3 min

Dyke march in the works

Young dykes resurrect old celebration

Credit: Robin Perelle

For the first time in at least a decade, Vancouver streets could resonate with the happy and defiant sounds of celebrating dykes.

This summer’s planned dyke march is the brainchild of Michelle Walker, 22, and her partner Heidi Deagle, 26. They’ve been working to bring it to life ever since they went to San Francisco last summer and were “just totally blown away” by the march they discovered there.

“It was really inspiring,” Deagle says, describing a grassy park full of all kinds of dykes, some wearing funky costumes, and all preparing to march down the street together. “I was just in awe. It was such a good feeling.”

It was empowering, says Walker. “Just looking around and knowing that you have something in common with people you’ve never met before. Whether it’s the fact that you love women, or you’re a friend of someone who loves women. It’s just a really good feeling knowing that you’re surrounded by people who support you.”

It’s that kind of feeling that Walker and Deagle are hoping to recreate in their own backyard this July.

If everything goes according to plan, Vancouver will soon join Toronto, New York, Los Angeles and a dozen other North American cities in offering a separate opportunity for lesbians to celebrate their love.

They’re still working out the details, but Walker and Deagle are hoping to gather in Victoria Park around noon on Jul 31 (the day before the Pride Parade), then march up Commercial Dr en masse to Grandview Park, where they will set up a stage and hold a festival.

Sometimes it’s just important to take over the streets, Deagle says, stressing the importance of queer visibility.

And it’s important to make women visible, Walker adds, especially during Pride Week.

The regular Pride Parade is awesome, she says, but some dykes feel disconnected from it. This march will be specifically designed for dykes, by dykes and it will move the celebration out of the West End and onto the Drive. So far, she notes, the businesses they’ve approached on the Drive have all been very supportive.

Of course, ultimately, the march will be whatever the participants want it to be, Deagle says. “It’s just people being who they are, celebrating themselves.”

Nancy Pollak remembers that well. An editor of the now-defunct women’s magazine, Kinesis, and a longtime Vancouver resident, Pollak has fond memories of this city’s past dyke marches.

Though she’s a little hazy on the details, she says she remembers marching downtown in at least one “threatening display of outrageous lesbianhood” in the last 20 years.

The old marches were “unruly in the best sense of the word,” she recalls.

They were about “showing your self-respect to the world.” But not in a ‘please like us’ kind of way. It was more of a ‘here we are, we’re lively, we’re unashamed and we’re outrageous-ain’t it grand?’ kind of way, she laughs.

Pollak, now 50, is happy to hear that the next generation is picking up the torch and creating a march of its own.

Women are not well represented in the gay Pride Parade, she says. “You’d almost think that lesbians had been wiped off the face of the earth.”

Pollak is hoping this year’s dyke march will better reflect the vast diversity of dykeliness in Vancouver. “Presumably, a dyke parade would show the reality of dyke life that’s not as easy to digest and assimilate as what we get in popular culture,” she says.

Walker and Deagle hope their march will capture the diversity of the dyke community, too. And their dogs, Deagle adds with a smile.

Along with their committee of five and a group of volunteers, the partners have been fundraising for the march since January with great success, but they’re nowhere near their $7,000 goal. They set that goal based on the estimated costs of getting city permits to close the street and the parks, buying the required insurance and renting a stage and other supplies for the festival.

Shawn Ewing, president of the Vancouver Pride Society, says the society will help out as much as it can, but it doesn’t have any extra money to finance another event right now.

That’s okay, say Walker and Deagle, they’d rather be self-sufficient anyway. But they appreciate all the help they’ve already received from Ewing, who is helping them find the necessary permits, fill out the applications, and even fronting them some of the money.

“I think it’s going to be a tremendous event,” says Ewing, who is planning to join the march herself. “I’m a very proud dyke and I look forward to the opportunity to celebrate that during a Pride week celebration.

“The women have done great stuff and they’ve done it in an incredibly responsible manner,” Ewing continues. “I think it’s going to be great.”

Regardless of how much money they manage to raise, Walker and Deagle say the march will go on. “Something in some form will happen,” Deagle promises.


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More information on the march: