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.
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