“I don’t think I’ll ever retire,” laughs 23-year-old Michelle Walker. “I would love to continue building community and bringing people together.”
The freelance website designer first brought people together in a big way a few years ago, when she created Superdyke.com, now a popular online meeting space for local dykes.
More recently, she and her partner were the driving forces behind resurrecting Vancouver’s first-in-a-decade Dyke March in time for last year’s Pride celebrations.
“I need to be doing something,” Walker says. “That’s the reason why Superdyke exists and why I get involved in things like the Dyke March.
“The world isn’t going to get better unless we change it ourselves,” she notes.
Superdyke.com grew from what Walker saw as necessity. “I didn’t really think there were any other websites at the time. There wasn’t really anything local. I was going out a lot and I ended up leaving with flyers for everything else. I found it frustrating and decided it was time we had something for local women.
“It started as a place to house events listings for Vancouver and it’s evolved,” she continues. “It’s pretty big now. It’s been a constant, steady growth. It’s not like it exploded overnight.”
Today, she sees Superdyke.com as an extension of the queer women’s community. “A lot of people meet there first and then go out and do things together,” she says. The site offers participants the opportunity to create profiles, chat with each other and post messages to message boards.
“It’s a huge community,” Walker says-and maintaining that community is “a labour of love.”
The website also features a health component called Ask a Nurse, where people submit health questions and a nurse writes back. Walker’s partner, Heidi Deagle, is the nurse.
Co-founders of last summer’s Dyke March revival, Deagle and Walker had been a couple for about a year before they went to San Francisco for Pride two years ago, and decided to bring their own march back to Vancouver.
“That day was just so awesome that we wanted to do it up here,” Walker recalls. “When you get people that have the same purpose and believe in the same thing, even when it’s something as simple as equal rights and human rights, it’s just awesome.”
She was particularly struck by the empowerment she experienced that day. “It was about the number of people. It’s really an indescribable feeling.
“You know, you go about your life doing what you do, and you interact with people, but being able to be in one spot where everyone is all there for basically the same reason…” she trails off, re-living the rapture of the moment.
Working with Deagle on the Dyke March and other projects has been a source of bonding in their relationship, Walker believes. “I think, like all couples, we have our moments, but in the end it’s always good. If anything, it strengthens it because it’s definitely something that we came up with together and that we experienced together and that we wanted to bring to the community together.
“In the end, that’s always there,” she continues, “and if anything it just makes us more proud to be involved and to be together.”
This year, the couple is planning their wedding along with the Dyke March. They’ve set an Apr 30 date for the ceremony-well before the march hits the streets in July.
There’s a limit to how many big things they can plan at once, Walker laughs.
The couple currently lives in the West End with a “wiener dog” and a Jack Russell Terrier.
“I love being busy and having goals and aspiring. I think I’m just a very motivated person,” Walker says.
Going into its second year, the Dyke March team is now a registered society: The Vancouver Dyke March & Festival Society. Walker is president; Deagle is vice-president.
Walker stresses the importance of supporting the organizations and individuals that provide events and services like the ones she’s involved with. There would be fewer places to meet and less to do without that support, she says.
Feeling the dyke community’s support “helps people realize they’re actually providing something worthwhile and gives them a reason to continue. I don’t think that anyone doing these things is independently wealthy. I know how in some cases it can be completely thankless.
“Everything in our community exists for a reason,” she continues, “and I think that the best thing we can do is support the organizations that support the community.
“We’re putting it on for the community, so really it’s the community supporting itself,” she points out.