This past weekend was full of joyous revelry and celebration for many participating in Pride marches across the country. Paralyzed by my two biggest fears–crowds and heat–I opted to stay inside and show my support by devoutly following my Instagram and Twitter feeds and liking the shit out of every happy pride post I saw.
That is, until I got to the tweets about what happened at the Chicago Dyke March, to which my immediate reaction was a big old WTF. Here’s the story: At the march on Saturday, which is self-described as an “anti-racist, anti-violent, volunteer-led, grassroots mobilization and celebration of dyke, queer, bisexual, and transgender resilience,” three women carrying rainbow flags featuring the Jewish Star of David were asked to leave. According to the Windy City Times, the women were kicked out because the flags made “people feel unsafe,” iterating that the march was “anti-Zionist” and “pro-Palestinian.”
This move did not go over well with many in the Twittersphere, including Bustle politics editor Emily Shire:
I am outraged and alarmed that being proud of being Jewish is being treated as inhospitable with the LGBTQ movement
— Emily Shire (@eshire) June 26, 2017
Another user’s thread illustrated the faulty thinking in conflating pro-Jewish sentiments with pro-Israel ones:
So, literally, just being visibly Jewish was reason enough to be harassed and then, once they gave a response with nuance, they got banned.
— Robbie (@rjmedwed) June 25, 2017
The organizers of the march have since come out with an official statement, doubling down concern over these “Israeli” flag-holders:
Sadly, our celebration of dyke, queer, and trans solidarity was partially overshadowed by our decision to ask three individuals carrying Israeli flags superimposed on rainbow flags to leave the rally. This decision was made after they repeatedly expressed support for Zionism during conversations with Chicago Dyke March Collective members.
Laurel Grauer, one of the women asked to leave, has stated, “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.” I can’t help but wonder (thanks, Carrie Bradshaw) were other marchers interrogated about the full spectrum of their political beliefs, or was this only applied to those carrying overt signs of their religion? Hmmmm.
Look, I get it. Israel is complicated, and it stirs up very strong beliefs on all sides of the spectrum. I believe that engaging in conversations about these issues is so important, but those conversations are not best executed at an emotionally-charged parade that’s supposed to be about celebrating inclusiveness and resilience among gay communities. My own feelings on Israel are complicated and always evolving, yet I do not believe that just because someone believes in Israel’s right to exist, they should be banned from a gay pride march.
Had I been in my beloved hometown of Chicago this past weekend and magically overcame my aforementioned fear of heat/crowds, I would have been at that march. And when I saw women carrying these flags, I would have thought, “Cool, people celebrating their queer Jewish identity” and nothing more. The statement made by the organizers of the Chicago Dyke March and those defending their decision is confusing and complicated, but it did make one thing very clear: Jews celebrating their queerness are not welcome here. And that is not okay.