The Fire Will Not Consume Us

The Fire Will Not Consume Us

The New York City Dyke March is one of the best events ever conceived to combat dyke invisibility, at least for those few brief moments of proudly marching down the streets. At the first Dyke March down Fifth Avenue, Lesbian Avengers carried torches and burnt signs with the names of anti-lesbian and gay propositions blamed for homophobic violence.

I have attended the Dyke March numerous times – first in the 1990s, when the Baltimore Lesbian Avengers traveled en masse to participate, then in the early 2000s and most recently in 2012.

In the 1990s, the Dyke March was one of the most empowering marches I’ve ever attended – and I’ve participated in hundreds of them, from first Gulf War protests to marches for Take Back the Night to Mumia Abu Jamal. There is nothing quite like walking through the streets of Manhattan surrounded by thousands of dykes, cheered on by our Gay brothers.

It is a good time. It is a powerful time.

There was a noticeable difference between the Dyke Marches of the 1990s and the 2012 Dyke March – the presence and influence of trans and genderqueer culture. As a participant in the 2012 march, I recognized it as inclusive space, as I support the right of women to establish the boundaries of their own space as they choose.

Notwithstanding the differences, this year’s march was also a blast, with its theme “Every Dyke is a Hero.” In the spirit of that theme, I carried a sign in support of one of my heroes, Sheila Jeffreys.  For dykes, Professor Jeffreys is a voice of reason in a misogynistic world.  Jeffreys unapologetically and intelligently articulates how sexism and misogyny negatively impact lesbian culture and community.  Jeffreys also is a sharp critic of gender identity, noting in a recent piece in the Guardian that “there are many aspects of the practice which bear investigation, including the history and social construction of the idea of transgenderism, the recent increased identification of children as transgender, the phenomenon of transgender regrets.”

Sheila Jeffreys is also a lesbian – so, of course, if every dyke is a hero, that includes Professor Jeffreys, right?


At the march’s end in Washington Square Park, dozens of dykes frolicked in the park’s iconic fountain in celebration of dyke visibility. As I stood by the fountain, Ida Hammer, a transwoman and one of the organizers of this year’s Dyke March, approached me with a group of 12 or 13 queer people.

Hammer decided that the Dyke March should not welcome all dykes.

Specifically, the Dyke March should not welcome me – or, apparently, any dyke who disagrees with the community’s current love affair with gender identity and genderqueerness.

Hammer did this even though I and others with me respected the Dyke March as inclusive space and did nothing to disrupt it – except, apparently, carry a sign with the name of someone Hammer doesn’t like.

I have been an activist for more than 20 years (with a sabbatical to birth my babies). I have protested in front of the Family Research Council. I have infiltrated Patriot Movement meetings to report on their activities.  I have protested racist skinheads and KKK wannabees. I have traveled to the most rural parts of Maryland and Pennsylvania to support Gay allies under attack by homophobic bigots. I have never – in all those years, and throughout all those encounters – felt more unsafe than I felt at the Dyke March this year.

When Hammer smugly told me that the Dyke March was inclusive space, I told her that I supported the space and did nothing to disrupt it. When that flummoxed her, another person, Holly Renee, a female who “identifies as queer” and who led the march, decided to “lead the charge.”  The confrontation instigated by transwomen and “queers” devolved into an hour-long confrontation of ridiculous proportions where I stood condemned for asserting that transwomen are women, but they are not female.

In the GLBT Community in 2012, you are a bigot and a transphobe if you confirm reality and care about biological sex.

Holly Renee eventually stopped talking to me, because she wanted to punch me in the face.  Because dykes deserve to get punched in the face, die in a fire and get doused in gasoline and lit on fire for caring about Female Reality.

Given that Lesbian Avengers ate fire to memorialize the death by fire of a lesbian and a gay man as a result of Homophobic violence, I find the trans love affair with threatening dykes with death by fire ironic, to say the least.

But to you, Ida Hammer, and your handmaidens, I have words.

The fire will not consume us. We take it and make it our own.

Be the Bomb you throw, Dykes. If you don’t like how things are in the GLBT Community, change it.

Originally appeared in Baltimore OUTloud

Thursday, 28 June 2012

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  1. Cathy, You got my support and my backing. I know every intersex person that is being silenced by the trans community has your support and backing as well. You Go Girl.

  2. selfdefense · ·

    The Lesbian Avengers were always trans inclusive, publicly opposed trans exclusion policies, and even (gasp!) excepted trans women as lesbians. To bad you can’t rewrite history

    1. You do know I support rights for trans ppl, right?

      And you also must know that as a decentralized political direct action group, there was – and is – BROAD opinion on the issue of trans and gender identity among Lesbian Avengers. What chapter were you with?

