UCLA: Where 'Queer Studies' and Middle East Studies Meet

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Center for Near Eastern Studies (CNES) is a delightful contradiction of incompatible notions. On one hand, the professors take hard-left stances on sexuality and gender issues, claiming to staunchly support the rights of gays and women. Yet they also worship at the altar of radical Middle East studies professors who act as apologists for Sharia law and other policies completely at odds with Western "liberalism."

The UCLA Queer Studies Conference 2010, which took place on October 8-9 and counted CNES among its sponsors, was a case in point. The panel discussion I attended, along with all of fifteen people, was titled "Trans-lating the Middle East." Let me "trans-late" and save others the time of attending future UCLA conferences on the subject. Gays in the Middle East are persecuted. It really is that simple. But that didn't stop participants from engaging in the usual anti-Western, jargon-laden rhetoric.

Gil Hochberg, Vice Chair of Comparative Literature and LGBT Studies at UCLA, was the moderator. She decried the "heterosexualization of our culture" and the "heterosexist portrayal of politics." Homosexuality, she claimed, is an "erotic disorder exclusively as [sic] a white pathology like white racism ... fault, guilt, refusal of fault, and paranoia."

There is an "innate imperialism of gay rights movement, a white western women's movement," she continued. Gay Muslims are "acting out of economic necessity."

She asked, "Why has the West been so successful in imposing homosexuality on the Arab world?" and answered, "People are seduced by gayness and Americanism. Natives are informants of the white gay international, not true Arabs."

University of Southern California (USC) sociology professor Evren Savci spoke about "Bigudi: An Alternative Beginning." Her remarks were so scintillating that CNES director Susan Slyomovics briefly fell asleep. When Slyomovics snapped to it, she stated that she was having trouble hearing the professor. She wasn't the only one.

Savci's "research" consisted of "five weeks working as a gay bar person and four weeks pretending to be a bar client" and led her to conclude that "queer includes the butch feminine."

University of Austin Texas anthropology professor Sofian Merabet spoke "On the (Im)possibility of Queer Translatabilities and the Formation of Gender Identities in Post-Civil-War Beirut, Lebanon" -- whatever that means.

Merabet expounded at length about his "one subject, a 73-year-old man, a most eccentric fellow. He was stocky and had a hunch-backed physique. He had posters of martyrs of Hamas and Hezbollah. He was a devout Roman Catholic -- not a Christian supremacist, but a social elitist."

Merabet is not a statistician, so perhaps he did not know that observing one person -- whatever his religious proclivities -- does not constitute an adequate research sample size.

He described his subject as "a staunch Meditarraneanist," who "yearn[ed] for the Ottoman Empire to be restored."

Merabet then added, "We also climbed the stairs where the host sunbathed naked and hoped to relieve himself from a skin condition. He overtly showed his disappointment. We refused his ride home."

I closed my eyes in case there were visual aids.

Gay people are "living their lives on ambiguous margins," Merabet stated.

Well, yes -- Islamists are trying to murder them.

There was "a hint of Norman Bates in the air," he added.

One wonders if Merebet was talking about himself on this one. His remarks were a tad psychotic.

Continuing on in this vein, he noted that there was "a toilet seat filled with dollar bills he had purchased from New York City," and then opined, "In France, I feel Oriental."

Given that this was a conference sponsored by the LGBT community, some love for that community had to be forthcoming. What happened with gays?

"Muslims woke them up by asking them to leave their lazy lives behind unless they want to burn in hell," Merabet stated.

He ended by declaring homosexuals to be on the "ephemeral daily fringes of social behavior."

Next up was Oren Segal, a graduate student in the University of Michigan's Near Eastern Studies Department. His topic was "Returning to the Father's Land: Yotam Reuveny's Queer Nationalism."

Homosexuals are "sexual outlaws," he declared. We should "segregate all the queers, create an all-male society, a new independent state near Sodom."

More bizarre commentary followed:

"There are three types in the world ... men, women, homosexuals, and lesbians."

"If gay men will act like real men, straight men lose interest to persecute and subjugate them."

"Heterosexuals cannot stop hating homosexuals. They can only hide it. It is in their blood."

"The pride parade is a freak show to heterosexuals. Stop parading; go back to Sodom."

Segal then launched into a tirade involving homosexuality and Judaism:

"Homosexuality, like Judaism, is a race."

"Gays, like Jews with Zionism, need their own separate space. Gays need their own homeland."

"Stop hiding from false morals. Why are some homosexuals gayer than others and obsessed with sex?"

"Jews were compelled to be homosexuals to increase both types. Homosexuality is another case of Jewish deviance."

"Like gays ... be a Jew in your home and a man outside it."

"A Jew is a person who is considered by others to be a Jew. A homosexual is a person who[m] others consider to be one. It only exists as others define it."

Actually, a Jew is a person born to a Jewish mother.

Segal continued,

"Jews and homosexuals are too passive to found their own state."

"The Sodomite movement is similar to the Zionist movement."

Professor Slyomovics -- no fan of Israel -- laughed heartily at this remark.

"If Jews have a state where they are normalized, gays should have the same."

"Jews will always be outsiders in front of their fellow citizens, no matter how hard they assimilate. A real solution to the Jewish problem ... Homosexuals can first be put in ghettos and then put in concentration camps ... then they will never be safe without a territory and an army."

Segal then offered his fantasy:

"A new society formed out of the 2012 gay holocaust in the same way Israel was formed out of the Holocaust."

Despite five minutes for questions, there were none.  ince most of these professors spent the time talking to each other anyway, they simply continued.

When asked by another professor, "How do you define political?," Merabet replied, "The political share my agenda, the apolitical disagree with my agenda."

His honesty was refreshing.

Hochberg asked Segal about the future land of Gayistan: "Is this new nation sarcastic? Will there be Jews, Arabs, and Palestinian gays?"

Segal responded that it is "serious and parody. The founder is Israeli, Jewish, Arab -- and Palestinian gays all over are invited. Men only -- no lesbians."

Professor Slyomovics laughed again, since excluding women is a hysterically funny topic.

Segal concluded that "[t]he Gay Holocaust started in America. After the great war, Israel and Palestine don't exist anymore. A new state emerges. The state of Sodom emerges."

Slyomovics laughed loudly, barely containing herself. I could not tell if she was celebrating the eradication of Israel or is just pro-Sodom(y).

To top off the absurdity of it all, the conference ended with a music performance by a woman named Vaginal Davis.

I'll leave that one to the imagination.

Eric Golub is the publisher of the Tygrrrr Express blog. He wrote this article for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.
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