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A Dyke March is a lesbian visibility and protest march, much like the original Gay Pride parades and gay rights demonstrations. The main purpose being the encouragement of activism within the lesbian community. Dyke marches commonly take place the Friday or Saturday before LGBT pride parades. Larger metropolitan areas usually have several Pride-related happenings (picnics, workshops, arts festivals, parties, benefits, dances, bar events) both before and after the march to further community building; with outreach to specific segments such as older women, women of color, and lesbian parenting groups.
Dyke Marches are now held in Berlin and London in Europe; Calgary, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg in Canada; as well as Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Long Beach, Minneapolis, New York City, Oakland, Philadelphia, Portland (Oregon), San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C., West Hollywood, and other cities in the United States.
Before the concept of a "Dyke March" came to be, one of the first documented lesbian pride marches in North America took place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in May 1981. Approximately 200 lesbians attending the fifth Bi-National Lesbian Conference marched through downtown streets chanting "Look over here, look over there, lesbians are everywhere!"
Later, in October 1981, the now-defunct organization Lesbians Against the Right held a "Dykes in the Streets" march in Toronto, Ontario, with lesbian power, pride, and visibility as the theme. 350 women participated in the demonstration.
The first Dyke March was formed in Washington D.C., during the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation, and held on April 24, 1993. Organized by the Lesbian Avengers, over 20,000 women participated in the march.
Dyke March eventsEdit
The reason for the creation of the various Dyke Marches was to protest what many women saw as the control of Gay Pride events by white gay men at the expense of lesbians in general and women of color in particular.
The Berlin Dyke March has been in operation since 2013 in the LGBT-friendly neighborhood of Kreuzberg. The march occurs annually in June, on the day before the Berlin Pride Parade.
The London Dyke March was first organized in 2012 and is held each year in June. The 2012 march featured speakers, including a representative from the Safra Project, a charity for Muslim LBT women, and Sarah Brown, a transgender lesbian activist and former Lib Dem councilor.
The Chicago Dyke March is held in the month of June and has been in operation since 1995, beginning in the LGBT-friendly neighborhood of Andersonville. Many participants consider it "a chance to celebrate ourselves as women, as lesbians, and to show the community that we are here."
In 2008, organizers of the Chicago Dyke March announced that it would remain in a new location for two consecutive years. The location of the march changed every two to three years to increase visibility throughout all neighborhoods of Chicago. The March was held in Pilsen in 2008 and 2009, in South Shore in 2010 and 2011, in Uptown in 2012 and 2013, in Humboldt Park in 2014, 2015 and 2016, and in La Villita in 2017.
Separate Lesbian Pride marches were held in New York City in the 1970s, but they did not become a continuous tradition. The Dyke March was renewed by the NY Chapter of the Lesbian Avengers in June 1993, after the success of the Dyke March in Washington. As time passed, many members of the Lesbian Avengers became concerned that New York's Gay Pride March was losing its political edge as it became more accepted by the city and courted by corporations.
On the Saturday before Pride, participants gather in Bryant Park as they prepare to march down Fifth Avenue towards Washington Square Park. The Dyke March is open to everyone who identifies as a 'dyke'. Because of this, allies and others who do not identify as 'dykes' have been asked to stand on the sidewalks and cheer on the marchers. Each year approximately 15,000 women attend this event.
As with the San Francisco Dyke March, the organizers do not seek out a permit, and put emphasis on the political. Even though there are many club nights and parties after the March, the event is not so much about entertainment as it is about highlighting the presence of self-identified women within the LGBT community.
The first San Francisco Dyke March was held in June 1993, and is celebrated every year on the last Saturday in June. The march begins in Mission Dolores Park with speeches, performances, and community networking; and ends in the Castro District. The Dyke March is informal, with marchers creating their own signs and most people showing up to participate, rather than to just watch. The San Francisco Dyke March has high attendance numbers.
In the early years, the San Francisco Dyke March Committee (a small group of volunteers) never applied for nor received a permit from the city, exercising the First Amendment right to gather without permits and often changed its route to avoid the police.
Seattle's Dyke March occurs the Saturday before Pride and begins with a Rally at 5 pm at Seattle Central Community College, followed by the march through the streets at 7 pm. The rally is held outdoors, includes speakers and performers who are women identified and queer identified, and is ASL interpreted. Since the late 2000s, organizers have filed for a permit. Since about 2007, the march audience has been about 1,000 women, and the permit ensures the streets are clear for marching.
The D.C. Dyke March was first organized in April 1993 and thereafter held annually in June until 2007. After a 12-year absence, the march returned in 2019 with "Dykes Against Displacement" as its theme, in protest of the elimination of low-income housing due to gentrification. The march, however, became mired in controversy resulting from the banning of "nationalist symbols".
Incidents regarding anti-Semitism and Zionist symbolsEdit
In 2017, Chicago Dyke March organizers singled out three women, including Eleanor Shoshany Anderson and Laurel Grauer, carrying Jewish pride flags and began questioning them on their political stance in regards to Zionism and Israel. After a discussion, organizers asked them to leave the event, insisting that the rainbow flag with the Star of David "made people feel unsafe" and that the Dyke March was "pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist". The incident prompted widespread criticism and accusations of anti-Semitism among organizers of the event.
