Self-described as “a protest march, not a parade,” the New York Dyke March works without permits or sponsors to bolster identity, celebrate community and confront discrimination. Early this evening, the March stepped off from Bryant Park for the 30th time, making its way down Fifth Avenue toward its end in Washington Square Park.
The event traces its origin to the first-ever Dyke March, which took place the evening before the historic LGBT March on Washington in April 1993. Even though that event took place in DC and involved contingents from Los Angeles and Philadelphia, New York played a major role: according to the event’s official chronicle, The New York Lesbian Avengers managed logistics and security.
The Avengers are reported to have distributed 8,000 flyers… but more than 20,000 women turned up, filling the National Mall with their defiant celebration. Flush with success, the Avengers established a hometown march the following year: the first New York City Dyke March was held in June 1993.
All of that history is pretext to today, when Dyke March participants, having fought for their right to exist and be who they are, took to the streets tonight in the wake of a Supreme Court decisionwhose impact and implications extended well past the momentous overturn of Roe v. Calf.
Following on the heels of Friday’s Drag March and this afternoon’s Harlem Pride 2022 Celebration Day, the Dyke March stepped off under sunny skies to the customary sounds of pounding drum patterns, caustic songs and belligerent group chants. Thousands of participants hit the streets with more than the usual measure of urgency.
Following on the heels of Friday’s Drag March and this afternoon’s Harlem Pride 2022 Celebration Day, the Dyke March stepped off under sunny skies to the customary sounds of pounding drum patterns, caustic songs and belligerent group chants. Participants hit the streets with more than the usual measure of urgency.
At the end of the route, Gothamist spoke with one of the march’s organizers, Nate Shalev, about the march’s defiant independence.
“We started in ’93, so this is our 30th anniversary,” they said. “It was a time when dyke visibility and dyke issues weren’t being spoken about, and everything was centering cis-gay white men, as it does. So the dykes needed a space for it.”
Regarding the march’s permit-free self-reliance, Shalev explained that organizers and participants had recognized early on the need to look out for their own safety and security. “Police are not focused on keeping our community safe, they’re focused on other things,” they said. “We want to make sure that we’re always going to be safe. And that’s why we don’t have a permit: because we want to be in charge of what we do and how we do it, and how we want to show up for ourselves.”
Celebrations around the Washington Square Park fountain after the long, hot trek accurately reflect what march participants feel at the end of the road, Shalev confirmed: “It’s always really wonderful, because it’s allowing dykes to exist in whatever space they need.”
Understandably, Friday’s Supreme Court decision loomed large. “This was very rageful, with everything that’s going on with abortion and all of that,” Shalev said. “But then you come to the fountain, and it’s joyful. You’ve got dykes of all genders being really comfortable and joyful in their bodies.”
The benefits of numbers and unanimity are obvious, but Shalev also underscores the march’s diversity. “There’s just simply no other space like it, where trans dykes, butch dykes, femme 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 joyful, and you don’t have to be anything except whatever the thing is you are.”