The Chicago Dyke March, The Star Of David, And A Whole Lot Of Questions | WBEZ
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Morning Shift

Divisions In LGBTQ Community Not New But Activists Work to Bridge Gaps

After Saturday’s Dyke March, the Windy City Times reported that three women carrying a rainbow flag with a Star of David were asked to leave by march organizers.

The women were told to leave because the flags "made people feel unsafe" and that the march was "anti-Zionist" and "pro-Palestinian," a member of the Dyke March Collective, which helps organize the event, told the newspaper.

The story quickly gained national attention as critics accused march organizers for being anti-Semitic.

They had flags that were rainbow flags with a Star of David on it, so they were not Israel country flags,” said Windy City Times founder and editor Tracy Baim on Morning Shift. “Unfortunately, many people interpret that as an Israeli flag or a pro-Israeli flag and so, at the rally afterwards, there were people that confronted the women that had the flags and then debate broke out — heated debate in the middle of an event.”

On Sunday, the Dyke March Collective issued a statement via Facebook saying, “The Chicago Dyke March Collective is explicitly not anti-Semitic, we are anti-Zionist. The Chicago Dyke March Collective supports the liberation of Palestine and all oppressed people everywhere.”

Baim condemned the subsequent death threats made against members of the Dyke March Collective, but also saw a silver lining to the incident, saying, “There’s far more people in our community than ever before that are willing to be out and proud, so that just means we have more different opinions for one another to act at these events.”

The Chicago Pride Parade and Dyke March Chicago expect protests from perennial demonstrators — usually groups who subscribe to an ideology that admonishes LGBTQ people — but in recent years there have been splinters from within the LGBTQ community itself.

On Tuesday, Morning Shift host Tony Sarabia spoke with Baim and Nabeela Rasheed, an attorney and member of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations, about the controversy and what it might mean for the LGBTQ community. Below are highlights from the conversation.

What happened?

Tracy Baim: There were three women who marched in the parade — a Dyke March, it’s not really a parade, it’s a march — in Little Village, which was the first time it was in Little Village, which was terrific. They had flags that were rainbow flags with a Star of David on it, so they were not Israel country flags. Unfortunately, many people interpret that as an Israeli flag or a pro-Israeli flag and so, at the rally afterwards, there were people that confronted the women that had the flags and then debate broke out — heated debate in the middle of an event. It’s a collective that puts on the Dyke March, all volunteers, so I don’t know if uniformly the entire collective knew what was going on or made decisions there, but what happened was the women were asked to leave.

It started spreading. We started getting texts from people on-site. We had a reporter on site, Gretchen Rachel Hammond, so she immediately got comment from the collective and we posted something, and then it just exploded. We added stuff as it was going throughout the next day. Even during the Pride Parade, we were updating that story because they posted on social media. So it really escalated very, very quickly.

I do feel for the people that are now getting death threats on this from the Dyke March Collective. That is absolutely inappropriate. We should really call for dialogue and not force people into a corner on this. Let’s try to be the bigger people and really try to create some nuance, create some dialogue, so that we can talk about the future of what that event might be.

On what this event might mean for the LGBTQ community

Nabeela Rasheed: I think this is a maturing of the movement. Historically, it has been about equality. Well, what does the definition of equality mean to you? It isn’t just about gay marriage. It isn’t just about white male gay marriage. It’s about a whole plethora of other stuff.

And so really, now that we’ve gotten beyond the issues — well, actually I’m not sure we’ve gotten beyond the issues with the current administration — but now that we’ve gotten at least beyond certain aspects of those issues, now the movement has matured into looking at other identities within our movement. Whether it’s Muslim, whether it’s Jewish, whether it’s the Black Lives Matter movement within our community, that is coming to light. And I think that is something that we have to grapple with when we are organizing, when there is a collective that is organizing.

I think the organizers have to be aware and actually give that platform. Be aware that that’s going to happen and give it room to breath.

On the event’s escalation through social media

Baim: The controversy, the problems, those are nothing new really. I think it’s just escalated by social media and other ways that people communicate now compared with the past. So I still like to see the good with the controversial, and I feel like the controversy is part of our struggle.

On the need for mutual respect among members of the LGBTQ community

Rasheed: There is nothing wrong with saying, “Equal, but different.” Unity somehow puts us all into one bucket and expects us all to be uniform. That’s never going to happen.

Tony Sarabia: Isn’t uniform different than unity though?

Rasheed: I’m not sure that it is. … The moments of unity coalesce around issues. You can have unity around an issue but not necessarily give up the other aspects of your diversity. So I think, for me, it’s equal but different. Respect has to come into that, and it has to be that your views are different from mine. I respect you for your views, but they are different from mine.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Click the “play” button to hear the entire segment.

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