Hundreds of participants chanted, reveled and marched through the streets of Chicago's South Shore neighborhood June 26 during the history-making 14th annual Dyke March. Organizers brought the event to the neighborhood after a two-year stint in the Pilsen area and after years of marching in the event's Andersonville birthplace.
Marchers braved high temperatures and an uncertain reception as the event kicked off near the corner of 71st and Jeffrey. "I love the Dyke March," said marcher Lewis Wallace. "It's a good alternative to the Pride Parade. I feel more comfortable here; it's more trans-inclusive. It talks about racism and it's about building bridges between different areas of the city. These are things that are important to me."
The comfort of Wallace and everyone else involved was certainly on the minds of some who were skeptical about bringing the event so far south. "They said you would not cross the boundary line and come south," announced Lucy ( who prefers to be called only by her first name ) , the emcee for the rally held at Jackson Park after the march. "It means the North Side-South Side barrier has been broken," she added.
Breaking barriers is what the Dyke March is all about, organizers noted. In 2008, the march left its Andersonville home and moved to Pilsen for two consecutive years. The event will be held in the South Shore neighborhood again in 2011. The selection of neighborhoods like Pilsen and South Shore is by design, planners said, because the group was eager to leave the queer-friendly, mostly white and well-heeled areas of the North Side and increase "queer visibility" throughout all neighborhoods in the city.
But moving south yielded a cautious response from LGBT members of the South Shore community. In an open letter to Dyke March participants, C.C. Carter, the executive director of a South Shore lesbian group, stated, "This march, conducted on the Southside of Chicago, will be unprecedented... [ w ] ith that said, we would like organizing members and ally participants who do not live or reside or work within the neighborhood…to be respectful of a culture…that values family. … [ W ] e do ask on behalf of the LGBTQ [ families ] and allies…who live in the same neighborhood as the marchwho will have to go back to live in [ the neighborhood ] , attend church [ with ] , [ and ] go to work with the same people who will be on the sidelines watching ( cheering or maybe sneering ) that…while in Rome do as the Romans [ and ] …not [ show ] any nudity of any sort."
One such person on the sidelines was a woman who asked not to be named for this article. A months-long resident of the area, she said, "Wow. I think that this is very interesting. But I'm still confused as to why [ one's sexual preference ] is anyone else's business. I wouldn't have a heterosexual march. I think it's a ploy for attention." But Gloster Mahon, who's lived in the South Shore neighborhood for more than 30 years, said, "I got nothing against it. We live in an age where everyone will face discrimination. To each his own."