    2. Really, I don’t recall that the LA ever issued a statement ACCEPTING (not excepting) trans women as lesbians. Perhaps you could direct me to that. I have seen LA involved with trans rights, which I will point out are completely different things and completely in line with Cathy’s work

  3. Larry Lipschitz · ·

    A dyke march is a dyke march. If you’re not ok with it then perhaps you shouldn’t take part in it. It’s very bold of you, an oppressed person yourself, to perpetuate systems of oppression that leave all of us invisible and powerless. If trans folks don’t exist, then dykes, lesbos, queers, etc don’t exist either. Your “female reality” is yours to declare and to hold. Rest assured, no one’s trying to take it away from you. You seem to have already deluded yourself into acting as if you can set a bar for an entire community with your rants and raves. You are, much like your cause, a hopeless individual. It’s too bad there’s not a dyke separatist march. That seems more your speed.

    1. Um, I supported the inclusivity of the Dyke March. Did you miss that, somehow, in your zeal to exclude lesbians from the Dyke March?

    2. GallusMag · ·

      Larry LipShitz you stupid bastard it is very telling that you come to a lesbian’s blog to condemn HER for BEING ATTACKED at Dyke March by a group of men who TARGETED her for her feminist activist history.
      What KIND of person goes out of their way to attack lesbians? A real lesbophobic prick, that’s who. In other words, YOU Shit Lips.

    3. larry shitlips hath thpoken! all hail larry shitlips!

      they arent even taking note that you have cedes any points at all. that means that they will not be satisfied until you have ceded all the points. they are making this very clear. this is not a negotiation, from their perspective. its something else.

      1. GallusMag · ·

        All Hail Larry! King of the Lesbians!

      2. radicalwoman · ·

        That’s an important thing to note, FCM. I also used to think I could negotiate with them and be “fair” about their rights, since they were so sadly oppressed, as well – that we could have shared spaces just so long as it was understood that women also needed their own spaces too! But no, it isn’t a negotiation. From their perspective, it is a war and they want to beat, threaten, bully, and even kill women until/unless they agree – with a smile – to every single demand.

      3. Seems that way. I mean, they attack me, and I’ve busted my ass for their legislation. I’m not doing that again.

  4. doublevez · ·

    I think ONE of the major problems with trans folks and their supporters is they are all FUNCTIONALLY ILLITERATE.

    The other problem of course, is their crippling women-mommy hating which is why the MRAs ^ ^ love them.

  5. […] critique of the violent rhetoric currently swirling from the queer/trans community. Brennan has stated that she has never felt so unsafe as she did at the NYC Dyke March […]

  6. All my support Cathy, and so well said! It seems to me they just want to take, they don’t care about the work Women have done to break down barriers, that have put them in the position they are in today! So they disregard everything and literally shit on and attack the Women and thought that have given them the rights that they have today! It makes no sense to me, like literally they want to go back in time. Throughout history Men and patriarchal society have always tried to prevent Women from gathering together, to have a space they can call their own, interact without some male societal construct invading their space. So here is the Trans community, trying to reinforce this horseshit from old, to invade and attack Women who are the ones who have put them in this place to be even able to do this!! Women only space, is this an illogical thing?? Who here on this blog wouldn’t give a trans only space! This just confounds me….. I might be young, and a boy and still learning about alot of stuff, but I know I will support this till the flippin end!!


  7. adriennecamposampiero · ·

    In 2010, when I was new to this stuff and knew next to nothing about sex and gender diverse politics, I was distributing questionnaires about homophobia for a research project to a room full of equal marriage activists. Two genderqueer-identified activists pointed out that my survey question was “wrong.” I’d written “Gender: Male, Female, Other” and they both said, “Gender is a social construct (men/women) and sex is biological/genitalia (male/female).” They weren’t just two isolated people; they were the well-informed elected conveners of the queer collective at the university.

    From the video posted earlier, it seems like that is all you’re saying, Cathy. If they identity as women, then they’re women (gender), but not female (sex). I may be missing something, but isn’t this like, medical fact?

    I’m utterly confused about when this changed, and why. Also, was this knowledge shared in any way? I’d be interested in knowing why the trans community have changed their mind on this issue, but it seems like the only explanation people are being given is in the form of yelling incoherently and “calling people out on privilege” (often a euphemism for shaming individual people on blogs) and then saying it’s not their job to educate us. But it seems like no one is actually thinking through these things and presenting any kind of support/theory/academic analysis/media/news articles. It just seems like a bunch of people communicating through tumblr by using endless lists of identity jargon.

    The same activists explained to me that “cis” means that “for example, your gender as a woman is aligned with your biological sex as female.” If biological genitals mean nothing and you can call a penis a female body part… then what does cis mean? Maybe this is my “artistic” brain failing to understand logic, but how can cis mean anything?! How can “cis scum” mean anything? And do they literally mean every person who is a woman/man who owns a vagina/penis is scum? That’s a shitload of people. The identity jargon also often doesn’t match up; on their lists of identities in their ‘about me’ sections, some of these terms seem contradictory. Furthermore, what is the word for a woman who bears a vagina? They speak about their experiences being erased, but aren’t they linguistically doing that to female (vagina-owning) women?

