I heard the D.C. Dyke March was back after a 12-year hiatus via a Facebook post. The march started in Washington, D.C., in the early ’90s and then dropped off in 2007, so having it return was like a gift to the community. Having been to many Dyke Marches here in D.C. and in New York City, I was very excited to see this amazing event come back to life. The marches are great fun, someone usually brings drums, and there are fun outfits, clever signs, cheering, and dancing. These events are about the visibility of the lesbian community that often feels overshadowed by our gay brothers. But I didn’t expect that to attend this year’s march, I would have to hide my Jewish identity. I didn’t come out of one closet just to be forced back into another.
As a proud Nice Jewish Girl, I have walked in the D.C. Pride Parade with a hundred or so other Jewish queers and their supporters, for years carrying the Jewish Pride flag, a rainbow flag with a Star of David at its center. I have manned booths at the parade with the flag draped over the table, and wore T-shirts with the image on it. Never once has anyone said a word. But in the back of my mind was the Chicago SlutWalk of 2017, when Jewish queer women were asked to leave because they carried the very same flag, which organizers banned in solidarity with pro-Palestinian marchers, concerned that any flag with a Jewish star too closely resembled that of the State of Israel.
With that in mind, I reached out to the organizers of the D.C. Dyke March to make sure that they had a plan in place in case anyone tried to harass marchers who, like me, wanted to fly the flag of their gay Jewish pride. Their response was like a sucker punch to the gut: They told me that although Jews were welcomed to march, the Jewish Pride Flag was not.
It was like Chicago all over again. I felt like I was being pushed out of spaces that I considered safe, spaces that were my refuge when I was coming out. Sure, I was welcome to stay if I did what they wanted me to do, but I was deeply hurt to realize that, once again, I wasn’t allowed to simply be who I am.
A person called Rae, one of the march’s organizers, replied to my concerns through Facebook Messenger:
Rae: The DC Dyke March is a decidedly and fiercely pro-Jewish space. The DC Dyke March is also a pro-Muslim and pro-Palestinian space. Jewish stars and other identifications and celebrations of Jewishness (yarmulkes, talit, other expressions of Judaism or Jewishness) are welcome and encouraged. We do ask that participants not bring pro-Israel paraphernalia in solidarity with our queer Palestinian friends. This includes Israeli flags, as well as flags that resemble Israeli flags, such as a pride flag with a Star of David in the middle. We have trained marshals and deescalators ready to intervene in instances of conflict. If someone is being harassed for being a Jewish dyke, that will not be tolerated. In addition, if someone is causing conflict or creating an unsafe space for Palestinian dykes, that will also not be tolerated.
Me: Are you banning Palestinian related paraphernalia as well?
Rae: As I mentioned, the DC Dyke March is a pro-Palestinian space. We believe that our struggles and oppressions are tied together and we support Palestinian dykes. Palestinian dykes are welcome to carry symbols celebrating their Palestinian pride.
Me: So Palestinian flags are fine but no Jewish flag.
Rae: I think there may have been a miscommunication—Palestinian symbols and Jewish symbols are both welcome and encouraged. However, Israeli symbols will not be welcome.
I asked if the policy was written down somewhere and asked if they might reconsider their position, but Rae told me that the policy was public. I searched their site and could not find any policy statements or even a “What not to bring” list. I also could not find any board of directors, or even a press person. There didn’t even seem to be an organization set up to take donations.
I am glad that the organizers brought back this wonderful community event, but they should reevaluate their priorities and create a space that is truly welcoming to all and not just to some. While I understand that there are a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the occupation, and the Palestinians, we should embrace the people who have those opinions regardless of their positions and welcome them as exactly who they are. Isn’t the point of pride and the dyke march? It’s all about visibility. How can I be truly visible if I have to keep my Jewish identity hidden?
A.J. Campbell is a Jewish activist & writer, former Director of the Nice Jewish Girls, a 15-year-old group for Jewish queer women in DC, founder of the Jacob’s Tent Project. @CampbellWriter