Chicago Indymedia :
Chicago Indymedia

LOCAL Commentary :: Gender & Sexuality

On Dyke March and Cissexism

Commentary on the Chicago Dyke March Collective and its treatment of trans people.
Dear Trans and Trans-questioning Siblings,

I'm writing to inform you of a grievous situation. In 2009 I was the lone transsexual woman in the Chicago Dyke March Collective (CDMC), and I reached the conclusion that I would be risking harm if I participated in the march. Though my experience is such that I must always be vigilant against homophobia, the threat that kept me from attending the action was not external to the march. The threat was CDMC itself. What's more, though I was the person CDMC had invited to speak about Sylvia Rivera on the fortieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots, I felt that even if I'd had no safety concerns, I would have been doing trans people a disservice if I effectively put my stamp of approval on the march. It has been nearly nine months since Dyke March 2009, and I still find CDMC members to be unwilling to talk about this matter further. And so I have more concerns about Dyke March than ever—concerns not only for myself but for other trans people who might participate in the action.

If I had to single out one incident as the catalyst of my concern, it would be an incident that involved safety. On CDMC's closed listserve I had raised concerns about parties who had made transphobic remarks at a previous Dyke March. One of the members of Dyke March immediately forwarded the discussion to the parties about whom I had concerns. While this has no consequences I wasn't prepared for (I'd learned some time before that it is best not to regard any Internet correspondence as truly private), it was, as other members of CDMC acknowledged, a privacy violation. However, none of the other members of Dyke March acknowledged that the incident was of special concern to trans people. Members of CDMC immediately called for the situation to be handled in a closed committee meeting—a meeting where neither I nor any other trans people would be present.

But the threat Dyke March poses to us cannot be reduced to one incident. A culture of unchecked cisgender privilege permeated Dyke March in a way that I'd never seen in other activist groups. For example, even after finding consensus to the effect that only the oppressed have the right to reclaim hateful words I encountered transphobic and misogynistic epithets on a number of occasions. What makes this particularly alarming is that CDMC hosts training sessions to prepare its safety marshals to peacefully resist hate speech. If I had never been a member of CDMC, I would have thought that CDMC was prepared to confront transphobic hate speech. But the truth is that the members of the group who defended the use of transphobic and misogynistic epithets most were members who attended the safety marshal training with me or helped organize it. Though CDMC claimed to work from an anti-oppression model, its cisgender members routinely stood the model on its head.

CDMC has left me asking two questions: First, "What can I do?" In my experience people who try to make change from within are met with silencing and derailing tactics. What's more, long-time members of the group simply disregard democratically made decisions when it does not suit them. Based on this, one might surmise that CDMC has little regard for requests made by TBLGQ people outside the collective; my observations bear this out as well.

This brings me to my second question: "Should I walk away from Dyke March?" As someone who is both a trans woman and a dyke, I find this to be an intolerable choice. Like all of you I need trans liberation yesterday, and I need queer liberation just as quickly. So while I will boycott all CDMC fundraisers, I will show up on the day of Dyke March with flags waving. If CDMC members feel that they can afford to alienate trans people, trans-questioning people, and our allies, they can pay for their own march. But I will not let them think for a moment that they can hijack the movement for our liberation.

However, I need your help. If I march alone, I will face even greater risks than the risks that prevented me from attending last year. But though I have no faith in CDMC's safety marshals, I don't worry that I will be alone. I am after all a part of the vibrant, loving family that is the community of trans and trans-questioning people. It was a trans dyke who helped me find my female voice, and I believe that through mutual support we can insure that all our voices will be heard at the next Dyke March. If you would like to help me and allow me the honor of helping you, please write back.

Love and Solidarity,
Veronika Boundless

march4all (at)



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