Describing itself as “a protest march, not a parade”, the New York Dyke March works without permits or sponsors to build identity, celebrate community and fight discrimination. Early tonight, the march left Bryant Park for the 30th time, descending Fifth Avenue toward its end in Washington Square Park.
The event traces its origins to the first-ever Dyke March, which took place the day before the historic LGBT March on Washington in April 1993. Although this event took place in DC and involved contingents from Los Angeles and Philadelphia, New York played major role: according to event official the ChronicleThe New York Lesbian Avengers handled logistics and security.
The Avengers reportedly handed out 8,000 flyers… but over 20,000 women showed up, filling the National Mall with their provocative celebration. Building on their success, the Avengers held a march in their hometown the following year: New York’s first levee march was held in June 1993.
This whole story is pretext for today, when the participants of Dyke March, after fighting for their right to exist and be who they are, took to the streets tonight following a decision of the Supreme Court whose impact and implications extended far beyond the momentous reversal of Roe v. Wade.
On the heels of Friday’s Drag March and this afternoon’s Harlem Pride 2022 celebration day, the Dyke March descended under sunny skies to the usual sound of drum beats, caustic songs and chants of warlike group. Thousands of participants took to the streets with more than the usual emergency measure.
On the heels of Friday’s Drag March and this afternoon’s Harlem Pride 2022 celebration day, the Dyke March descended under sunny skies to the usual sound of drum beats, caustic songs and chants of warlike group. Participants took to the streets with more urgency than usual.
At the end of the route, Gothamist spoke with one of the march’s organizers, Nate Shalevabout the provocative independence of walking.
“We started in 1993, so it’s our 30th anniversary,” they said. “It was a time when dyke visibility and dyke issues weren’t talked about, and it was all about cis-gay white males, as it is. So dykes needed a space for it.”
Regarding the march’s self-sufficiency without a permit, Shalev said organizers and participants recognized early on the need to look out for their own safety. “Police are not focused on keeping our community safe, they are focused on other things,” they said. “We want to make sure we’ll always be safe. And that’s why we don’t have a permit: because we want to be responsible for what we do and how we do it, and how we want to show for ourselves- same.”
The celebrations around the fountain in Washington Square Park after the long, hot trek accurately reflect what walkers feel at the end of the route, Shalev confirmed: “It’s always really wonderful, because it allows the levees to ‘exist in the space they need.
Understandably, Friday’s Supreme Court ruling weighed heavily. “It was very violent, with everything going on with abortion and all that,” Shalev said. “But then you come to the fountain, and it’s happy. You have dykes of all genders who are really comfortable and happy in their bodies.”
The benefits of numbers and unanimity are obvious, but Shalev also emphasizes the diversity of the march. “There’s just no other space like this, where trans dykes, butch dykes, female dykes, all dykes feel like they have a space where they can be who they are. and celebrate who they are,” they said. “And that means being angry, and that means being happy, and you don’t have to be anything other than what you are.”