Opinion | About LGBTQ “Unity” and the Chicago Dyke March

A great deal of attention has been paid to the decisions of Chicago Dyke March organizers who requested the removal of a handful of LGBTQ Jews from the march. Seemingly most of what's been written has relied either on information that's been thoroughly debunked, or is just the typical conflations of anti-Semitism with criticisms of the Israeli government and its illegal occupation of Palestine. The recent op-ed [Mark My Words: Chicago Dyke March: Full of Shame!] published here in #Boom is such a shining example.

No participants of the Dyke March were asked to leave because of any clothing or flags or anything else adorned with a Star of David. Windy City Media, who initially published the story containing much of the misinformation that people latched onto, was also thankfully wise enough to eventually interview one of the Dyke March organizers where this claim that it was targeting participants based on Jewish symbolism is disproved. There are screenshots of text messages between organizers and the A Wider Bridge Midwest Manager as proof, clarifications, etc. in the interview, and it's worth reading in full, particularly if one is under the impression that this whole thing was about a flag.

In short, a handful of people acting in bad faith attempted to disrupt and detract from an explicitly anti-Zionist, anti-racist, and anti-colonialist event. Organizers talked with folks that were disruptive, for hours, and eventually asked them to leave, which they didn't. To put this more in context, the Dyke March organizers have been facing waves of pro-Zionist harassment before, during, and after the march, as is typical of organizations that take a pro-Palestinian stance and have some online presence. This event has led to the usual types of online harassment, which include trying to get social media accounts suspended, death and rape threats (again, much of which was happening before the march).

Due to the centering of and prominence given to the request of Laurel Grauer, Midwest Manager of A Wider Bridge, to leave the Dyke March, it's important to note the role pinkwashing plays. Pinkwashing refers to the marketing and political strategies used by corporations, organizations, and states that promotes and appropriates the language of LGBTQ rights in order to mask, normalize, and reinforce oppression, which in this case is Israeli apartheid and occupation. A Wider Bridge, possibly the worst perpetrator of pinkwashing, instantly moved to broadcast misinformation regarding what happened at the march in order to portray the affair as an attack against queer Jews by an LGBTQ community that was now casting them out. This fits into the narrative that Israel is unfairly maligned and that criticisms against this oasis of LGBTQ democracy are all somehow based in anti-Semitic sentiment. It was the actions of those trying to be disruptive and disrespectful to the march's intent that caused them to be asked to leave. It's been irresponsible media outlets who have helped push along A Wider Bridge's narrative that's created a nonsense story about anti-Semitism being to blame.

Another distortion used in the op-ed is trying to peg those that work for or stand in solidarity with Palestinians as violent. It's ridiculous to try and paint the chant “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” as either an outright call for violence or a chant used by naive buffoons who don't know some dubious and convenient origin story. It's like me claiming to be the one that came up with the chant “Whose streets?! Our streets!” by which I mean the streets are mine and must be liberated using mass genocide so watch out motorists. Palestine has long been under a brutal occupation “from the river to the sea” by the Israeli government and illegal Zionist settlements. So you can catch me and all manner of people including ardent pacifists and Jews calling for the liberation of Palestine “from the river to the sea” until it is.

The op-ed characteristically—especially since this last election—ends with a white guy calling for unity. The LGBTQ community is vast and aside from maybe some brief moments during the AIDS crisis has never really been united. This should be all the more obvious now given the increasing racial controversies that surround each corporate pride season, renewed right-wing courting of LGBTQ folks using Islamophobia, and the growing prominence of gay neo-Nazis and their (barely) more respectably packaged brethren like Milo Yiannopoulos. So many of these calls for unity serve to silence voices and move things back towards a racist, imperialist, and transphobic status quo. Y'all going to be united with me in throwing the cops, politicians, and Monsanto out of Pride?

A better and more just world isn't going to be measured by how “united” everyone is. It's going to be measured around what ideas we're united around. I'm not interested in simply uniting with gay Zionists or cops that are transsexual or bisexual Islamophobes. I'm not interested in pretending we're all supposed to be a happy and harmonious queer family when we are clearly not. If we want any measure of actually being united, we have to start with at least being honest with ourselves and with simple facts when we inevitably come into conflict.

Chris Singer - St Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee member and queer POC anarchist dude bro to the stars.