Their placards excluded men

There was a Dyke March in Vancouver. You’ll never guess what happened. Danielle Cormier was there:

Having chosen “lesbian heroes” as our theme for this year’s March, we carried homemade signs that featured lesbians we admire — our lesbian heroes — pioneers who have made significant contributions to lesbian culture or allies in the ongoing struggle for lesbian sexual autonomy.

Many of these women are on the ever-growing list of lesbians considered enemies and “bigots” due to their views on gender, female space, or our right to gather separate from males, among peers, and to determine for ourselves who those peers are.

The roster of lesbians whose names have become taboo, forbidden, and synonymous with hatred is notable. Lesbian feminist historian, Max Dashu, has been smeared as a “TERF” (trans-exclusionary feminist) and a bigot, no-platformed from the Witches Confluence in San Francisco after participating in the San Francisco Dyke March, along with allied lesbians, who carried signs reading “Proud to be Lesbian” and “Lesbian Visibility.” The works of women like Julie Bindel, Sheila Jeffreys, Janice Raymond, and Mary Daly are expunged from bookshelves, gender studies departments, and reading lists of LGBTQ centres. This makes them inaccessible to young lesbians wanting to know about their history. Protests are organized against spaces that carry the writings and stories of these lesbians — literal erasure (pun intended). Their crime? Analyzing how gender identity ideologies affect the material lives of women and women’s sex-based rights.

If women – lesbian and straight – can’t talk about what we mean by “gender identities” and how the ideas about them play out in real life, then how can feminism exist at all? Gender identity is the prison feminism has always wanted to tear down, not embrace while saying we can all pick our own.

Our group — The Lesbians Collective — wanted to honour and make visible our lesbian heritage by featuring some of the lesbians that have been erased from our history. We made many placards featuring our lesbian heros and included a quote from each one. Many of these quotes spoke to these women’s own experiences with the gender constraints imposed on all of us. One sign, for example, read, “When I was little, I told everybody I was a boy. I didn’t want a boy body, I just wanted the things boys have,” paraphrasing lesbian YouTuber, Peachyoghurt. Another paraphrases lesbian journalist Julie Bindel, and read, “I have lost count of all the times men have asked me how do lesbians manage to have sex without a penis.”

While we were gathering near McSpadden Park, where the march was to begin, we were approached by two members of the Vancouver Dyke March board. They told us that our T-shirts and placards excluded transwomen and since this was an “inclusive march” we would have to remove them if we wanted to participate. We were additionally told that if any of our signs, banners, or t-shirts included the venus symbol — representing  “woman” — (the two interlocked venus symbols have always meant lesbian) or “XX,” symbolizing the female sex chromosome, we would also have remove them.

Think about that. Think about it and then think about it again. It’s a Dyke March, and the dykes are being told they can’t carry signs quoting other dykes because they “exclude” men who identify as trans women. It’s a Dyke March, and the dykes are being told they have to be “inclusive” of men.

They respectfully declined to get rid of their signs and T-shirts, and joined the march, and so they were mobbed.

During the march, board members, organizers, volunteers, and their supporters — male and female — surrounded us, yelled “TERF bigots;” pointed a megaphone at us, chanting, “Tranwomen are women,” “This is an inclusive march,” and, “There is no room for hate at the Dyke March.” One particularly aggressive trans-identified male ran through our group repeatedly, yelling “Get your ‘Fuck TERFs’ pin!” in the faces of individual women in our group, and trying to hand out said pins, which we refused. Others formed a human barricade in front of us, separating us from the rest of the march, which had the effect of insulating us within the crowd of people who were harassing us, and shielding the rest of the march from witnessing this harassment.

The March board put out a statement afterwards. It’s not pleasant reading.

Thank you to everyone who came out yesterday, those who could not make it and sent their love and support, all the folks who donated to make this march possible, and especially our volunteers!

Unfortunately, a hate group showed up at the beginning of the Vancouver Dyke March. About thirty people, who we will identify as TERFs (trans exclusionary radical feminists), came to the March in an organized group behind the school at McSpadden Park.

Before the March, we took steps to improve safety and inclusivity at the event, which included volunteer training focused on anti-oppression, de-escalation, and non-violent conflict intervention strategies, obtaining radios for our volunteer marshaling team and peacebearers, placing additional marshals at points where folks may be intentionally made to feel unsafe, and reaching out to other organizations for volunteers and added support during the March.

As soon as we were notified of TERF presence at the March, we took the action based on our de-escalation strategy, which was created in consultation with folks from the community, including:

– At the beginning of our gathering at McSpadden Park, we were advised that rocks, and papers wrapped around rocks, with hateful and trans-exclusionary messages written on them had been scattered at the park and placed in the children’s playground. Our teams of volunteers and board members worked to find and remove these messages, while keeping their eyes out for further concerns.

