We believe that we have to work for social change... This is why we in Al-Qaws, combine different strategies of social change, such as educational programming, creating our own language and reaching out to our society....
We believe that we have to work for social change...
This is why we in Al-Qaws, combine different strategies of social change, such as educational programming, creating our own language and reaching out to our society....
Raising Awareness & Educational Programming
Al-Qaws's educational programming is based on our belief in a direct and mutual dialogue among ourselves as a community and with the larger Palestinian community. Our goal in all of our educational projects is not merely to “educate” others but to engage different audiences through an open dialogue about sexual and gender diversity. This approach, we believe, rather than one of “educating” others about (their) homophobia, will instigate a wider personal and collective engagement with questions of sexuality and gender and set the groundwork for a real restructuring of social discourse altogether.
We believe that we can transform prevailing attitudes in our society toward sexuality and gender only by preventing individuals and groups who do not value sexual and gender diversity from taking ownership of discourse about these issues. Al-Qaws’s educational programming includes face-to-face meetings and structured workshops with professionals, organizations’ staff and leadership, university students, and other mainstream groups and institutions; cooperative projects with allies and organizations; and internal self-education programs and meetings for the LGBTQ Palestinian community and Al-Qaws members.
In 2009 and 2010, Al-Qaws will structure these efforts in a more coherent manner that aims to reach out to mainstream organizations in Palestinian society in Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories. We hope to form partnerships and cooperate with other organizations that are working to make Palestinian society more just and inject our unique concerns and perspectives into the wider social justice discourse.
On a more concrete level, Al-Qaws is planning to focus, through its educational programming, on two main areas. First, we hope to offer Al-Qaws’s knowledge, expertise, and experiences as a resource for other groups and organizations that are interested in bringing discourse about sexual and gender diversity to their groups. We are prepared to respond to such opportunities on a tailored, ad hoc basis and work jointly to develop content and workshops that address the specific needs of the different groups and organizations. Secondly, we are planning to focus proactively on university students to initiate a dialogue with Palestinian student leadership, parties and groups.
Creating Language, Engaging Others
This project will draw on the lived experiences and practices of LGBTQ Palestinians to open the door to dialogue in Palestinian society on issues of gender and sexual diversity. We will produce a number of dynamic Arabic-language publications that will engage LGBTQ Palestinians and Palestinians in general in a positive and affirming but non-didactic exploration of the complexities of sexuality and gender. We envision the project as an integral part of our larger mission of restructuring public social space by promoting a relevant, non-pejorative discourse of gender and sexual diversity that is based on the actual experiences of our community.
The local relevance and intelligibility of such a discourse is particularly important because we have found, in our individual experiences and in our experiences as an organization, that hegemonic Western narratives of homosexuality—with their emphasis on “visibility” and “coming out of the closet”—are inadequate for two related reasons: in the first place, such discourses do not effectively capture or respond to the actual needs and experiences of LGBTQ Palestinians, and secondly, they empower our most vocal opponents to represent us—LGBTQ Palestinians—as something foreign and inauthentic.
We will use original texts and a creative visual presentation with modern media tools that will enable us to effectively engage multiple audiences. We are planning to produce five publications that include: information sheets, multimedia, music and more. The publications will be distributed to a diverse audience, including LGBTQ Palestinians, professionals whose work is relevant to issues of gender and sexuality, and a general audience. Our goal in this project is to offer a resource to LGBTQ Palestinians and the wider Palestinian society for individual self-realization and exploration while, at the same time, building bridges between individuals and promoting collective identification by increasing understanding of “other” identities and perspectives. Facilitating individual and collective discussions among LGBTQ Palestinians and Palestinian society about sexual and gender diversity will, in other words, create a much needed—but as yet nonexistent—discursive space in which people can explore the full possibilities of their own sexual and gender identities and better understand and identify common interests with others.
Networking and Building Coalitions
On the local level, Al-Qaws will step up its efforts to reach out to local social justice, women’s and human rights organizations. This project aims to increase awareness and create dialogue about issues of sexual and gender diversity, Palestinian social attitudes, and the joint responsibility of civil society organizations in promoting respect for gender and sexual diversity.
Mainstream organizations face multiple obstacles and fears that make them hesitant to discuss these issues and sometimes unwilling to cooperate with Al-Qaws. This project will demand, first, that we formulate a clear message to these organizations and, second, that we prepare creative suggestions for how we can engage jointly in actions that can change our society and challenge our organizations without de-legitimizing these organizations in the perspective of their supporters and allies.
Al-Qaws is planning to reach out to new organizations in the north of Israel, East Jerusalem and the West Bank, including: human rights and social justice organizations; professional organizations such as welfare departments and clinics; women’s and feminist organizations, and Palestinian-based foundations generally. We also hope to use these meetings to map “mainstream” organizations’ difficulties in dealing with Al-Qaws and our struggle and thereby build a more coherent plan to establish respect for sexual and gender diversity as a serious goal on the agenda of mainstream organizations. Al-Qaws plans to engage these groups in dialogue to form a foundation for future cooperation and engage them as part of a coalition for the advancement of LGBTQ rights and freedoms.
In addition, Al-Qaws will continue to establish contact and engage in ongoing dialogue with other LGBTQ organizations and social justice organizations on the international level. This communication is hugely important to us in terms of learning from our peers, informing them of our work, and examining successful strategies on LGBTQ issues in other countries. We have received many expressions of interest in and support for our work from the wider LGBTQ community. This support has been very encouraging for our team and has highlighted the value of our work. Additionally, in 2010 we will work on a new and clear plan of action to engage other Palestinian LGBTQs living abroad in spreading the word about Al-Qaws and the Palestinian LGBTQ community.
PR & Media:
Over the past few years, many articles have appeared in the mainstream media that fail to represent the lives of LGBTQ Palestinians in a balanced way. For us, it is vital that one story does not become the generalization for a diverse community of individuals with very different experiences. Al-Qaws receives phone calls, emails and personal visits almost on a daily basis from journalists and other interested parties who wish to acquire information about LGBTQ Palestinians. We have an open-door policy and always allocate time to deal with the questions and queries, which mostly come from the European and American press. Because these interested parties often come with misconceptions and stereotypes about LGBTQ Palestinians that they have acquired from mainstream media, we understand the importance of listening to their queries, discussing and answering their questions, and giving them a more realistic and insightful view of our lives. We will continue to work with the media both at home and abroad to share our stories and to advocate for transparent, balanced journalism in relation to our struggle. Please visit our new Media Room section.
Despite the above need, Al-Qaws decided that the first priority in the coming few years is to focus on local press and media by initiating contacts, promoting news and stories about Al-Qaws and our community, and building a network of supportive journalists that can challenge the mainstream language and narratives that have represented us until now. In addition, we hope to develop a section on our Arabic and English website that will provide new, relevant and accurate information and news.