBI Terror Watchlist (1-Pager)

Southeast Asians are 3-5 times more likely to be deported on the basis of an old criminal conviction than other immigrant communities The Sikh Coalition has seen a 3 times increase in hate crime reports since the bombings in Paris. Wages for Arab and Muslim men have gone down 10% since 9/11 In the past year, 28% of Muslim high school students in New York City report being stopped by the police. 25% of South Asians in the US report being selected for secondary screening in the majority of their encounters with the TSA. 48% of Muslims report experiencing racial/religious discrimination in the past year. (Gallup Poll) 75% of media coverage on Muslims is negative. Laotian and Cambodian youth in California are incarcerated at 5-9x the rate of the general population.

Sources:
http://www.searac.org/sites/default/files/SEAA%20School%20to%20Deportation%20Pipeline_0.pdf
http://saalt.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/In-Our-Own-Words-Narratives-of-South-Asian-New-Yorkers-Affected-by-Racial-and-Religious-Profiling.pdf
http://www.gallup.com/poll/6361/civil-rights-profile-profiling.aspx
http://repec.iza.org/dp4411.pdf

Creating Change 2017

The National LGBTQ Task Force sponsors and organizes the Creating Change. The 29th Creating Change will be held at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown in Philadelphia from January 18-22, 2017.

Many of these events are open to all, and we encourage active participation. If you do not identify with the event, please respect requests for safe spaces.

Thursday, 1/19

9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Queer API Institute: Building a Queer Asian American & Pacific Islander Movement

Friday, 1/20

9:00 AM – 10:30 AM • Workshop Session 1
Jeh Johnson, Can You Hear Us Now? Organizing Against Islamophobia & Legalized Profiling

10:45 AM – 12:15 PM • Workshop Session 2
Faith and Family Acceptance in the API Community

6:30 PM – 7:30 PM • Caucus 1
Asian/South Asian/Southeast Asian/Pacific Islander Caucus

Saturday, 1/21

9:00 AM – 10:30 AM • Workshop Session 5
Building Queer Asian/South Asian Community and Movement

4:45 PM – 6:15 PM • Workshop Session 8
Loving with Our Whole Hearts: A Mother and Transgender Son

6:30 PM – 7:30 PM • Caucus 2
QPOC Caucus

6:30 PM – 7:30 PM • Caucus 2
South Asian LGBTQ Caucus

Sunday, 1/22

11:30 AM – 1:00 PM
Bunch and Closing Plenary

Glenn D. Magpantay Receives the Haas, Jr. Award for Outstanding LGBTQ Leadership for Immigrant Rights

In Case of Emergency
Glenn 917-439-3158
Sasha 909-343-2219
Tia 224-280-2236

Report Back: #15YearsLater Action in DC

photo credit IG @themauricio

PC: IG @themauricio

Did you see us in DC last week? Along with KhushDC, NQAPIA organized a protest on the 15th anniversary of 9/11. Dozens of #15YearsLater protesters blocked traffic for hours and demanded that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson end the legalized profiling of our communities: queer and trans Muslims, South Asians, and APIs.

Person holds sign "Jeh Johnson, 1,000s have spoken: will you listen? #RedefineSecurity #15YearsLater" standing behind a tower of boxes that read "Jeh Johnson, can you hear us NOW?"

Photo credit: Marzena Zukowska

In the morning, we created mock checkpoints all around DC – in Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, U St., and Dupont Circle. We replicated the experience of profiling for wealthy, white brunch-goers, stopping people in the street and interrogating them about their language, religious affiliation, clothing, etc.

Four people stand near an orange-striped checkpoint, and one person holds the sign "CHECKPOINT AHEAD"

Photo credit: Khadija Mehter


You can read our reflections in this piece over at RaceFiles, as well as on NQAPIA’s blog. We also got great coverage from local and national news media, including the Washington PostWashington Blade, and NBC News!

If you weren’t able to make it, please sign our petition here: bit.ly/NQAPIAracialprofilingpetition

A huge THANK YOU to all of our co-sponsors and co-conspirators: GetEQUAL, Muslim American Women’s Policy Forum, National Coalition To Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF), SAALT- South Asian Americans Leading Together, API Resistance, Queer South Asian National Network (QSANN), Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), Black Lives Matter DC, ONE DC: Organizing Neighborhood Equity, UndocuBlack Network, AQUA, SALGA NYC, NAKASEC, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), AAPCHO, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Southerners On New Ground, and the Washington Peace Center. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Showing Up in Solidarity #15YearsLater: Reflections from our Accomplices & Family

This past Sunday, on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, over 60 people created mock checkpoints across Washington, D.C. and shut down the intersection of 14th St and U St NW for two hours. As queer and trans Muslims and South Asians, we demanded an end to the legalized profiling of our people, especially by Secretary Jeh Johnson and the Department of Homeland Security.

Our partners, accomplices, and political family showed up in solidarity. They recognized that our movements for freedom are deeply connected. They recognized themselves in our struggles, and showed up in deep solidarity for our collective liberation. Here, in their own words, they explain why they took part in our #15YearsLater action, and their vision for our shared liberation.

***

#15YearsLater Black Muslim Lives Matter PC: Nate Atwell

Angela Peoples, GetEQUAL – PC: Nate Atwell

Angela Peoples, GetEQUAL:

We cannot commemorate the tragic events of September 11, 2001 without also addressing the devastating violence and harm that stemmed from racist profiling and criminalization of our communities, all in the name of “safety” and “national security.” LGBTQ people of color feel the impact of this culture of fear, Islamophobia and anti immigrant sentiment every day. We will continue to stand with our Asian American and Pacific Islander family to reject this violence and demand an end to all institutions and systems that criminalize our existence.

