Trade in the corporate-sponsored, balloon-clad parade floats typically associated with Pride for hand-painted protest signs with phrases like “Fuck I.C.E.” and “Deport White Men,” and you’ve got the 26th Annual Dyke March — “a demonstration of our First Amendment right to protest, which takes place without permits or sponsors,” according to the official Dyke March website.
The first Dyke March dates back to 1993 as a way for lesbians to assert power and visibility in a world that did not recognize them. Innately political and true to its roots, it serves as a celebration of reclamation and defiance in the form of an actual, physical movement. It has since grown to include folks who identify as queer, bisexual, and transgender, is body-positive, and is anti-racist. The Dyke March serves as a platform to unite those who share a history of oppression, regardless of socioeconomic status, age, physical ability, and immigrant status. This isn’t a parade.
“This day is about gender and identity,” said Valentina Osario, 23, a publicist and immigrant from Colombia with family who came over illegally. “Pride was always a protest. It was started by trans women of color Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, and it’s important to keep that spirit of rebellion, anger, and unity alive.”
In speaking personally with attendees, I felt a solidarity and connectedness that I never have before as a white, Syrian-American, Jewish, queer woman. The strength surrounding me was palpable. While watching the drumline bang in unison under the triumphal arch in Washington Square Park, I got choked up. “People have died to be here,” I thought, “and now look at us.”
Hanna Bormann told me, “It feels good to be around a bunch of other dykes.” She is 22, a trans-butch dyke, and a college student from Massachusetts. “I feel very recognized here, within my own identity, which I don’t always feel in my own community.” When asked if she would attend next year, she exclaimed, “Absolutely. This is so great! Look at all these dykes!”
To capture a portrait of that expansive community, I set up a pop-up photo studio at the march.