Every year around the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, June 28th 1969, Chicago rallies its women loving women and their allies for an afternoon of pride, expression and visibility. For the last 15 years, the Chicago Dyke March Collective has organized hundreds of women to take over the streets of the city, leading an all-inclusive demonstration and celebration of dyke, queer, bisexual and transgender strength, solidarity and resilience.
The first National Dyke March took place in Washington D.C. on April 24th, 1993. Organized by the Lesbian Avengers in conjunction with ACT-UP Women’s Network, the march coincided with the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation, and attracted over 20,000 women. In the aftermath of the first permit-less march of dyke pride, women took the inspiration to their own cities, as New York and San Francisco began the tradition just two months later in June of 1993. Most Dyke Marches are held the evening before a city’s gay pride parade- this began to demonstrate against the parade’s loss of political edge that came with general societal acceptance and corporate courtships, and to protest what the women viewed as a white gay male controlled events at the expense of lesbians and women of color. While every city has different traditions, organizers and pre/post events, the general sentiment is unified from one location to the next, and its numbers look to be growing on a local and national scale.
Here in Chicago, the first Dyke March took place in 1998 and was attended by an estimated 40 people – a number that would rise to 400 the next year. For almost a decade the march took place in the lesbian friendly neighborhood of Andersonville, until it was decided that in order to increase the visibility outlined in the mission of the event, it was necessary to bring the gathering to various communities around the city. In addition to bringing the visibility to areas where the queer woman is invisible and her needs ignored, the decision to rotate locations aimed to bring recognition to the extreme lack of resources available to the LGBTQ population, especially in communities predominantly of color. With the decision to change location every other year came their largest crowd to date as over 5,000 took to the streets of Pilsen in 2008.
While for the last two years Dyke March has taken place in Chicago’s Southshore neighborhood, the organizers have chosen the Northside neighborhood of Uptown to host this year’s march and rally. As one of the most historic and changing neighborhoods, part of the neighborhood is known as “Little Vietnam”, and other parts provide affordable housing to some of the many immigrants moving to the city. Interestingly, the 46th Ward is also home to Chicago’s newest gay Alderman, James Cappleman. The L Stop is looking forward to joining its sisters and allies this Saturday, June 23 rd to take to the streets of Chicago as one, remembering those who paved this path before us and coming together to support those whose struggles are masked at the “traditional” parade the next day.
If you are debating whether or not to attend Dyke March 2012, just think about the description penned by Chicago Tribune writer Achy Obejas, a queer Latina who reported on the marches in a 1999 article:
“There were no floats with scantily clad dancing boys, no smiling politicians waving at the crowds, no product giveaways. In fact, there was no official permit for the gathering, at which women of all colors, sizes and ages drummed and danced, hugged and chatted.”
Whether you are a lesbian, queer, pre-op, curious or even hate the word “dyke”, the march is our chance to just BE- no hate, no bras, no bullshit.
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Lauren was born and raised in South Minneapolis and like many other innocent midwesterners got sucked into the black hole of Chicago politics 4 years ago. As the LGBT Coordinator for the Gery Chico for Mayor Campaign she attempted to take on the entire city and hasn’t looked back since. Now working for a communications firm, she spends her extra time running around with cases of PBR playing in different sports leagues, hosting couchsurfers from all over the place, and deciding how she is going to change the world. A simple lady at her core, she has decided that the first person to send her an edible arrangement must be the one.