Herstory of The Dyke March
Since 1993, when the Lesbian Avengers, ACT UP groups from Los Angeles and Philadelphia, and Puss n’ Boots in LA organized the first Dyke March, thousands of Dykes have come out year after year to demonstrate for lesbian rights and visibility.
The first Dyke March took place the evening before the LGBT March on Washington in April, 1993. Women in LA made a large banner and dykes in Philadelphia made a huge vagina which was carried like a puppet through the streets of Washington D.C. The New York Lesbian Avengers organized the logistics of the march, arranged for marshals, and created a manifesto addressing the necessity of grass-roots lesbian organizing, especially given the anti-gay bills being pushed by the right wing.
The Avengers handed out 8,000 flyers telling Dykes to meet at Dupont Circle at 5 PM on the evening of April 24th, 1993, for a Dyke March to the White House. More than 20,000 lesbians showed up and marched all the way to the National Mall.
Due to the success of the first Dyke March, the New York Lesbian Avengers decided to organize a March in New York City. The first New York City Dyke March was held in June 1993. San Francisco and Atlanta also held their first Dyke Marches at that time. The New York City route began at Bryant Park and ended in Union Square Park where Heritage of Pride, the nonprofit organization that hosts the annual Pride March in New York City, was holding a rally. This March, like the March before it and all NYC Dyke Marches to follow, did not have a permit. It is our First Amendment right to protest, and until we are truly liberated, the New York City Dyke March is a protest march. In addition to distributing the manifesto handed out in D.C., the Avengers also created a “float” – a bed on wheels full of kissing dykes. A banner, which is used every year to demarcate the front of the March, was improvised at Bryant Park with markers and oaktag.
The 2nd Annual New York Dyke March, held in June 1994, led to the creation of many other Marches and solidified the continuation of the NYC Dyke March. It was the 25th Anniversary of Stonewall and hundreds of thousands of lesbians and gays were in New York City. The International Lesbian and Gay Association Conference and the Gay Games were also being held in New York. The focus of the Stonewall March was the international rights of lesbians and gays and attendees from all over the world were present. 20,000 Dykes attended this March, known as the International Dyke March, it was as large as the original March in D.C.
There were so many Dykes enjoying themselves in Bryant Park, the Avengers didn’t know how they would communicate that it was time to line up behind the banner on 42nd street. A group of drummers began marching toward the banner and all of the Dykes followed the drumming out of the park. Twenty years later, we still depend on the drummers to lead Dykes out of Bryant Park to begin the March.
Each year, thousands of dykes march down 5th Avenue to Washington Square Park on the Saturday before the NYC Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade. Drummers up front near the banner rally the marchers out into the street and keep the rhythm going all the way down to the Village. Signs proclaim political and personal slogans like “I’ll be satisfied when every dyke can be out” and “Every Dyke is a Hero”. We’ve seen giant dyke puppets, a swimming pool complete with bathing beauties pulled along by strapping gals, SuperDyke in a rainbow cape, and of course: the fabulous marshals, those tireless and dedicated Dykes, who lead the march in the front, run down the street blocking traffic on the sides, and bring up the rear. Marshals keep the march moving, the marchers safe and informed, and are truly our Dyke Heroes!
Dyke Marches are held all over the world. San Francisco has been full of marching dykes since 1993, and hosts a fabulous Dyke March web site with links to many dyke marches in the US and in other countries. In 2003, Mexico City held their first Dyke March – congratulations, lesbianas!