When a strong majority of Americans support LGBT equality, it takes a lot for a pride parade in any American city to cause a controversy, but the Chicago Dyke March, now in its 21st year, did exactly that in June. And it isn’t even the city’s official pride parade, for Dyke March organizers pride themselves on being outside of the mainstream, LGBT or otherwise.
The march nevertheless made it into the mainstream press after three participants carrying rainbow flags emblazoned with the Star of David were expelled from the event. Why? Because they were supporters of Israel.
The organizers acted in the name of comfort for any Palestinian participants and allies and in opposition to Zionism, which they call “an inherently white-supremacist ideology.”
Indeed, other than ostracizing Jewish participants, march organizers went to extraordinary lengths to make people from every walk of life feel comfortable.
The march invitation blared: “We challenge fatphobia and are body positive.”
Fat is okay, but if you’re Jewish, keep it on the downlow.
In the eyes of some in a crowd of 1,500 those Jewish pride flags resembled Israel’s blue-and-white.
“It’s triggering people, and it’s making them feel unsafe,” Eleanor Shoshany Anderson, one of those kicked out, was told, as she later recounted to Chicagoist.
“I really wanted to just be Jewish and gay in public and celebrate that.”
Their transgressions didn’t end there. When the enthusiastic masses chanted “From Palestine to Mexico, border walls have got to go,” the three took the poetic liberty of replacing the word “Palestine” with “everywhere” – which for the march’s disciplinarians was a grave act of defiance. (If you don’t believe this, check out the Dyke March’s official statement.) The irony is glaring: the few were forced to come out as Zionist among the anti-Zionist majority, in a space, mind you, that eschews rigid identities in favor of the freedom to define oneself at will and without penalty.
What to call this if not antisemitism? Sadly, that’s hardly the first time we’ve witnessed anti-Israel zeal in the ideological Left, or even in the LGBT community. In 2012, Seattle’s LGBT Commission, an official body, canceled an event with Israeli LGBT activists, and last year in Chicago, Creating Change, an annual and rather mainstream conference of LGBT activists that is organized by the well-respected National LGBTQ Task Force, canceled at the last minute a reception featuring leaders from the Jerusalem Open House, the city’s LGBT outfit.
The reception was later reinstalled only to be ultimately silenced by angry protesters. Both events were set up by A Wider Bridge, a California-based nonprofit with a mission of strengthening relations between the American and Israeli LGBT communities and which was dragged also into the latest episode: also expelled from the Chicago march was Laurie Grauer, whose job as a regional manager for the organization seems to have marked her for special scrutiny.
How can activists in the LGBT community, and indeed any well-meaning people, avoid such a mess going forward? Here are my guidelines:
1. You can believe wholeheartedly you’re not an antisemite and still be complicit in antisemitism.
Remember, when US President Donald Trump declared yet again, “I have a tremendous respect for women,” he was serious – and wrong.