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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, 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 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.
2017 Jewish rainbow flag incidentEdit
In 2017, 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, an award-winning journalist for 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 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".
There is a yearly Dyke March in Hamburg and Cologne, Germany. Since 2017 also in Heidelberg, and since 2018 in Oldenburg. The Berlin Dyke March occurs each year the day before the Berlin Pride Parade in June. The Berlin Dyke March has been in operation since 2013 in the LGBT-friendly neighborhood of Kreuzberg.
The London Dyke March occurs each year in June, with its first march in 2012. The London Dyke 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 London Dyke March emphasizes diversity, including bois, queers, femmes, butches, lipstick lesbians and many more.
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).
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. As with the San Francisco Dyke March, the organizers do not seek out a permit, and put a high 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. Each year approximately 15,000 women attend this event.
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. Many of the Lesbian Avengers were also 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.
The first San Francisco Dyke March was held in June 1993, and is celebrated every year on the last Saturday in June. The Dyke March is informal, with marchers creating their own signs and most people showing up to participate, rather than to just watch. The streets along the march route are lined with enthusiastic spectators in support of the women. The march begins in Mission Dolores Park with speeches, performances and community networking and ends in the Castro District. The San Francisco Dyke March has high attendance numbers yet remains a peaceful and well-organized event.
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 with a Rally with speakers and performers who are women identified and queer identified from 5 to 7pm. The Rally is held outside at Seattle Central Community College. The Rally is ASL interpreted. For the better part of the last decade of Dyke March, organizers do seek a permit. Since about 2007, the march audience has been about 1,000 women, and the permit ensures the streets are clear for Marching.
Gallery of Dyke MarchesEdit
Germany: Berlin, 2017, Dykes on Bikes led Pride March
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