Thousands of women, non-binary and gender-non-conforming people gathered in Bryant Park on Saturday evening to partake in New York’s annual Dyke March. Dyke March is a grassroots protest march that welcomes “any person who identifies as a dyke regardless of gender expression or identity, sex assigned at birth, sexual orientation, race, age, political affiliation, religious identity, ability, class, or immigration status.”
The theme of this year’s demonstration, displayed on a banner that led the march, was “Not your fucking body, not your fucking business,” a cry for the protection of bodily autonomy in a year that has seen waves of anti-trans legislation and major rollbacks in abortion access. The march serves not just as a protest for queer rights and liberation, but is also a celebration of queer community.
“I came to Dyke March because I wanted to be around queer community, to really honor our legacy of resistance and joy,” said protest attendee Tanya.
A lesbian activist group called “New York Lesbian Avengers” organized the inaugural New York march in 1993, after the success of the first Dyke March in Washington, D.C., which the group helped orchestrate.
Since then, Dyke March has taken steps to become more inclusive and accessible. At Saturday’s demonstration, wheelchairs were provided, with marshals to help push them, as were American Sign Language interpreters. Certain sections of the march had mask mandates so that immunocompromised marchers could still participate.
Marshals, identifiable by black shirts with pink lettering reading “DYKE” surrounded the march, holding hands to block intersections and clear the way for the front of the march. Dyke March has never applied for an official permit. It has long barred police presence and, in stark contrast to the NYC Pride March, corporate sponsorship.
“It’s just a space where there isn’t any inhibition in terms of expression,” said marcher Eddie. “It’s sort of a radical collection of visibility that feels detached from the aggressive corporate part of pride. [Dyke March] collects like-minded people who have a particular sort of sense of their identity, to create a community together.”
The Indypendent talked to attendees of this year’s Dyke March about why they choose to march and what it means to them. Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Dyke March is the best protest gathering I’ve ever attended. When I went the first year and I saw the marshals blocking traffic and coordinating all of it, I had never felt so safe. So I was like, next time I do Dyke March, I’m marshaling.Mia (left)
It’s just really unique to have something that celebrates dykes specifically, and centers us as well. It’s just so special to see so many people who identify this way all in one place. I feel like that’s so rare. And the history of it. It’s just like a really beautiful thing.Hannah (far right)
We’re here to celebrate being dykes and to bring our daughter, and hang out with our friends, and see our exes. … Dyke March, I think, embodies the spirit of pride, which is protest. … I loosely identify as a gender queer, lesbian dyke. And so I feel like dyke is a very inclusive term. We’ve been coming to the Dyke March for many, many years — for like a decade. … We’re moving out of the city in a couple days, and Dyke March is such a special and wonderful part of our tradition of celebrating pride. We’re glad to have a space to celebrate us.Be Stone
It’s the community getting together. I brought people here at the World Pride that were here from San Diego, and they came here for a Dyke March. And they were blown away of just how many people in the came how big the community was, and that’s what it really means to me.Katelyn Stone
I come to Dyke March to be together and fight for our rights, and be with dykes and women, [which] can help us spread the word. I participated a lot; I have been a participant for fifteen years. It is very important for us to be together … to gather and fight, and talk about us — that we are here — we represent something.Dora
I’m here because I’m a career dyke of — god knows how long. … Throughout all of the labels I have been through, dyke has been the most consistent. I held it really closely to me when I identified as a girl or woman; I kept using it as I started to transition. I think it kind of transcends gender for me. … The importance of the march is to be able to go out with your community and see it thousands strong all in one place.Crow
Being a dyke means letting myself love who I love, finally accepting myself, and feeling accepted in a community of other people. The Dyke March is a community gathering to celebrate that and to celebrate radical self love and self acceptance.Zoe (far left)
What brings me here is that being a dyke is about being militant; it’s about being political; it’s about making a statement against facism and bigotry. We live in a time in this country right now where there’s a bunch of anti-trans and anti-queer bills being passed. The agenda from the right is strong. We need to come out stronger. That’s why I’m here: I want to make a statement to support being a dyke and being queer and being trans and being open with it.Trinity (center left)
There’s something fabulous and healing about being around this many other dykes and seeing the diversity and all the joy and love. … Dyke March is a space for me to see myself and the people I love reflected in a way I can’t see anywhere else.Maggie (center right)
I’m here mainly because I’m a dyke, but also because if we just look at the origins of Dyke March and what it means to be a dyke. … It’s about militancy and solidarity, and choosing love for your fellow dykes.Rosa (far right)
I came to the Lesbian Avengers Dyke March in 1994, just a while after I came out as a lesbian. I really felt like we needed to have a place where we could be safe, and we can have a visible presence. And we could make an ally ship with all of the community, not just a white lesbian community. It’s really critical that we continue to have these spaces more than ever. I’ve always considered myself a dyke. Now, I consider myself a trans non-binary, I guess, a trans non-binary and dyke. So you know, my sense of community is much more expanded and wider, and more accepting.Aspen Paskal (left)
I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for all the young people, all the young guys that were showing up and being present together, because we need your voices more than ever. We need voices that will challenge the patriarchal, homophobic, transphobic voices out there telling us we need to be silent, we need to be shut down; our histories need to be silenced; we need to be basically shoved to the sidelines. And I say no more to that. Absolutely no more. I will hold all of my white sisters accountable moving forward to making sure that they are standing up for Black trans lives, for all parts of intersectionality. It isn’t just about what we have as white sisters and our privilege. We have to make these alliances, and we need to stand up now.
I just moved here a year ago. … It’s been a really cool experience; I feel like I’ve met so many more cool groups than where I’m from.Cate (left)
I grew up not knowing how to express myself, and being a part of Dyke March helps me with this and makes me feel more at home.Genine (right)
Dyke March feels like liberation; it’s freedom. It’s forcing everyone to take accountability for the discrimination that we face on a regular basis. And it’s also fun, because it’s a group of all of us getting together and fighting for a better cause.Yamoaa (left)
The biggest thing for me is community. Especially these past few years, it’s been really tough to come out and explore my gender in a world where we were in the pandemic under lockdown. The first time I came to the Dyke March in New York City a few years ago — it was one of the first big events I went to after being so strict about COVID for so long — and it was just so magical to see everyone. And so for me, it’s really about the community I feel when I’m here. I really just identify as queer and non-binary. I don’t really love labels, but I know that I’m with a bunch of people where labels don’t really matter. And we’re all here for similar reasons, which is to see each other to feel the love, to see what resources are available out there to support each othe, and have a good time.Ramana (right)