    Also, how the hell can people not understand that a female-only space is necessary? Different socialisation, different biology, different oppression and misogyny means that I do not want to talk about rape around someone who has a penis. I would never expect another woman to do that either, and I shouldn’t have to.

    I keep seeing the trans community on tumblr suggest that it’s transphobic for a woman to only be sexually attracted to women who have vaginas. That would be like lesbians calling heterosexual women homophobic because they don’t want to have sex with women. Which we don’t do. Because oppression is based on oppression, not sexual attraction. When they’re challenged on this, they respond with “we don’t want to have sex with you, rad fem scum”, but never explain why it’s allegedly transphobic to prefer female women.

    Furthermore, why is this kind of criticism solely directed at women and lesbians? I’ve never seen gay men targeted. I hate in-fighting, and I hate when marginalised people attack other marginalised people; I would never say that transwomen are any less woman. I try my best to keep updated with what progressive communities are demanding, but some of this stuff does not make sense to me and to be honest, a lot of it smacks of misogyny.

    Also, on a side note, I really respect that you get to engage in this kind of activism as a lawyer. In Australia, they would find a way to get us struck off the bar/roll!

    1. doublevez · ·

      Read Sheila Jeffreys, your countrywoman.

  8. Keep on keeping on. I have let some Lesbian friends know about this incident, and they were thoroughly appalled by it, and completely supportive of you. We all must stand firm, for ourselves, for our Dyke communities, or what’s left of them, and for up and coming young Dykes, potential Butchy and even androgynous Lesbians to have a space and place, without feeling they must transition to male or identify as male to survive and be free, to feel proud in their young Butchy female bodies/minds/spirits, and to not allow ourselves to be bullied by the born male.

    1. Masha Sabina · ·

      Exactly what drove me out of the community up here in Canada. My traditional femme lesbian identity which yearns toward a butch partner who is not male and doesn’t identify as male (though passing for male is a non-issue) made sure that I was marginalized and even ridiculed by those who should have been my companieras.

  9. Feminist Retread · ·

    Sorry you had to go through this Cathy but thanks for writing about it. If you hadn’t I might never have discovered Sheila Jeffries and her books. I’m nowreading Beauty and Mysogeny, which is GREAT, plan to read all the others too. Big thanks.

  10. you rock cathy. crazy world where people want to lynch you for stating the basics of biology. the cuckoos in the nest are biting the hands that helped them with their insatiable appetite for more.

  11. Straight women need to join lesbians to defend our biological femaleness and right to gather. I’ve been on a “progressive” board run in part by trans women which meant no defense of VRR was permitted, same goes for Mich Fest. I’m not a political sort, or an academic feminist. I am just a feminist, no modifier required.

    When I heard about Mich Fest I was immediately drawn to it, especially the part about the feeling of safety. That is predicated on being surrounded by women. I couldn’t care less if the women are straight or lesbian or bi. I could not believe that anyone could possibly think they have the right to insist on penis inclusion. The whole point for me is to be all alone with penisless people commonly referred to as “women”. Oh, and I am not a “cis” woman, a label someone tried to apply to me. I am a woman, no modifier required. Women aren’t men, and trans-women aren’t women.

    Trans-women argue circles around me which I have found frustrating. I researched a lot about the controversy and ended up with: Feminists consider gender a social construct not something we are born with. I instantly rejected “cis” woman because that would confirm that I believe we are born with a gender, and I don’t believe that. I have very much felt that trans women were not content with my using female pronouns, and respecting their need for access to public facilities. Nothing would satisfy them other than cornering me into saying that there is no difference between women and trans women or proving that there is a difference.

    They are very good at convoluted arguments that go in circles. Then I came across the incredibly offensive term “cotton-ceiling”. I could not believe what I was reading. Basically chastising lesbians for not wanting to have sex with them! Social inclusion was not enough!!!!!!!!!!! Unbelievable.

    It’s interesting because in this they are doomed. I didn’t choose my sexuality. It just is. If assume it’s the same thing for most lesbians. You just “are”. You couldn’t change who gets your rocks off even if you wanted to. Trans women cannot win anymore than men who think they can “turn” lesbians, or churches that think they can turn gays.

    The aggressive bullying nature of trans-women activists feels the same as male bullying. Assertive is what Cathy does. Bullying is what they do. And at a DYKE march no less!!!!!!!! Shocking. I do fear for the possibility of escalating violence. They will get angrier and angrier that lesbians and straight men don’t want to have sex with them. It’s not something they can change.

    I’m assuming an official complaint has been made to the organizers? The organizers cannot condone what we saw in that video and all the commentary on the web since.

  12. […] “Radical Feminists.” I do not want to have unpleasant encounters with trans people at Dyke Marches. I do not want to be threatened with rape or death. I do not want random Internet weirdos – […]

  13. lindsey spilman · ·

    Carnt you just hit them back, rather then preaching all this feel unsafe shit. There only fighting your politics, not you sexuality or masculine gender presentation.

    1. I don’t understand this comment. Just because you are a rapey porn sick violent creep doesn’t mean I am.

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