API Resistance:

Right now Muslim majority countries in West Asia are going through the series of exploitative, Orientalist wars that plagued East and Southeast Asia in the 20th century. When one quarter of Muslims in America are black or of African-descent and when the countries with the top four largest Muslim populations are in Southeast and South Asia we need to realize that we can no longer divide our identities by race or religion. We must forget the borders that have been imposed on our lands and on our bodies. We must stand up against injustice everywhere. We will not be free until each one of us is free.

Darakshan Raja, Muslim American Women’s Policy Forum:

This was one of few multiracial, people of color led actions that centered Islamophobia. At a moment when Muslim women, femmes, trans, queer and gender non-conforming folks are being specifically targeted, it is important to build solidarity. And we need to be real that we have so much more work to do.

photo credit IG @themauricio

Lakshmi Sridaran, SAALT – PC: IG @themauricio

Lakshmi Sridaran, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT):

It was important for SAALT to support this weekend’s action to go beyond words and help people get a snapshot of the kind of profiling and surveillance our communities have experienced in the last 15 years to illustrate the largely untold story of the victims of post 9/11 government policies. It was powerful to be on the streets to educate white people and also share common experiences with other people of color and people who identify as queer and transgender who experience this impact on a daily basis.

Maha Hilal, National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms:

As we work towards ending the destructive policies of the post 9/11 era, we recognize the role of simultaneously empowering our communities to take action against these policies. We hope this will bring us one step closer to getting justice for ALL those who have been impacted by the policies of the War on Terror.

***

We are part of movements larger than ourselves. We are part of fights for queer people of color liberation, Black liberation, immigrant rights, justice for Muslims, API liberation, and more. Only through movement building across our communities will we be able to achieve freedom for all our people.

The participants in #15YearsLater demonstrated that building such movements is not just necessary, but possible. We can – and we will – take the streets together, build political family, and have each others’ backs. We will achieve our liberation, together.

Thank you, again, to everyone who showed up for our collective liberation this Sunday. We will be in struggle with you, side by side, until we all get free.

The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) is a federation of LGBTQ Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) organizations. We seek to build the organizational capacity of local LGBTQ AAPI groups, develop leadership, invigorate grassroots organizing, and challenge queerphobia and racism.

LGBTQ South Asian, Muslim and Black Communities Protest 15 Years of Profiling on 9/11

MEDIA RELEASE for September 11, 2016
Contact: Sasha W., NQAPIA Organizing Director, 909-343-2219, sasha@nqapia.org

**#15YearsLater #RedefineSecurity #BlackLivesMatter**

LGBTQ South Asian, Muslim and Black Communities Protest 15 Years of Profiling on 9/11

WHO: NQAPIA, KhushDC, and dozens of supporting organizations
WHAT: #15YearsLater: Performative Action to End Profiling of LGBTQ South Asian & Muslim communities
WHERE: Washington DC
WHEN: Sunday, 9/11/16

10:30am-12:30pm – performing “checkpoints” across DC in Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, Verizon
Center (Chinatown), and other locations
1-2pm – Rally at 14th and U St., NW

On the 15th anniversary of September 11th, organizers with the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) and KhushDC will take part in a performative action to end Islamophobia and the legalized profiling of LGBTQ South Asian, Muslim and Black communities, which has intensified in the 15 years since 9/11. We are creating “checkpoints” in high-traffic areas of DC that replicate the various “checkpoints” South Asian, Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern, and Black people experience every day – being stopped when passing through TSA, being denied service because of religious markers, being called terrorists, being kicked off of flights, etc. Black Muslims experience this profiling at an even higher frequency, leading to brutality or death at the hands of law enforcement.

Almas Haider, NQAPIA board member, said, “9/11 changed my life. Overnight I went from a carefree 11-year-old to being on the receiving end of verbal and physical harassment. 15 years have changed nothing. The harassment continues and government policies have strengthened, targeting my community simply for how we look or how we pray. We are guilty simply for existing.”

Sasha W., NQAPIA’s Organizing Director, added, “I feel the aftershocks of 9/11 every day. From profiling at the airport, to verbal harassment on the street, to surveillance outside my apartment, the policies enacted in the wake of 9/11 have legalized the profiling and surveillance of my people. I cannot feel ‘safe’ until the legalized profiling, surveillance, and harassment end.”

Our daily experiences of profiling are connected to a larger system that targets Muslims and those perceived as Muslims. Policies mark us as potential threats, which enables government agencies, law enforcement and the general public to treat us accordingly. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – including the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) – has no legal protections against profiling. The Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) detains and deports people profiled as a danger to national security. The FBI’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program profiles Muslim youth. The FBI’s Terror Watchlist disproportionately targets Muslims, South Asians, Black people, immigrants, and people of color, without explanation.

Numerous studies have documented the impact of Islamophobia. A Gallup poll found that nearly half of all Muslims – 48 percent – reported that they, personally, had experienced racial or religious discrimination in the past year. In a Columbia University survey, 28 percent of Muslim high school students in New York reported being stopped by police as a result of racial profiling. A labor market study found a 10 percent decrease in earnings for Muslim and Arab men immediately after 9/11, with the effects greater in areas with a higher incidence of hate crimes.

Haider added, “There has been no acknowledgement of the violence being wrought on my community. And we cannot stand idly by, waiting for that to change.” We will set up “checkpoints” across DC on 9/11 to demonstrate how our communities have suffered in the past 15 years, and to continue our campaign to pressure the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) into ending this legalized profiling.

The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) is a federation of LGBTQ Asian American, South Asian, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) organizations. We seek to build the organizational capacity of local LGBTQ AAPI groups, develop leadership, invigorate grassroots organizing, and challenge homophobia and racism.