Germany’s far-right, fascist party German Alternative für Deutschland, or AfD, has appointed an out lesbian as its new leader — a perplexing outcome for a group that staunchly opposed to same-sex marriage as well as other rights for LGBTQ people.
Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel were named co-leaders of the party. Weidel is openly gay and lives with her partner and two kids. While that’s a poor fit with her party’s line, her history as a former Goldman Sachs banker as well as being a supporter of outright xenophobia, is consistent with the party’s proposed policies.
In her acceptance speech, Weidel called for the AfD to “stick together and fight together,” and specifically named “political correctness” a major problem.
“We don’t want any imported civil wars on German streets. Political correctness belongs on the garbage heap of history,” she said, as reported by LGBTQ Nation.
When probed by media about how she could stand to be the leader of a party diametrically opposed to her lifestyle — the party has compared LGBTQ people adopting to making a child a “plaything for the sexual inclinations of a loud minority,” opposes sex education in schools and advocates for “traditional gender roles” for women — she simply responded that she keeps her personal life and her public life separate.
Surprisingly enough, however, the party enjoys legions of support from gay and trans people in the country. The “Alternative Homosexuals,” formerly known as “Homosexuals in the AfD,” are a group of LGBTQ supporters of the far-right party.
Member Alexander Tassis told the outlet DW last month that he supports the AfD’s stances on LGBTQ education and in fact also wants to stop what he calls “early sexualization” and “gender madness.”
While he disagrees with the group’s stance on gay adoption, he does support its emphasis on “classical families.” Many of the queer and trans AfD supporters, DW reported, are attracted to the party’s anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant positions.
This is consistent with the case elsewhere in Europe, where Islamophobic campaigns are used as a way to convince people that anti-immigration policies are how LGBTQ rights will remain protected. Far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders did this in the Netherlands, while in France, at 16.5 percent, the proportion of LGBTQ people who supported the far-right National Party last fall was 2 percentage points higher than its share of straight voters, according to French polling firm IFOP.
Although the AfD has made no moves to support any LGBTQ rights, Weidel’s election is still being interpreted as an attempt by AfD to shake off its “fringe” image, and in particular distance itself from another ultranationalist, far-right party in the country, the National Democratic Party of Germany. Although not a perfect example, as the AfD has made zero claims of championing LGBTQ rights, this tactic is close to the concept of “pinkwashing,” a term used to describe when perceived support for queer and trans issues and people is used to detract from an entity’s neoliberal, right-wing or otherwise oppressive policies.
While first coined by the U.S.-based advocacy organization Breast Cancer Action to criticize the phenomenon of corporations profiting off breast cancer awareness campaigns, pinkwashing has been long used to describe Israel’s claims that the apartheid state supports LGBTQ rights in order to divert attention from its systemic repression of Palestinians.
AfD reshuffled its leadership after former party leader, Frauke Petry, stepped down. Petry had previously called for border patrol agents to shoot refugees attempting to cross into Germany and compared ethnic minorities to garbage, saying “What should we make of the campaign ‘Germany is Colorful’? A compost heap is colorful, too.” He has also made apologist statements for the Holocaust, and denied that anti-Semitism exists.
Earlier this year, in another perplexing move from the party, images of Che Guevara — one of the 20th century’s most iconic revolutionaries, synonymous with socialist and other left struggles — were used in the AfD’s campaign.