Internalising pinkwashing?

Many people have stated, thought about, and felt the violence of Western narratives and practices surrounding normative LGBTIQ+ rights. Christine M. Klapeer’s chapter “LGBTIQ rights, development aid and queer resistance” in the Routledge Handbook of Postcolonial Politics, edited by Olivia U. Rutazibwa and Robbie Shilliam, highlights the imperial and colonial dynamics of said discourse. You can see the complex issue summarized in the meme below:     


Discussing pinkwashing

Capitalism and racism go hand in hand, and here we observe countries wherein corporations profit off LGBTIQ+ propaganda and use it to craft a narrative of “civilisation” and “progress”. We see this clearly in the recent debates over the World Cup in Qatar.

Respectfully, sir, if your state’s history is marked by colonisation and genocide, even if gay marriage is legal in your country, it makes its history nor marriage as an institution any less evil. So if you’re from a Western state and think the whole world should think and act like you, get off your high horse and consider questioning the colonial praxes and subjectivities you are perpetuating.

Just because there is no supranational institution denouncing European and Western “human rights abuses” doesn’t mean there aren’t any. The violence is extreme but obscured, to the extent to which we might think that how we have sex is not political. 

The danger of this form of internalised pinkwashing aids in crafting popular support amongst settler colonies and explains how a queer person in the US could support Israel–because of its same-sex open-minded narrative. This is, however, just a narrative given that same-sex marriage is not even legal in Israel, showcasing the extent of the propaganda efforts from this colonising state. A colonial project birthed from the British Empire, trained by it in colonizing strategies. Spooky huh?

This article seeks to shine light upon, or think through together, the connections between normative LGBTIQ+ discourses in the West and the colonisation of life, believing everything is connected, including the liberation of bodies and land. The fight against compulsory heteronormativity is an anti-colonial struggle. We won’t be free until Palestine is free. Until settler colonies like Spain, the US, Canada, and Australia, gave back stolen land and exploited life. 

So what can gays do? Maybe shifting coloniser and colonised paradigms and dynamics. A binary that, as binaries do, probably reduces an infinite array of “in-betweens” to two, although, as a friend once said, even the sentence “in-between” connotes two.

Following this paradigm of master and slave, we see what heterosexual logic, or logics of domination, common in LGBTIQ+ discourses in the West are. Julietta Singh’s Unthinking Mastery, a book I cannot recommend enough, reminds us through feminist, queer, and humanist deconstructing how we have internalised and reproduced hierarchies based on our bodies to control and master the “self and other”.

These are clear in the most visible representations and discourses of LGBTIQ+ in the West, representing mostly gay men and lesbians if perpetuating heterosexual logic and the family structure and white-washing what the work of mostly queer radicals, not liberals is. How many gay men can you name? Quite a few, right? Well, it gets harder with lesbians and even harder with Transexuals.

Stormé DeLarverie, Marsha P. Johnson, Audre Lorde, and all the names that barely made it into “history” are not something we have to know, especially when “History” as a discipline is a white supremacist narrative that obscures everything and everyone else. Maybe we should craft a sense of (un)comfortability with unknowing. Dislocating power. 

Lesbianism has been thought of as a tool for dislocating power. But going back to the coloniser-colonised binary, why reduce lesbian sexual dynamics to “top” and “bottom”? Or “switch” as a best-case scenario. This not only perpetuates a dynamic of domination but also works within the sexualisation of lesbianism. Why further categorize what can be an erotic exchange of energies or be?

In a non-pornographic, non-taboo way, sex is not something to hide or be embarrassed about but a sacred ritual, whether with yourself, a partner(s), or friend(s), how you wish to live your sexuality. In Audre Lorde’s Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power, she shared with us how there are “many kinds of power, used and unused, acknowledged or otherwise.

The erotic is a resource within us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling”. This powerful and transformative force is incompatible with Western LGBTIQ+ discourses, in which if you’re lesbian in the mainstream,  it’s as a worker, wife or mother.

bell Hooks, a pioneer

bell hooks describe her queerness as “not who you’re having sex with, but about being at odds with everything around it”. Normative LGBTIQ+ rights discourse in Western states revolves around who you’re having sex with (telling you what and how sex is through porn), not being at odds with anything and perpetuating everything around it, from capitalism to colonialism and patriarchy. The structures queer people have dedicated their lives to resisting, aware it is for a broader cause, the fight for all life when the degradation of life seems all around. 

We find our strength and hope in collectivity. We collectively struggle, resist, survive, and live; corporations and states will pinkwash, greenwash, whitewash, and ultimately, kill. But there are more of us, from the river to the sea. 

Inspired by Lola Olufemi’s Feminism Interrupted and Imagining Otherwise, here are some resources, including links to songs, that I would like to share with you after writing and reading this together. Enjoy!


Revolutionary and leaving the past, Immortal Technique 

Indigenous Cosmology, Bobby Sanchez 

Woman, Little Simz and Cleo Sol 

West, Althea & Donna

WOW, Mabiland


Glissant, Édouard, and Betsy Wing. 1997. Poetics of Relation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

McKittrick, Katherine, ed. 2015. Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis. Duke University Press.

Dussel, Enrique. 2011. Politics of Liberation: A Critical World History. Reclaiming Liberation Theology. London: SCM Press.

Lorde, Audre, 2017. Your Silence Will not Protect You, Silver Press