Dyke March is a mostly lesbian-led and inclusive gathering and protest march much like the original gay pride parades and marches. They usually occur the Friday or Saturday before LGBT Pride Parades and larger metropolitan areas have related events (parties, benefits, dances) both before and after the event to further develop community often targeting specific community segments (older women, bar events, arts, parenting groups, etc.) The purpose of a Dyke March is to increase lesbian visibility and activism and they have grown to be more inclusive of all women-loving-women regardless of labels as well as bisexuals, intersex persons, and transgendered persons.
One of the first documented lesbian pride marches in North America took place in May, 1981, in downtown Vancouver, B.C. Canada. The march, which attracted approximately 200 lesbians, was part of the Bi-National Lesbian Conference. In October, 1981, an organization called Lesbians Against the Right organized a second march in Toronto, Ontario.
The first Dyke March in the United States was held in New York City in 1992, on the Saturday before the annual pride parade. It was intended as a woman-only event, organized by the direct action group, the Lesbian Avengers. Gay and bisexual men, as well as other supporters, were encouraged to cheer the marchers on, a tradition that continues to this day.
The first U.S. Nation-wide Dyke March was held in Washington, D.C. in 1993. This event was also planned by the Lesbian Avengers. Close to 10,000 women marched at this event. The large turnout can be attributed to the fact that the Dyke March coincided with a larger march on Washington. There was a global feel to this Dyke March as lesbians from the United States and other countries marched.
The first San Francisco Dyke March was held few months later, in June 1993, and is still celebrated every year on the Saturday evening before the annual GLBT Parade which is very corporate-sponsored. The Dyke March is more informal, with marchers creating their own signs and most people showing up to participate, rather than to just watch. The streets along the march route are lined with thousands of enthusiastic spectators, mostly gay men in support of the women.
The SF Dyke March begins in Dolores Park with speeches, performances and community networking and ends in the Castro District, at the Pink Saturday party where the Dyke March sound-truck becomes a stage for more performances, DJs and more speakers. The San Francisco Dyke March is attended by well over 200,000 people yet remains a peaceful and well-organized event.
Since its inception, the SF Dyke March Committee (a small group of volunteers) has never applied for nor received a permit from the city, exercising the First Amendment right to gather without permits and without blatant corporate sponsorships.
New York City's Dyke March is another well-loved tradition. On the Saturday before Pride, lesbians gather in Bryant Park as they prepare to march down Fifth Avenue towards Washington Square Park.
The reason for the creation of the various Dyke Marches was to protest what many women saw as the control of Gay Pride events by white gay men at the expense of lesbians in general and women of color in particular. Many of the Lesbian Avengers were also concerned that New York's Gay Pride March was losing its political edge as it became more accepted by the city courted by corporate sponsorship.
While the Dyke March in New York has always been nominally open to all women, there has been a movement to push for transgender women and bisexual women to be more accepted and visible in the March and within the queer women's community. Men have been asked to stand on the sidewalks during the New York Dyke March and cheer on the marchers, and a small number of primarily gay men often join the marchers after they reach Washington Square Park. As with the San Francisco Dyke March, the organizers do not seek out a permit, and put a high emphasis on the political. Even though there are many club nights and parties after the March, the event is not so much about entertainment as it is about educating about Dyke issues and promoting the visibility of lesbians within the larger LGBT community.
Dyke Marches are now held in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, Canada as well as Seattle, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, and other cities around the United States.
- DYKE FESTIVAL AND MARCH: Thousands gather to celebrate lesbians, Dykes happy to have a festivity that is completely for them
- Boston Dyke March
- New York City Dyke March
- San Francisco Dyke March
- Santa Cruz Dyke March
- Seattle Dyke March
- Toronto Dyke March
- Utah Dyke March
- Vancouver Dyke March
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