An event featuring a transgender speaker at Brown University has been called off after student activists objected that the speaker’s event would be hosted by a Jewish organization.
Janet Mock, born a male, transitioned to living as a female as a teenager and now works as a writer and transgender activist. Mock was scheduled to speak at Brown March 21 as part of a speaker series put on by Moral Voices, a Jewish student organization dedicated to the discussion of various moral issues.
Mock’s scheduled appearance was soon the target of activists, who complained that his speech would be delivered at Brown/RISD Hillel, Brown’s Jewish student center. In an online petition, critics argued that Mock’s appearance was an act of “pinkwashing,” an attempt to distract from the suffering of Palestinians by portraying Israel and Jews in general as progressive on LGBT issues. Israel is the only country in the Middle East that allows same-sex marriage, and it has allowed gays to serve openly in the military since 1993.
“Hillel’s Moral Voices campaign has chosen the topic of LGBTQ rights this year,” the petition says. “This hides the fact that for decades, the state of Israel and Israeli advocacy organizations (like Hillel) have been engaging in pinkwashing, a strategy that tries to improve Israel’s image and rebrand it as a liberal, modern, and ‘hip’ country. By shifting the focus to a very narrow definition of LGBTQ rights (exclusively for queer Israelis and not for queer Palestinians), Israel uses pinkwashing to deflect attention from Israel’s colonization and occupation of Palestine, and the violence that is being carried out against Palestinians.”
The petition also includes a non sequitur denunciation of Brown itself as a “colonizing force” occupying the lands of Wampanoag and Narraganset American Indians.
The petition received fewer than 200 signatures, but it still achieved its desired effect. Moral Voices announced March 16 that Mock’s appearance had been canceled. (RELATED: Anti-Semitism Runs Rampant At California Universities)
“We feel the focus of Janet’s work was lost leading up to the proposed event, and her visit was received with controversy and resistance rather than open dialogue and discussion about the issues closest to Janet’s work in movements for trans liberation, racial justice and intersectional feminism,” Mock’s representative said in a statement released by Moral Voices. The group itself blamed the cancellation on a “gross mischaracterization” of its intent in inviting speakers such as Mock on campus.
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