Dyke March Chicago initially stated that the women were removed due to the flags, and asked pro-Palestinian organizations to release statements of solidarity while they crafted an official statement. March organizers later released an updated statement maintaining that the women (one of whom they described as a "pro-Israel activist") were asked to leave due to their "Zionist stance and support for Israel", and not the use of Jewish symbols. Jewish Voice for Peace Chicago, which had members at the march, corroborated their account.
In the discussions leading to Grauer's expulsion from the march, she explained to organizers that she worked to make "Israel more pluralistic, accepting and accountable not only to Queer Israelis, but everyone, including Queer/non-Queer Palestinians" and stated "I believe there should be a free and independent Palestine." Eleanor Shoshany Anderson (under the pseudonym Ellie Otra) explained that her Star of David flag had nothing to do with Israel and merely represented being "Jewish in public", as it was "the ubiquitous symbol of Judaism", which Grauer confirmed in her statement to Haaretz. In response to accusations of antisemitism, organizers of the Chicago Dyke March issued a statement that said "anti-Zionist Jewish volunteers and supporters are welcome at Dyke March and were involved in conversations with the individuals who were asked to leave." Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, condemned the actions of the organizers and stated, "The Star of David is a symbol of the Jewish people, and kicking marchers out for carrying a flag that demonstrates the intersectionality of LGBTQ and Jewish identity is anti-Semitic."
Reporter Gretchen Rachel Hammond, from the Windy City Times, was first to report on the incident. After publication of the news story, for which Hammond received threatening phone calls including one in which she was called a "kike", she was initially removed from her position at the newspaper and subsequently fired. Chicago Dyke March organizers celebrated the actions brought against Hammond in a series of tweets, one of which employed the white supremacy term "Zio": "Zio tears replenish my electrolytes!". They later tweeted a correction: "Zionist/white tears replenish our electrolytes".
2019 Washington, D.C.Edit
Similar to the 2017 decision made by the Chicago Dyke March, the 2019 Washington D.C. Dyke March adopted a policy that "nationalist symbols", including Israeli and American flags and the Star of David when centered on a flag, cannot be displayed, organizers said these symbols represent "violent nationalism", and said those attending the event should "not bring pro-Israel paraphernalia in solidarity with our queer Palestinian friends", while "Jewish stars and other identifications and celebrations of Jewishness (yarmulkes, talit, other expressions of Judaism or Jewishness) are welcome and encouraged". March organizers erroneously stated that the Star of David only became a Jewish symbol with the advent of modern Zionism. D.C. Dyke March organizers stated that trained "marshals and de-escalators" would be present to deal with people who brought "signs or flags that don't really align with the mission and values of the Dyke March." Palestinian flags and symbols were permitted.
In response to the policy, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt stated, "It is outrageous that in preparing to celebrate LGBTQ pride, the D.C. Dyke March is forbidding Jewish participants from carrying any flag or sign that includes the Star of David, which is universally recognized as a symbol of the Jewish people....Banning the Star of David in their parade is anti-Semitic, plain and simple. The LGBTQ community and its supporters are diverse, and that is part of its tremendous strength. We call on the organizers to immediately reverse this policy." A coalition of progressive Jewish-American groups denounced the decision in a joint statement: "The DC Dyke March should know better than to stoke the flames of division and pain by driving a wedge between Queer Arabs and Jews at a time we must stand united against homo- and transphobia, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia....We hope that they will do better — for the sake and advancement of all of our communities." The American Jewish Committee tweeted: "How is the [D.C. Dyke March] inclusive when it excludes Israeli or Jewish Pride flags? By banning the Jewish star from their event, they are sending a divisive message to members of the LGBTQ community." Shmuel Rosner noted the irony of the choice to ban the Jewish Gay Pride flag during the same week that Israel's first openly gay minister, Amir Ohana, was appointed.
In a Washington Blade op-ed, D.C. Dyke March organizers Yael Horowitz and Rae Gaines stated that "a Zionist contacted the DC Dyke March with the deliberate goal of making it sound as though Jews are unwelcome at the [march]", and that "a number of news organizations" were contacted to "paint the DC Dyke March as a place that's unwelcome to Jews because of our anti-Zionist views." Horowitz and Gaines explained that the march needed "to be a space that is as welcoming to Palestinian Dykes as it is to Jewish Dykes."
In response to the ban of the Star of David on flags, the National LGBTQ Task Force withdrew their support for the D.C. Dyke March. The task force's executive director Rea Carey explained, "The Jewish Pride Flag is a symbol that represents the greater LGBTQ Jewish community – around the world and of many perspectives....We are disappointed that this action distracts from the appropriate and needed focus on DC residents and housing policies that favor gentrification."
More than two dozen Jewish lesbians and Zionist supporters brought the prohibited flag and symbol to the march. They debated the perceived mistreatment and exclusion with march organizer Jill Raney. Thereafter, D.C. Dyke March organizers allowed the group to participate in the march with their LGBT Jewish Pride flags.
Gallery of Dyke MarchesEdit
Germany: Berlin, 2017, Dykes on Bikes led Dyke March
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- Dyke March groups:
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