Creating thoughtful dialogue
Published Thursday, 14-Aug-2008 in issue 1077
I have been pondering San Diego LGBT Pride’s last-minute decision to change Dykes Riding Bikes (DRB) from starting the parade to the fourth position at our most recent Pride event. I have also wrestled with the response by the Gay & Lesbian Times to the fallout from that decision.
Starting the Pride parade celebration with the Dykes Riding Bikes has been a tradition that goes back at least to the 1976 San Francisco Pride parade. (Note: “Dykes on Bikes” has been trademarked by the women’s motorcycle contingent in San Francisco. Consequently I am making the reference to our local group as Dykes Riding Bikes). This tradition has also become a popular way to start other Pride events throughout the United States. The roar of the motorcycles has become a symbol for Pride, defiance, liberation and empowerment.
San Diego Pride, as well as all of the other community organizations, has a responsibility to serve the interests and needs of the community. Pride is an organization of us not apart from us. Of course, there are times when institutions and traditions do change because they are no longer useful. As a community organization, however, the decision to change tradition must include the input of the community it serves and represents, or it does not act on the behalf of the community. The Dykes Riding Bikes should have been given the respect we all deserve by being informed of the discussions the Pride board was having about making changes. This would have at least provided a process to work through the issues at hand versus having the Pride board pronounce its decision, without community input, a few days prior to the parade. At the very least, Pride should have held a town hall meeting to ask how the community felt about this significant change in tradition. Working together with community input and in conjunction with Dykes Riding Bikes would have created a respectful, inclusive process that builds community, rather than one that unilaterally divides it.
Newspapers and organizations have the power to affect all of us by dividing our community or by supporting a process that builds community …
I was equally offended and disturbed by the position the Gay & Lesbian Times took in subsequent editorials referring to the Dykes Riding Bikes as “whiners,” “insensitive,” and “ignorant.” We are a community that has been divided and attacked from the outside throughout our history and it makes it even more painful when it comes from inside our own community. The language used in the editorial was demeaning and minimizing of those who were upset about the Pride board’s decision to change the parade position of the Dykes Riding Bikes. Newspapers and organizations have the power to affect all of us by dividing our community or by supporting a process that builds community by the language they use and the actions they take. Language is a very powerful tool. It can be used to oppress, demean, divide, belittle, minimize and destroy. It can also be used to build community by communicating respect and inclusiveness.
I think every situation provides us with an opportunity for growth. My hope is that in the future, all of our community organizations will be thoughtful and respectful of our traditions, and will create a healthy process for dealing with change, and will be very conscious and aware of the language they use.