Frequently Asked Q's about feminist peacebuilding & Queering Women, Peace & Security in Practice
Below I include a compilation of paraphrased common questions I’ve received during events, interviews and teaching regarding the practice of queering WPS. Last updated: September 2022.
1. We are a women’s peace organization – shouldn’t an LGBTQ organization be supporting lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer women?
In reality, LGBTQ organizations, especially those working in conflict-related spaces, are understaffed and overstretched. Worse yet, those supporting lesbian, bisexual and queer women are severely underfunded globally which leads to a lack of data about these communities and lack of services for them when other women’s organiations focus solely on supporting heterosexual women.
Most importantly, women as a group should include queer women! While not every member of the LGBTQ community aligns with a binary gender (male or female), many do. The four pillars of WPS certainly apply to transgender women, bisexual women, and lesbian women. Research also shows these communities in many instances are even more vulnerable to harms like sexual violence, and experiencing homelessness and displacement. As such, it is imperative that those working to include the voices of women in peacebuilding also prioritize working with lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer women as a dimension of intersectional peacebuilding.
2. How do I avoid imposing Western ideas when working with south-based countries? I’m afraid that categories like LGBTQ are not used in the countries where we work.
This is an important question, especially if you are concerned about promoting White, western colonial ideas about sex and gender through you organization. The best way to avoid this is to simply ask the organizations you’re working with what language you should be using. Modelling in-country research and working directly with LGBTQ communities will help ensure the language you use follows best practice.
Other resources that may be helpful include fact sheets and reports available from the UN Free and Equal Campaign, though it is also important to ask directly what language queer organizations are using when you work with them.
3. I do not feel educated enough to talk about queer politics so how can I be part of queering Women, Peace and Security work?
You are not alone! Many people feel this way, especially those who are not members of the LGBTQ community. Nevertheless, it is crucial that all organizations working toward gender justice also engage with LGBTQ communities on promoting sexual rights as they are so deeply intertwined with women’s rights. This has become only more relevant in the rise of anti-gender and specifically anti-trans attacks.
If you know you do not have the expertise in your peacebuilding organization to engage in sexual politics or on LGBTQ rights, ways to begin to prioritize this work include:
Prioritize becoming more educated to better support LGBT rights as a part of your gender justice work. I keep and update a list of some resources specific to queering WPS here.
Make a list of organizations/contacts you know you can go do when questions about sexual orientation and gender identity come up;
Hire a consultant with an expertise in LGBTQ politics to be a part of gender, peace and security initiatives at the planning stage rather than the review stage;
Organize a training or workshop to educate members of staff about ongoing work related to queer peace and security work;
Invite speakers to events with this expertise so you continue to be aware of opportunities for linking up work, while also becoming more familiar with the language and landscape of how to support lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer women
4. The governments we are working with are not open to the language ‘queer’ or even ‘LGBTQ’ so is it the right time to be promoting queering WPS as part of our work?
There are a lot of ways to promote a ‘queering’ of WPS. In many instances simply being very intentional about how you’re using the words ‘gender’ and ‘women’ in practice can make a big difference (i.e. use these words to mean different things! For more on this read here this policy brief). Everyone has a sexual orientation and gender identity, so in practice, talking about sexuality is relevant to everyone.
Even if for strategic reasons your organization is not able to include the word ‘queer’ in your mission or work, other ways to support this work might include:
intentionally invite participants and speakers from LGBTQ organizations,
avoid assumptions that there are not LGBTQ people accessing your events and services,
organize a training with an LGBTQ organization to make sure your staff are aware of ways to engage in discussing about the experiences of sexual and gender minorities in peace and conflict.
Cite work that others have been doing about the experiences of LGBTQ people in conflict-related environments including thematic annual reports by the UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI)
5. What are some of the most important things that need to happen now in terms of Queering Women, Peace and Security?
Some of the other most pressing needs continue to be the need for research partnerships between LGBTQ organizations and peacebuilding organizations to produce evidence about queer women’s experience in conflict to be integrated into ongoing WPS work. Additionally, there is a need to continue to make connections between spaces (local, national, regional) where insights from grassroots LGBT women’s experiences can be integrated into implementing WPS.
(More on this forthcoming from an Outright Action International report written by myself and Chitra Nagarajan ).
6. Our organization is about supporting women, won’t supporting LGBTQ politics mean inviting gay men into our work? We’re worried men will take up room in a space where women barely get to speak already!
Bringing a gender perspective to peace and security as outlined in UN SCR 1325 is also about masculinity and men. That said, feminist practice in implementing the WPS agenda means supporting and uplifting women’s voices. The same is true when it comes to engaging with the LGBTQ community and WPS.
While it is an understandable fear, ultimately the feminist peacebuilding organizations who are doing the work to queer WPS have an opportunity to prioritize queer women’s insights. When looking for speakers or funding projects, consider including a note about prioritizing queer women’s work or being direct about how while queer men are part of queering WPS too, it is the queer women who must be centered and supported in leading queering WPS work.
As a final note: we need feminists of all genders to be part of the larger gender justice movement.