This year, CeCe McDonald’s story is helping to unite different aspects of the LGBT/Queer community. Two separate marches — the Dyke March and the Trans March — are uniting as one march, taking place on Saturday, June 23, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Walker Art Center. The two marches will join under the theme “Keep Fighting, Keep Loving, Free CeCe,” in reference to the galvanizing effect that CeCe McDonald’s court case has had on the community. The march aims to inspire the need for solidarity, according to organizers.
The first Dyke March—organized by the New York activist organization Lesbian Avengers and the National ACT UP Women’s Committee—was held in Washington DC in 1992. The event drew 20,000 people, according to the TC Avengers Web site. Since then, Dyke Marches have become an annual tradition in cities all around the country. The TC Avengers are an offshoot of the original Lesbian Avengers, but changed their name to be more inclusive of all of the GLBTQ community. According to their Web site, the group aims to resist “systems of domination in ways that relate to the needs of constantly changing local and national queer and transgender communities.”
Leah Entenmann was part of the first Trans March in 2007 and has been involved with the Dyke March since the same year. One major difference between the two marches, she said, was that while the Trans March has been organized by an ad hoc committee each year, the Dyke March has been organized by the Twin Cities Avengers.
“The Avengers have had the advantage of being a coherent group all year long,” Entenmann said. “It’s easier to pull people together in time for the march.”
This year, due to some turmoil within the group, the TC Avengers have been pretty inactive, Entenmann said. “It got to the point that three weeks before Pride, various people looked around and realized that nothing was planned.” The thought occurred to some that there would be people showing up at the Walker Art Center, where the Dyke March traditionally started, and one TC Avenger had already thought of a theme that aimed to unite different groups around CeCe McDonald’s struggle.
The Trans March, Entenmann said, was created to “bridge a lot of gaps in terms of the queer community and the LGBT community.”
Over the course of this year, many sections of the community advocated for CeCe McDonald, who faced murder chargers after a fight broke out following an incident where she and her friends were called homophobic slurs and attacked. McDonald was eventually convicted of manslaughter charges. “Advocating for CeCe brought together so many groups of people,” Entenmann said. The trial affected “the queer community and trans community very profoundly.”
Last year, the Trans March didn’t occur, Entenmann said. “No one took a leadership role last year. There was a diffusion of responsibility. No one took initiative to make sure it got off the ground.”
In the past, several radical queer organizations have gotten together trying to do coalition work, and there was some talk of combining the two marches, but it was complicated, according to Entenmann. There were talks of keeping the marches separate, but meeting up at the end.
There’s been an ongoing effort to make the avengers space open for “people of different ethnic and racial backgrounds and also accessible for people with disabilities,” she said. “It’s an ongoing conversation.”
“People who have discussed the idea when it first came up recognized that there were a lot of challenges that had been difficult for queer communities over the past year,” Entenmann said.
While the organizers and participants come from different queer groups, including different types of direct action activisms (including anarchist, Democrat, and libertarian viewpoints), most of the groups “recognize queer liberation of any variety is not possible without deliverable focus on people that are the most marginalized,” Entenmann said.
“The violence that this march is responding to is all power-based personal violence that takes a toll on the trans, dyke, and queer communities every single day,” she said. “Hate violence, sexual violence, family violence, state and police violence, and intimate partner violence are all related: these systemic forms of violence reinforce existing systems of power, they silence oppressed individuals, and they cannot be overcome with alone. The hateful, violent attack on CeCe and the punishment inflicted upon her for surviving was a very public example that brought together people who had experienced or observed such violence and dared to work with each other to challenge it.”