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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Thousands at Chicago's 20th annual Dyke March
by Gretchen Rachel Hammond
2016-06-25

This article shared 15 times since Sat Jun 25, 2016
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They numbered in the thousands.

So many people showed up to the 20th Annual Dyke March June 25 that they spanned most of the Humboldt Park route from Western and Division to the park entrance.

Comprised of the entire spectrum of race, gender and gender identity, they marched with defiance. They marched with love.

Much like the first Dyke March in 1996, Chicago Police Department (CPD) presence was minimal and necessary only to stop the flow of traffic along the marcher's route.

In a stark contrast to the expected massive CPD participation in the June 26 Pride Parade, Dyke March organizers focused on the community looking after itself.

Dyke March Safety Marshalls were on hand offering security or a bottle of water to anyone who requested it as temperatures along the route and at the rally topped 90 degrees.

As the marchers began to gather, the overwhelming feeling was one of acceptance and unashamed joy. There were plenty of hugs as old friends and Dyke March participants from the 1990s era were reunited with the words "Happy Dyke March."

Once the marchers set off, headed by a small contingent of Dykes on Bykes and representatives from the Broadway Youth Center (BYC), they chanted "We are Dyke March," "CPD means we've got to fight back, Orlando means we've got to fight back, gentrification means we've got to fight back," and "We're here, we're queer, we're fabulous, don't fuck with us," among others.

Yet there was no belligerence in their tone rather they were the impassioned cries for social change and community around which the Dyke March is centered.

"The Dyke March really emphasizes the importance of being in communities that are marginalized and left behind in terms of education around who the LGFBT community is," Dyke March participant and Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame member Emmanuel Garcia said. "After what happened in Orlando it's really important that we center the voices of the communities that were affected. Given that the majority of the people that were victims of this crime were Puerto Rican, I think it is especially important that the March is in Humboldt Park and that we're continuing to create solidarity with these communities."

Dykes on Bikes began collaborating with the Dyke March in 2011.

"It's the empowerment the March gives the LGBT community in general," Dykes on Bikes Chicago Chapter President Debby Rijos said. "I feel like the whole purpose of the Pride Parade has been lost with greed and money. The Dyke March still has its niche of showing the struggles and love of our community. No matter how many letters we add every year to the acronym, we still embrace everybody equally."

Garcia echoed the feeling that, without the regimented security that will be in place for the Pride Parade, the Dyke March retains an atmosphere which is unique, and in many ways, more suited to inclusion.

"We know that more policing and more surveillance only affects communities of color and the LGBT community of color," he said. "I think that we need to create more models like the Dyke March to bring the Pride Parade to the roots of Stonewall which was a direct response to policing. I think that's why Dyke March stands out and has always been rooted in community."

For others, the Dyke March is a place to meet new people. The extinction of lesbian bars not just in Chicago but across the country has turned the event into an invaluable social resource.

Rico was participating in the Dyke March for the fourth time.

"I like ladies," they (preferred pronouns) said with a laugh. "There's no places for lesbians to go. When you get a group of women-identified people together, it's a beautiful thing."

Rico is a part of a bimonthly kink and sex-positive meet-up called Femunch which currently boasts around 350 queer, women-identified members.

"We don't have a safe space anymore," Rico said. "The way that people are treating lesbians, and trans women is just ridiculous."

Rico added that they are also unenthused by the Pride Parade.

"It's just become so corporate," they said. "The Dyke March seems like it's more our crowd instead of being directed towards gay men. I'm all for unity but we do need a place that is just for us."

Despite the tremendous surge in numbers this year, The Dyke March displayed none of the drunken, obnoxious riots which marred the 2015 Pride Parade and started discussions about the event moving out of Lakeview.

For Rico, the reason all boiled down to mutual respect.

"It's so oppressive at Pride with all the drunk kids and older men," they said. "Here, we don't want to be disrespectful."

That level of respect was equally as prominent at the Dyke March rally on the grounds of Humboldt Park.

There, participants enjoyed free food cooked on a wide bar-b-que and browsed tables from organizations that included Affinity, Lambda Legal, Chicago Welcoming Churches, The Chicago Public Library, the Windy City Performing Arts/Windy City Gay Chorus, New Lease on Life Chicago, Rape Victim Advocates and the Midwest Access Coalition among others.

Abby Minton was offering magnets created by IO Handmade Crafts. The work of the organization is as altruistic as it is beautifully detailed.

"Today, sales are going to help LGBTQIA homeless youth at The Crib," Minton said. "Forty percent of homeless youth make up the LGBTQIA population which is highly disproportionate so we wanted to make a difference."

"A lot of younger kids are being rejected from their homes," Minton added. "But when we talk to them, they are very courageous. They would rather be out and homeless than inside and miserable."

Minton hoped to make $500 from the day, the proceeds of which will go to the homeless shelter which is a project of the Chicago-based Night Ministry.

Entertainment at the rally ran the gamut of spoken word, music, dance and even some body-affirming burlesque.

Performers included Kaycee Ortiz, Tiff Beatty, Miz Jellie Mae Jones, The History Makers, Tweak, Milani Ninja, Tasha, Holliwood Monroe and Bella Bahhs. The emcees for the show were Niki Gee and Miss Eboni.

Just as in 1996, Dyke March core organizers were floored by the unprecedented turnout for the event.

It was Sadie's first year as a member of the Dyke March Collective and the fourth as a Dyke March participant.

"It's fantastic!" Sadie said. "I think that a lot of people are feeling that it's a very important time to be at an event like this. We love and care about each other. We protect each other. We're really invested in that and we're intentional about building structures that create safety and support."

Although there will be a long break before discussions even begin about Dyke March 2017, Garcia and a number of others mentioned that, if they had their wish, they would like to see the event move to a neighborhood like Little Village.

"The fact that the Dyke March is still very much taking it to the streets gives me hope," Garcia said.





This article shared 15 times since Sat Jun 25, 2016
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