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San Francisco Dyke March - From an Organizers Perspective

The San Francisco Dyke March - The Largest Dyke March in the World

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Retts with Karen Williams at the 2006 Dyke March

Retts with Karen Williams at the 2006 Dyke March

© Kathy Belge
By Retts Scauzillo

For the past 13 years I marched in a Dyke March during June pride month. In fact I was at the very first one in Washington DC in April of 1993. That year there was a National March on Washington for lesbian and gay rights.

A "rumor" started circulating that there was going to be a Dyke March on Saturday night in Dupont Circle. So my friends and I took the subway there. When we climbed up to the street we saw a beautiful sight. The streets were covered with Dykes. I could not believe it. No men in sight. It is one of the most powerful visions I ever had before and since.

Dykes Everywhere!

One woman had a bullhorn and she shouted out directions. And just like that we lined up and marched and chanted and experienced great joy. We had taken over the streets of our nation’s capital, where just down the road, men made decisions everyday that affected our lives as women.

We were all in awe of our numbers, our beauty and our power! I went home to NY and marched that June in the first NYC Dyke March led by the fire eating Lesbian Avengers. Like we were taught by the organizers of the first Dyke March, just take over the streets, don’t get permission (permits). Dyke Marches are acts of defiance, rebellion, protest, and power; a March not a parade. And so we did and felt all those things and more. From then on the Dyke march became the most important part of my celebration of pride month.

The Largest Dyke March in the Country

For the past three years I have had the privilege of being on the San Francisco Dyke March committee. This committee consists of 12 women-loving-women (well at least 11 identified as women) of all ages. We produce the largest Dyke march in the country and perhaps the world.

In 2006, there were an estimated 50,000 people at the stage in Dolores Park in the heart of the Mission District in San Francisco to watch the show. Not all of them are dykes. They probably represented every single gender identification, class and culture known to man, or woman, or other.

The San Francisco Dyke march happens on the last Saturday in June, before LGBT Pride Day. We have a four-hour stage with performers and speakers. Then we take over the streets and march into the Castro.

Thousands of supporters line the streets and cheer us on. It doesn’t end there, a big "After Party" happens, Dykes and everyone dancing in the streets of the Gay Mecca. It’s all FREE. It’s a day to celebrate being an out proud Dyke- whatever that means. Because, trust me, it means different things to different people. To some, like myself, an over-50 lesbian feminist butch, it means a woman who loves women and has the courage to proclaim that to the world. To others on the committee a Dyke does not necessary mean a woman.

Our process was a simple majority rules, and we all had different areas we were responsible for. You can go to our website and read our Mission statement. It has a very powerful statement about women and sexuality which was our theme for 2006. It goes on to state our policy on what dyke means.

Dyke Identity – A March for All Dykes!

This march is for DYKES. Dykes gather at the Dyke March to celebrate our love and passion for women and for ALL dykes. We celebrate our queerness in all its manifestations. We understand DYKE IDENTITY to include those of us who are questioning and challenging gender constructs and the social definitions of women, and who are gender fluid. Celebrate Dyke Diversity!

We continue to ask that the Dyke March be DYKE-ONLY MARCH. In other words, we ask that men NOT march, but rather that our brothers support us from the sidelines, cheering us on and helping with other support.

I’m not sure I agree with everything it says, but when you work as a collective you have to pick your fights. This committee is not only made up of Dykes of different gender identities and age groups, we are also Black, White, Latin, Jewish, Italian, working and middle class. We worked hard to make sure all parts of the community are represented.

We established a woman-only policy for performers. We also agreed to continue the Dyke March policy. That is if you identified as a Dyke or a woman you could march, all others please stand on the sideline and cheer us on. With that policy in place, I could continue to be a part of the committee as the stage producer. I could fit into an overall event where I didn’t necessarily believe in everything that was said or done.

In the larger picture here was a day that was set aside to honor Dykes of all ages, races and cultures. I was proud of who we were, young or old and in-between. And in San Francisco as in other places on this planet this doesn’t happen every day. Check out a Dyke March in your community. It will be for you as it was for me a vision to behold.

Retts Scauzillo is an ex-San Franciscan, but still a Dyke living in the Catskill Mts. of New York State.

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