Recently an article was republished by several websites, most notably the Huffington Post, about a transgender model and activist who has recently posed with a large dress made up of the flags of 76 countries which have made homosexuality illegal. This stunt was, naturally, celebrated by the liberal media outlets as an inspiring move toward equality for LGBT people internationally. Though where did these flags depicted on the dress come from? Every single flag depicted on that dress came from the global south, which is not not an outright lie on their part. However, the problem runs deeper than this.
The piece has since done nothing to materially benefit the people suffering extreme state-sanctioned homophobia in these countries, nor has it done anything at all besides silently celebrating the so-called “equality” of the “advanced” countries. As usual, the motivations here are complicated, but their results are most certainly not. The only achievement this art piece has made is becoming the most creative form of imperial propaganda, recycling the old overused narratives of barbarity in the south and civility in the north. It not only glosses over the general anti-Queer violence of the global north, but entirely ignores the relationship between the imperialist north and the conditions of these southern peoples.
It is, in truth, not much different than the constant flow of ad campaigns decrying the abject poverty of the Third World as a product of local corruption, “tribal conflict”, or general lack of education on the part of Third World peoples. In this stretch, we find that every attempt is made to frustrate our investigation into the politico-economic relationship between the Third World and the First. It allows us to think of their systems as not fundamentally bound up in our own, and therefore that their issues are ones attributable only to themselves, and any assistance offered by the imperialist countries being purely from the goodness of their hearts and subject therefore to imperialist terms. It all sounds very familiar, the constant promises of development aid to Afrikan countries in order to “lift them onto their feet” or so they claim, along with the hefty—and all too often ignored—price tag attached to such meager assistance.
In this same way, we see our hearts going out to the people of the Third World suffering extreme state-sanctioned homophobia only as another trojan horse of imperialism. We gratify our own egos through hoisting ourselves above the world to celebrate our relative wealth and equality, never admitting that the development of our democracies, our pensions and paychecks, have been at the expense of the world majority. The constant message playing in the back of the First World population’s mind is asking “why can’t they be more like us? What’s wrong with them?” entirely forgetting how we got here. It was only through slavery, exploitation and imperialism that we got our wealth, and as for the rest, it was the uneasy peace reached through decades of struggle to remove our own legal bans on homosexuality.
The point is that our solidarity with people facing unimaginable horrors in the Third World, either from economic conditions or the state of homophobic violence in their countries, should not come wrapped in an imperial price tag. As of now, the pretend-to-care attitude of the imperialist state and its various loyal “Social Justice” NGOs has done little in recent years but play into the hands of the u.$. state department, whose primary goal in relation to the Third World is one of conquest and exploitation. The only thing that propaganda like the dress worn by Valentijn de Hingh does for imperialism and global inequality, is dress its greatest perpetrators in a “Social Justice” costume that obligates action on the part of the imperialist world, a refrain which the fascists are more than happy to repeat when it serves them. The people of the world are much better served by international solidarity and struggle against Capitalism and Imperialism, which, for those of us in the global north, must be continuously aimed at the imperial bloc we are a part of.