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LGBTQ History #15: The First Dyke March

First NYC Dyke March, Tagg Magazine

Helen Lang at the First NYC Dyke March, June 26, 1993 (Photo credit: lesbianavengers.com)

Over twenty thousand people descended upon Washington, D.C. in 1993 for the first dyke march. A group of activists known as The Lesbian Avengers planned the march out of anger for feeling unacknowledged, disrespected, and discriminated against in the straight and gay communities.

The Lesbian Avengers began in New York City in the early 90s after seeing too many lesbians arrested or otherwise treated as though they didn’t exist. They wanted to make themselves impossible to ignore. According to the Avengers, they weren’t just going to passively hold signs, they wanted to create a literal movement, and that mindset gave way to the first dyke march.

The marches continue today in larger cities during pride celebrations. According to the NYC Dyke March, the march is “a protest march, not a parade.” They invite dykes to come “demonstrate, agitate, [and] liberate!”

The Chicago Dyke March Collective explains the significance of the word, dyke: “We are aware that the word ‘dyke’ has a history of being a pejorative term, and may be perceived as offensive. We use this word as a way of reclaiming a term that historically has been used against us. Dyke March chooses to use to word, ‘dyke’ as a politicized, empowering and reclaimed word.”

I experienced the 2013 Dyke March in San Francisco, which, to me, had more of a celebratory energy than a protest. It was kicked off by a band of leather-clad motorcyclists followed by a throng of drummers who played and danced along the entire route. People were hanging out of their windows in the houses that lined the street, cheering and holding signs to celebrate dykehood in all its glory.


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