Mark your calendars for Saturday, June 5, 2010 which will be the date of Pittsburgh's 5th Annual Dyke March. The location will still be in Oakland and organizers have fabulous plans for the ultimate grassroots picnic (get it?) and post-march party.
What's is a dyke march?
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 and transgender persons.
It is one of the most diverse and empowering queer events in Pittsburgh. Women from across the spectrum are there — young high school women, women from “back in the day”, women of color, bikers, bicyclists, parents with kids in strollers, lovers, disabled women, poor, rich, tall, short, athletic, old, young …. you name her and she was probably there. Plus, plenty of men and allies of all genders marching alongside.
The best things, and things most feared by the powers that be, are the increasing visibility and power of women in the LGBTQ community. I think the Dyke March has done more to advance both visibility and power than any other organized event.
The Dyke March is not in any type of competition or power struggle with Pride events. March organizers have a Pride float in the parade and come to the festival. You can absolutely support both with no hesitation.
Here's a PghLesbian.Com Herstory of the Dyke March in Pittsburgh.
2006 – Pittsburgh's First Dyke March took place in Oakland. It was created as an act of visibility and the turnout was great. I think participating in that march was one of my best political memories. I had no idea who most of the women were and that really opened my eyes to the broad spectrum of what it means to be a dyke.
2007 – This year, the March moved to July and we loved the poster. I stirred up a bit of controversy (imagine) when I appeared on John McIntire's talk show on the Man Station to talk about the march. I learned quite a bit about myself from those conversations and had to really take a step back and examine things like my privilege and my reason for jumping on the Dyke March bandwagon. The march itself carried on!
2008 – The Delta Foundation approached the Dyke March organizers about making the march an official part of PrideFest. That didn't go well. I'm not sure Delta really understood (or understands now) the underlying principles of dyke marches. I hope, one day soon, they will ask. Fortunately, the Lambda Foundation stepped in with a last minute grant and the march proceeded downtown with some (ahem) issues. Betty Hill gave a rousing speech.
2009 – The Dyke March returned to Oakland. Things turned unpleasant when the police refused to protect the marchers, but the women persevered. It was another exhilerating event that I truly enjoyed.
Any link will show the recurring issue — the Department of Public Safety. From permits to police protection, they have dropped the ball on all fronts. Four years of dropping the ball begins to look like a systemic pattern of discrimination. If the ACLU were to investigate this and other LGBT events requiring permits without large payments, what would they find? I had tremendous issues with the Special Events people over an unrelated LGBT event.
The good news is that the Mayor's Office has become involved thanks to the Mayor's LGBT Advisory Committee. Other heavy hitters, including elected officials on multiple levels, are paying attention and willing to step in to ensure that visibility and voices are not lost because of bureaucratic bungling.
There are quite a few folks stepping up to support the women who organize and participate in the dyke march. They've worked hard to get this tradition going and deserve women who have access to resources to step in and help their sisters.
June 5 could possibly be the most political moment of the entire month of Pride by the simple fact of so many awesome dykes gathering in one place. You should definitely check it out — there really is room for everyone.