The Dyke March team hosted a Town Hall last Monday for community members to ask questions, share ideas, and provide critiques to help us prepare for this year’s march. We are lucky that our community cares so much about this event and were so grateful for the opportunity to hear your feedback and concerns. Your input is instrumental in making the Dyke March great, and keeps it moving forward. We heard a lot of suggestions to make the event more fun and community-oriented, and a lot of concerns about the politics behind the organizing.
Toronto dyke communities are diverse groups of people with as many points of view as hairstyles. We embrace these differences and view them as strengths, but they also pose a challenge for us: how can we make the Dyke March the space that every dyke-identified person (including lesbian, bi, and queer women as well as trans, intersex, and 2-Spirit folks) wants it to be? Some want to see the march get more political, others want to create a more family-oriented space, and others yet are more excited to get glittery and party. It seems that every dyke has ideas on how to make Dyke March better, and we couldn’t be more pleased to hear them.
In past years, the Dyke March has strived to include “different kinds of dykes” by broadening the definition and criteria of what it is to be a dyke. This year, we don’t want to define dyke, we want you to define it for yourself so you can decide if you want to march with us or cheer us on. Everyone is welcome!
At our Town Hall meeting, we heard that you’ve boycotted the march in past years because you heard certain types of dykes weren’t welcome, or you felt unwelcome or unsafe due to transphobia, racism, or harassment. The Dyke March team wants you to know that we hear your concerns and are taking them very seriously. We will do everything we can do make the Dyke March a fun, accessible space that includes everyone. While we strive to achieve this goal, we know that a huge part of accessibility is safety, and we acknowledge that we can’t guarantee a safe space.
The notion of a “safe” space has been mulled over by many communities, including queer, women’s, and activist groups.
Geek Feminism Wiki defines a safe space as “an area or forum where either a marginalized group is not supposed to face mainstream stereotypes, or in which a shared political or social viewpoint is required to participate in the space.”
The Trans and Womyn’s Action Camp says safe(r) spaces are “inviting, engaging, and supporting environments in which all people feel comfortable behaving genuinely,” adding the caveat that they “choose to say ‘Safer’ Space rather than ‘safe space’ because we acknowledge that no space is entirely ‘safe’ for everyone.”
There are many ways to define a safe/safer space. What does a “safe space” mean to us? In our dyketopia, anyone with a connection to dykedom would be able to join in the Dyke March without fear (or reality) of harassment, violence, or discomfort. Everyone would feel welcomed and supported, and have a great time. A safe space is an ideal, a lofty one that we recognize we may never achieve, but it is this ideal that drives us forward in our continued organizing and planning.
Since the Town Hall, our team has come up with a lot of ideas to make Dyke March inclusive and safer for all dykes.
We acknowledge that we cannot create a 100% safe space, but we want to have a support system in place if you are being harassed or feel unwelcome. We’re not sure what our support system and strategy will look like yet, but our vision of accessibility and safety does not include police. This means we need to find alternative ways of supporting each other, whether that means training as support workers, educating ourselves on the barriers faced by other community members, or coming up with tactics to intervene or stop harassment, or all of the above!
Our team is seeking anti-oppression training and active listening training so that we can better support community members at our events. We are seeking and attending community-based workshops, trainers, and resources to further educate ourselves on the struggles within our community and being good allies.
Our team is planning to host community discussion groups to revisit trans* inclusion, racism, and other political and accessibility issues present in the Dyke March, and facilitate further dialogue and action around the issues brought up at the Town Hall.
With only a little over two months until Dyke Day, we are excited to announce concrete events that will put our mission statement into practice very soon! Our ideas and conversations are on-going and continuously expanding, and we encourage all of you to join us in these endeavours! With your help we can make the Dyke March (and our communities in general!) safer for everyone by supporting each other and taking accountability for our own actions.
Thank you to everyone who came to the Town Hall meeting and who continues to give their feedback. You make us better!
For more details on the Town Hall please view the meeting minutes here.
This post written by: Andi