From the Executive Director

CLAGS joins other LBGT groups in
condemning the sexual humiliation and
other forms of torture inflicted on Iraqi
detainees by US military forces. As the Al-Fatiha
Foundation for LGBTIQ Muslims noted in a press
release last month, “forcing men to masturbate in
front of each other and to mock same-sex acts or
homosexual sex is perverse and sadistic, in the
eyes of many Muslims.”
While some of us found—perhaps naively—the
apparently organized military practices of sexual
humiliation shocking, what was even more
surprising to me was Al-Fatiha’s observation about
the resounding silence of US national LGBT
organizations on the torture scandal: “While most
national LGBT organizations are focused on marriage equality, none have publicly
condemned the homophobic and chauvinistic acts of the United States military in
It’s true. Look at the recent press releases from the Human Rights Campaign or the
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and you’ll see a long list of missives denouncing
the constitutional marriage amendment and applauding the passing of hate crimes
legislation in Connecticut. It seems there really isn’t much else on the national
mainstream GLBT agenda.
The US right wing, however, has been quick to condemn the sexual humiliation of
Iraqi detainees. And some of those groups have also identified the source of the
problem. According to one group, “Concerned Women for America,” the
homophobia embodied in the torture through sexual humiliation at Abu Ghraib is
“directly due” to cultural depravity, including pornography, the “don’t ask, don’t tell”
policy on gays in the military, safer sex and HIV education, and even the movement
for same-sex marriage. Their solution to the problem of Abu Ghraib is,
unsurprisingly, more homophobia.
Meanwhile, mainstream GLBT groups in the US can’t or won’t make the connection
between the US military’s practices of sexual humiliation in Iraq and homophobia,
state-sponsored and otherwise, at home. Perhaps unpacking the twisted homophobic
logics of the particular forms sexual humiliation at Abu Ghraib seems too daunting. Or
perhaps it’s an example of single-issue politics taken to its extreme and absurd end.
Indeed, the silence of GLBT organizations was made worse when, in the midst of a
flurry of mainstream news coverage of the torture, the executive directors of HRC and
the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network released an op-ed calling for the
recognition of “patriotic” GLBT soldiers “risking their lives for the freedom of others.”
There was no mention of the sexual humiliation of detainees at Abu Ghraib.
Of course, there is no such thing as single issue politics, there are only attempts to
mask or naturalize the social formations that undergird what look to be limited
political claims. For example, the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy can’t be examined
apart from notions of masculinity, race, gender, class, militarism, nation, and empire.
As several speakers pointed out at the “Queer Matters” conference in May in London,
it’s vital that we bring our critical insights to bear on discussions of the war in Iraq, the
“war on terror,” and their connections with other policies of the Bush administration,
including welfare and tax “reform” and the defunding of public education.
These are precisely the kinds of discussions that CLAGS supports through our
programming, conferences, and fellowships. On September 10th, CLAGS will launch
our fall programming with a two-panel event, “Beyond the Liberal Moment.” We’ll be
bringing together scholars and activists to explore the heightened visibility of queers in
the media and the absence of representations of broader multi-issue queer agendas.
And on November 16th, our panel on “Bodies and Landscapes of Control in the
Neoliberal City” will examine how heightened policing and new forms of post 9/11
surveillance negatively affect the communities of desire and the queer
counter/subaltern cultures constituted in and through the city’s shifting queer
landscapes. See our fall calendar, on pages 12 and 13, for more information on these
and other events.
Finally, I’m pleased to announce that CLAGS is moving forward with the development
of the International Resource Network, with the support of the Ford Foundation. The
goal of the IRN is to foster connections—across national, disciplinary, linguistic, and
spatial boundaries—between researchers (from both academic and community bases)
working in areas related to diverse sexualities and genders. We’ve got a top-notch
International Advisory Board in place, we’re working with web developers for the
internet component of the project, which will include a comprehensive multi-language
website and database, and we’re starting to plan our upcoming regional meetings in
Asia in 2005 and Africa in 2006. If you have any questions about the IRN, please
contact me at or IRN Program Coordinator Carlos Ulises Decena
at You can find out more about the IRN on our temporary
webpage at