If Jews can be expelled from Chicago’s Dyke March, who’s next?

If Jews can be expelled from Chicago’s Dyke March, who’s next?
During the 21st Annual Dyke March held one day before the main Pride March in Chicago, organizers ejected a small group of women carrying a rainbow flag with a Star of David. Dyke March organizer, John-Paul Pagano, sent out a press release detailing why the decision was made to expel Jews:

Yesterday during the rally we saw three individuals carrying Israeli flags super imposed on rainbow flags. Some folks say they are Jewish Pride flags. But as a Collective we are very much pro-Palestine, and when we see these flags we know a lot of folks who are under attack by Israel see the visuals of the flag as a threat, so we don’t want anything in the [Dyke March] space that can inadvertently or advertently express Zionism. So we asked the folks to please leave. We told them people in the space were feeling threatened.”

Laurie Grauer, one of the women forced to leave told the Windy City Times that the flag was “from my congregation which celebrates my queer Jewish identity, which I have done for over a decade marching in the Dyke March with the same flag.” She continued, “People asked me if I was a Zionist and I said ‘Yes, I do care about the state of Israel but I also believe in a two-state solution and an independent Palestine.”

It is unfortunate at best that members of the queer community are confusing the making of spaces threatening-free and comfortable with fascism, confusing political astuteness with tyranny. Who decides which individuals and groups are considered the “in groups” and the “out groups”? Who elected these organizers as the Thought Police?

No matter how the organizers attempt to frame the issues, this is anti-Jewish oppression plain and simple! Shame on them and those who supported their decision!

Did the organizers throw themselves from the March by using the term “Dyke” in the title, a word that threatens many people?

Did the organizers expel all Republicans whose party has called for the exclusion of all Muslims from entering the United States?

Did the organizers eject practicing Catholics whose denomination in its official catechism describes same-sex sexuality as “acts of grave depravity” and “intrinsically disordered”?

Who are these self-appointed purveyors of a demarcation line separating who is to be included and who excluded from our spaces? March organizers as well as several activists at last year’s annual National LGBTQ Taskforce “Creating Change” conference scared off those who supported the existence of the state of Israel. They did this in the complete absence of reasoned and respectful discussion and debate.

Today, Jews and Jewish symbols are deemed toxic contraband in Chicago. Who and what will be next? Islamic, atheist, and anarchy symbols, the Chinese, Italian, or Syrian flags?

While I find the terms “gay” and “Republican” oxymoronic and worse, I will defend the right of members of the Log Cabin Republicans to join our spaces! While I consider the views of the gay gun rights group, Pink Pistols, to be anathema to my values, I will defend their right to join our spaces – hopefully, though, without their firearms in tow!

The theocratic and political Right loudly warns of a so-called “gay agenda” that we are supposedly attempting to impose in the schools, in the houses of workshop, in the halls of Congress, and in the homes of “unsuspecting” citizens throughout this land. Though there may be some basic issues on which most of us agree, we comprise such a diverse community (actually, many communities) there is no possible way that we could ever propose and work toward a unified “agenda.”

Quite simply, I believe that sexual and gender identities alone are insufficient to link a community and by extension, an entire movement. And this is possibly how it should be.

Of course, we certainly can and should challenge one another when we disagree on views, actions, terminology, perceptions of history, and ways to move forward. If indeed it is true, as the old saying goes, that the fish is the last to see the water because it is so pervasive, then from our vantage point at the margins, we have a special opportunity, indeed a responsibility, to serve as social commentators, as critics, exposing and highlighting the wide-scale inequities (or all kinds) that dampen and saturate our environment, and to challenge the culture to move forever forward and to grow.

We have crossed a critical line, however, when we enter into character assassination, insinuation and innuendo, name-calling, stereotyping, defamation, and calling into question one another’s motives for the views and perspectives we hold. I don’t care if it is people within our own communities, of even members of the ultra-right, the president of our local school board, or the neighbor next door, we don’t have to employ the tactics or use the language of those whom we oppose.

I recall the long and tortured history when the organizers of the annual South Boston Saint Patrick’s Day Parade forbade entry of the Irish LGBT organization’s contingent. Are we as a community not acting like those who oppress us by using their exclusionary tactics? Have we learned nothing from the great Audre Lorde in her warning that “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

A “coalition” develops when individuals join with others of similar and differing backgrounds and social identities to work toward a common goal. Coalitions, however, are often very difficult to attain and can also be very uncomfortable.

Who promised comfort and threatening-free spaces in political engagement? According to African-American feminist activist and writer, Bernice Johnson Reagon,

I feel as if I’m gonna keel over any minute and die. That is often what it feels like if you’re really doing coalition work. Most of the time you feel threatened to the core and if you don’t, you’re not really doing no coalescing.”

But, if we are doing good work with overriding positive goals, the discomfort is worth the struggle.

The preeminent multicultural educator, Sonia Nieto likens multiculturalism to a great tapestry:

A tapestry is a handwoven textile. When examined from the back, it may simply appear to be a motley group of threads. But when reversed, the threads work together to depict a picture of structure and beauty.”

The process is not always comfortable, not always neat, but the multicultural society provides a space for everyone to be heard, to reflect, to engage in critical dialogue, and to enter into a space of understanding, though not always agreement of views and cultures different from one’s own.

What I see happening at incidents like the Dyke March in the queer community, my queer community in terms of the internal policing is not what I fought for as an active member of the Gay Liberation Front and ACT UP. It has never been and never will be part of my “gay agenda.”

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