Hussain is a first-generation Pakistani-American, is HIV-positive, gay and Muslim. He works at the LA HIV Law And Policy Project advocating for HIV-positive Angelenos seeking legal assistance.
Is America still the land of the free? Hussain: That the United States is “the land of the free” is an origin myth fabricated by the white ruling class. This myth celebrates abstract political principles like rights, freedom and liberty at the expense of material reality. American freedom has always hinged on the exploitation and enslavement of people of colour, especially Black and Indigenous Americans. For the entire nations of Indigenous Americans exterminated by European colonisers, for the millions of Africans enslaved by white capitalists, for the millions more Black prisoners caged by the prison industrial complex, and for the thousands of unarmed Black civilians murdered by white lynch mobs and “peace officers” alike, America has never been the land of the free.
Do you feel safe?
Absolutely not. I have not felt safe here for over a decade. I have been detained and can no longer travel freely without the fear of being detained again. My mosque here in the progressive sanctuary of Los Angeles was the target of a white supremacist terrorist plot. Mosques across the country have been burned and vandalised. Muslims in America live in a constant state of fear. At a family gathering last November, following the election of Donald Trump, we discussed safety plans and the importance of always having access to our passports in case we need to flee. But to where? My motherland, Pakistan, where hundreds of civilians have been killed in US military drone strikes? What if we stay? Will we be required to register? Could we be interned?
Do you think LGBTI civil rights will be rolled back under a Trump presidency?
I think there’s a lot of hysteria around the threat to same-sex marriage at the expense of protecting other rights that actually are on the chopping block. The Supreme Court’s ruling defined marriage as a fundamental right, and since Lawrence v Texas (2003), anti-gay animus has been declared insufficient to withstand even the most deferential standard of Constitutional review. Reversal on these two matters is highly unlikely. However, transgender rights are up for grabs, as these have been excluded from the mainstream LGB movement’s agenda. Additionally, Donald Trump’s promise to “reform” healthcare and immigration laws is concerning to queer people of colour, whose rights are not limited to just LGBTI civil rights.
Do you fear migrant Americans may be sent back to their country of origin?
I am the son of Pakistani immigrants. All my family in the United States were either born here, naturalized, or are legal permanent residents.
We do not fear being sent back. I do, however, fear for my clients at the Los Angeles HIV Law And Policy Project, which assists HIV-positive clients from Mexico to the Philippines to Slovakia who are seeking asylum because they are denied access to life-saving medical treatment in their home countries. Trump’s attempt to suspend the US’s refugee program casts a shadow of fear and uncertainty over humanitarian immigration programs. For those who are here because they cannot access antiretroviral treatment at home or because they are escaping state sanctioned anti-gay violence, deportation most certainly means death. Has Trump galvanized LGBTI people to fight for and protect civil rights?
Trans people and queer people of colour have been galvanized long before the election of Donald Trump. Mainstream white LGBs were lulled into a privileged sense of security [after the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage]. Many of those mainstream gays are now “woke” and ready to strike back. The racist and sexist threats posed by Donald Trump and his cronies are not new; they’ve simply come to a head in a noticeable way. The LGB community needs to build meaningful coalitions with communities of colour and the trans and immigrant communities. Donald Trump did not win despite his racist and sexist campaign, he won because of his racism and sexism. To guarantee a positive outcome in the fight to protect civil rights from the Trump regime, the LGB community must dismantle its own culture of racism and sexism.
Donald Trump did not win despite his racist and sexist campaign, he won because of his racism and sexism.