– Our March radioed our Festival at Grandview Park for extra support, and volunteers were sent to act as additional marshaling support.

– Once the location of the hate group was identified, two board members spoke to this group. The group was informed that the Vancouver Dyke March is a trans-inclusive event, that we are working hard to create a safer and more inclusive space, and they were asked not to bring trans-exclusionary signs into the March, or wear trans-exclusionary shirts. They were advised of our participant code of conduct and that a coordinated effort to discriminate on the basis of gender identity is contrary to our code of conduct. They were advised of our safety ground rules, including that there would be no physical contact with other March participants. About two members of the group chose to take a physical copy of our code of conduct, the others refused.

– When the group refused to remove their signs and shirts, they were asked to leave. They walked away from our board members but refused to leave the area.

They shouldn’t have been asked to remove their signs and shirts, and they shouldn’t have been asked to leave.

– When the March began, we had marshals and peacebearers placed around the perimeter of the March. Our volunteer rainbow teams, which are teams of multiple volunteers working in groups with inclusive signs and positive messages, as well as our peace bearers, and additional marshals escorted the hate group. These teams used a megaphone to encourage inclusive chants to drown out exclusionary messages and raised trans flags to counter hate signs.

– The hate group continued past the festival. Their exit from the festival grounds was supervised by our rainbow team and peace bearers. Additional marshals were placed at entrances across Grandview Park to ensure they did not attempt to access the festival.

The Vancouver Dyke March is upset, angry, and disappointed by the actions of those people who sought to reject and exclude valued members of our communities, including trans folks.

The Dyke March is upset that some Dykes don’t agree that men can be lesbians – so upset that they tried to exclude them from the march and then bullied them throughout the march.

Back to Cormier:

The lesbians who originally began these marches out of a desire to celebrate lesbians and to have a space of their own, separate from men, would no longer be welcome in LGTBQ spaces or events today — even the Dyke March itself. In  2018, the Dyke March has become an event where lesbians who refuse to accept males either as peers and/or sexual partners are told they are not welcome, branded a hate group, and harassed and threatened if they defiantly and peacefully participate anyway. All under the dubious rubric of inclusivity. One must ask how “inclusive” it is to ban lesbians from the Dyke March?

Zero. It is zero inclusive. It’s also bullying, stupid, hostile, politically suicidal, and generally fucked up.

Lesbians are being told to accept males as female, and therefore to accept men as “lesbians.” Those of us who reject the notion that a man can be a lesbian and continue to maintain our sexual boundaries are labelled hateful bigots on account of being “trans-exclusive.” But there is no such thing as a “trans-inclusive” lesbian — lesbians are, by definition, adult females exclusively attracted to other adult females. If a female is attracted to male-bodied persons, she is heterosexual. If she is attracted to both males and females, she is bisexual. These are perfectly fine things to be, but do not make a woman a “lesbian.”

Similarly, there is no such thing as a male lesbian, as, again, a lesbian is an adult female attracted to other adult females. This has always been true. We did not just invent that definition — it has always excluded males. Eons before trans-identified males and the trans movement, lesbians were exclusively attracted to females. Lesbians have always and will continue to exist. This has always made men angry and continues to today.

Yes but now they have found the perfect way to force lesbians to put them first and at the same time to shit on all lesbians who won’t comply.

In trans activist and social justice circles online and in the real world, it is commonly and openly agreed that using the word female or female specific language is “exclusionary” and proof someone is a bigot — an oppressor. There is now a concerted campaign to make the word female and all female language forbidden. This is the literal erasure of women.

As with Planned Parenthood talking about “people” having abortions.

But it doesn’t stop there. Being branded a “TERF” forever guarantees a “shoot now, ask questions never” approach tied to a “you asked for it” attitude where, increasingly, any and all retaliatory behaviours are considered justified. A fundraiser for Baltimore Pride was held this year, called QueerQrush. The event description read:

“#QueerQrush is an ALL INCLUSIVE dance party that’s welcome and open to everyone that wants to come! That does NOT include you if you participate in racism, homophobia, transphobia, ageism, misogyny, sexism, bigotry, or general creepiness. This is NOT a safe space for abusers and any of the above behaviours will NOT be tolerated…

…TERFs will be hung by their necks.”

TERFs will be murdered by lynching. You couldn’t make it up. How did we get here? How did we get to a place where women who don’t agree that men are women are told they will be lynched?

You will notice that self-identified “transmen” (who are born female) are not campaigning to bully gay men into dating them or sleeping with them. Transmen have not invented a term like the “cotton ceiling” to refer to the “problem” of gay men who refuse someone of the opposite sex as a sexual partner.

Because girls and women are never allowed to develop a sense of entitlement that colossal, while apparently men are. It’s amazing, isn’t it?

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