A Dyke on a Bike and Chicago Pride

Only a year ago I would have stood toe to toe with you and told you in no uncertain terms just how much the word “dyke” offended me. I would have quietly slipped below the radar at work if the conversation led to my personal choices and expectations. I would have written my thoughts in a secret journal rather than blog them out and bare my soul to the world. Funny how a year can change a life.

All the times I have attended Chicago’s Pride Parade – I stood and danced on the sidelines along the route drinking my beer and shouting my support to those who walked past. I partied and laughed and took in the carnival atmosphere and felt a turning in my heart that begged me to find my way to this sort of acceptance each and every day in my life. Something inside of me whispered soft and consistent and although the message was clear – I didn’t take the time to listen…I shrugged it off for reasons I am not certain of – even to this day. So I was on the sidelines – literally – and did not know how to move from the place I stood. I was a spectator of all that surrounded me and all that pulled me in during Pride weekend. I was drawn to it – at home with it – but still frozen in my place as I safely watched it and all it represented march right past me.

In the midst of the party and jubilant celebrations the roar from the crowd would suddenly peak. My attention turned from the beautiful girl next to me and the boisterous conversations to what was coming towards me on the street. There before me were women on bikes. Motorcycles and ladies. Harley’s and crotch rockets, cruisers and custom built blazingly unique bikes. I gazed and scanned each and every cycle as it passed – yearning to be out there – to be a part of it. The only thing that held me back, besides my uncertainty of how to migrate into this amazing world – was my hard and true disdain for the name these women rode under. Dykes on Bikes. Really??? I hated the word Dyke. It had always been used against me and other girls I knew in such a derogatory way by the boys I had surpassed athletically, academically and socially – and I simply could not get past it. I could not get past the sticks and stones and all the names that hurt me.

I have been riding motorcycles since I was eleven years old. In the piney dunes of central Florida my brother and I would take our little Honda 70 trail bikes and tear it up big time. We would ride for hours with all of our friends – 6 boys and one girl – yeah – that girl would be me. There was no gender speculation or judgment because with my long brown hair tucked up in that helmet – my bad ass wheeling popping, donut blasting, ravine jumping self was a better rider than anyone out there on any given day. And unless the helmet came off and the long hair fell down my back – I wasn’t judged any different than the rest of the crew. I was just a kid who loved to ride. And God how I love (d) to ride.

Last summer I sat on the lake front with a new friend who has since become a very good friend of mine. We were talking and I mentioned in conversation how I hated the word Dyke. She laughed at me and told me I loved that word and used it all the time in my writing. I paused and started to argue with her and had to stop myself. She was right. I did love the word. What I hated was the way it had been used against me in my life. The way it was thrown at me to hurt me, confuse me and ultimately define me in a way that I did not want to be defined. I let those who wanted to taunt me control me with a word that in all reality was harmless against me. I did not hate the word at all. Dyke dyke dyke dyke dyke…..I love the word. Realizations are wonderfully empowering things…..

And so in this very transformative year that I have lived – I found myself not only embracing what I had failed to understand for most of my life – I found/find myself thriving in this world of ladies loving ladies and all that might entail. I find my passions all rolling together and making sense and balancing each other in a way I had never hoped.

My journals and my private thoughts become a blog for a Lesbian website. My passion, love of riding and acceptance of self led me to join with my sisters as a member of the Chicago Chapter of Dykes on Bikes. I rode in the Chicago Pride Parade with a beautiful actress perched behind me on my Harley Sportster for the entire world to see. My amazing daughter and loyal friends walked behind me with The L Stop contingency waving and supporting this ever evolving community to which I have become so attached. My face made it to the pages of the Sun Times and every local news broadcast as well as some national media outlets…can you say Huffington Post??? And in the break room at work – the Sun Times remained open to that page all day long – me – at work – in the papers on my Harley as a gay woman – and letting it happen. I have never been so free, so happy and such a dyke in all my life.

My God – what a difference a year can make.

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About K. Guzman

Kathy grew up all over the US - lots of east coast time. She is a surfer girl with an unabridged curiosity. A woman whose mid life awakening continues to bring her to the place she was meant to be. Her degree in Journalism/Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida is being yanked from the archives and put to good use. Her two kids are grown and rock stars in this wild world – her Harley is ready for some serious summer miles – and her heart remains open to life, women and the possibilities each day brings.


14 Responses to “A Dyke on a Bike and Chicago Pride”

  1. What a story!!! Well done!!!!

    Posted by terry cooney | July 2, 2012, 11:46 am
  2. My lovely Kathy – you & I have had friendly discussions on the topic of labels (yet, I think we still need a spirited one over drinks 😉 ). I wonder if you’ve had a change of heart since our initial discussion. You seem to say that the label of ‘dyke’ has helped you find and be identified as part of the community – no?

    Either way, thanks for sharing your evolving thought process on the word and what it means to you :D.

    Posted by Tina C | July 2, 2012, 11:50 am
  3. Tina my friend – not sure if the label helped me find anything – but finding myself helped me accept the label…I am ready for that sprited discussion when you are!!! 🙂

    Posted by k guz | July 2, 2012, 11:57 am
  4. Reading your story made me smile. I’m happy you have embraced you, not just in your personal life but in public.

    Posted by Cindi Sherman | July 2, 2012, 12:42 pm
  5. Good for you Guz!.

    I am glad that my aunt’s contribution continues to impact and empower women in a positive way.


    Posted by Debby Rijos | July 2, 2012, 2:06 pm
  6. never again will you live by someone else’s definition of you, you amazing woman. we own the words that are used against us…which leaves the language of hate speech not a lot of options 🙂 win win! also, i bloody love you xoxoxox

    Posted by Leah | July 2, 2012, 2:14 pm
  7. Debby – you are her legacy and so much more — thank you.

    Posted by k guz | July 2, 2012, 2:27 pm
  8. ohhhhhh Leah Leah Leah Leah…..

    Posted by k guz | July 2, 2012, 2:39 pm
  9. Kathy, I have had similar feelings about the word dyke due to its usual derogatory use in the past. When I heard about Dykes on Bikes many years ago, I laughed out loud at what a great name it is. There were worse names to be called (and I will tell you over drinks some time). Because of the derogatory nature of using Dyke and how it even smacks of bullying (labels used in an unkind manner), I’ve tried to stay away from labels as much as possible. — I think the most liberating thing for you was to get off the wallpaper and step into the dance; being out and not giving a damn what anyone else thinks or says; for you have embraced your soul in front of thousands. No one can ever take that away from you, for you are now supremely empowered. <3<3<3 You GO!!!

    Posted by Karen | July 6, 2012, 9:10 am
  10. Karen – thank you my friend….and drinks….yes!!

    Posted by k guz | July 6, 2012, 10:33 am
  11. Kathy my friend…thanks for continuing to share your insights, words of hope and daily growth with so many people….you rock my friend.


    Posted by Edith Nieves | July 7, 2012, 9:57 am
  12. Edie – friends like you have made this year in my life so incredible — thanks for all you know you do….

    Posted by k guz | July 9, 2012, 8:28 am
  13. Thanks for posting this. Cheers to honesty and personal growth!

    Posted by Cristin | July 10, 2012, 8:07 pm
  14. Cheers Cristin – and thank you for your feedback!!

    Posted by k guz | July 11, 2012, 3:33 pm

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