Dyke March organizers bring pedal power to World Pride
Story by Amelia Brown ~ This story is from our brand NEW 'bike plan election' issue of dandyhorse: available here.
Photos by Gary Davidson
For almost 20 years, all kinds of dykes on all kinds of bikes have rolled down Yonge Street as part of Toronto’s annual Dyke March. But in 2013, bicycles took on a greater role than ever, thanks to a contingent formed by the queer-friendly Bike Pirates DIY shop and Dyke March organizers. The bicycles, almost 75 in total, formed a chorus of ringing bells between the roaring motorcycles that have led the event since it started, and the chanting marchers behind. The first Gay Pride Week in Toronto was in 1972, but it wasn’t until 1991 that the City of Toronto finally recognized the event officially.
For many in the dyke community, “marching” on a bicycle makes a statement about the economic, social justice and sustainability issues that concern them. Queer and trans women can expect to earn less on average than their heteronormative comrades, so the bicycle is freeing because it’s an affordable and self-propelled means of transportation. Almost everyone can bike and in doing so care for the earth – and for themselves. For many members of the dyke community, the bicycle is also a poignant metaphor for negotiating margins. Laura Krahn, [pictured above] one of the Dyke March organizers says: “When you’re biking, you’re choosing what risks to take, navigating along roads built for cars.” It’s similar every day for dykes, who occupy a world constructed mostly for others.
Even the term “dyke” is something members of the community have had to strive to define for themselves. “We’re reclaiming a word that’s often hurled at us in anger,” explains Meg, a new member of the Dyke March team. For Black, the bicycle is her preferred form of travel over transit, where stares from TTC patrons can make for a claustrophobic commute. On two wheels, she feels safe, in control of her speed, route and self. She calls this a victory over a “world that aims to constrict your movement.”
As Toronto gears up for World Pride this June, Dyke March is calling on members of the queer community to move towards achieving equality for sexual minorities across the country. Krahn wants to promote Bill C-279, which would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to account for an individual’s gender identity, distinguishable from his or her sex. The amendment, which had its second reading in the Senate last October, would be a first step to providing nationwide protections, social services and health care for trans folk.
Although the march is sponsored by, and operates as part of Pride festivities, the Dyke March is an independent event with its own mandate. This year, the mission statement is: “The 2014 Dyke March works to create dyke-centred spaces because we need and demand more visibility within the Pride Toronto Festival.” Dyke March tries to represent everyone who feels they’re not adequately spoken for during the Pride festivities, which some feel are overly commercialized or represent only queer stereotypes.
“Trans, bisexual, asexual and communities of colour have all been pushing for changes at Pride: reminders that trans women of colour led Stonewall have been essential,” Krahn stated during a panel discussion at Ryerson on whether Pride events in Toronto had become too mainstream. “The festival also often opens on National Aboriginal Day – it would be amazing to see that acknowledged and to celebrate Two-Spirit communities,” she says.
By putting these issues at the forefront of the march, Laura hopes to raise awareness about communities on the dyke spectrum that are often marginalized and overlooked. The bike community has similar challenges, Krahn says, such as falsely equating lines of paint on the street with progress. Education and awareness are key to moving beyond car culture, just as they’re essential to achieve safety and social justice for queer and trans groups. Sometimes, the two even intersect; like on Sundays, during the women/trans exclusive hours at Bike Pirates.
In Toronto’s male-dominated cycling scene, Krahn, a year-round, all-season cyclist says she often felt intimidated in shops with staff who assume you’re a “woman who doesn’t know what she’s doing.”
The loud, ringing procession of decked-out dykes on equally decorated bicycles grows each year, as does the number and diversity of marchers behind them. This success stems in part from efforts to build a sense of community that operates outside of the Pride organizers. The Dyke March team holds events throughout the year and performs outreach to ensure that they represent a broad spectrum of age, race and ability, such as; dykes on bikes, dykes with tykes, dyke youth, bisexual and trans women. By hosting events and working with these groups, the Dyke March team creates a network. “When participants [in the march] arrive, they’re joining with a community they already feel they’re a part of,” Krahn says.
dandyhorse is proudly being distributed at this year's Dyke March. Happy Pride! The Dyke March is on Saturday, June 28, starting at 2 p.m. in Allan Gardens.
This story is from our NEW 'bike plan election' issue of dandyhorse: available here.
Big thanks to Gary Davidson for the fab photos.We shot in Allan Gardens, where the march starts from this year on Saturday, June 28.
When we first shot the "dykes on bikes" the weather was a challenge so we did a re-shoot to capture Laura Krahn in warmer, greener climes.
Here are a few fun group shots from our initial shoot with Gary and Dyke March organizers at Allan Gardens:
(L-R) Chrystal Dean, World Pride Manager, Pride Toronto, Laura Krahn, Dyke March Team Lead, Lauryn Kronick, former Dyke March Team Member and current Board Member, Pride Toronto, and Jaime Martino, Director of Operations, Pride Toronto.
Jaime riding in for the group action shot.
Lauryn feeling the pedal pride!
Gary captured this super shot of Lauryn's excellent recycled rainbow grips that we decided to use for our Table of Contents. Great work Gary! Great grips Lauryn!
Photos of Gary in action, below, by Tammy Thorne.
Related on the dandyBLOG:
Build a bike, build your confidence: Charlie's Freewheels launches girls-only build a bike program