2 min

Keep it real, keep the trannies

Dyke March consultation tackles trans inclusion, volunteer apathy

According to organiz-ers one of the tricks of a successful Dyke March is balancing conflicting issues. Participants don’t want a lot of trucks, but they also want music. No one wants barricades, but it’s hard to get enough trained marshals. Organizers try to avoid commercializing the march, but also need to pay the bills.

“The Dyke March looks more grassroots than Pride,” says former Dyke March cochair Margaret Robinson. “There isn’t as much visible corporate sponsorship. There isn’t as much visible bureaucracy. But this image of the Dyke March is made possible by Pride Toronto. They pay the bills, and they enable the march to look corporate-free.

“The flip side is that people don’t see anything grassroots about Pride Toronto; they only see the corporations. That’s a shame, because once you see it from the inside you realize… it’s volunteers trying to put on a gigantic event without much help.”

It may seem a little early to be thinking about next summer’s Dyke March, but Pride Toronto got the jump up with a consultation on the community event on Nov 25.

“The Dyke March is going into its 12th year and we thought it was time to look at the march at a strategic level,” says Pride’s female cochair Lenore MacAdam, who was one of last year’s Dyke March coordinators. “We wanted to start a dialogue about what the Dyke March means to the community, what are the guiding principles and so forth.”

Approximately 25 people showed up to the Ryerson Student Centre to discuss the future of the march, which takes place on the Saturday of Pride weekend. This year’s Dyke March is scheduled for Sat, Jun 23.

Among the topics addressed at November’s consultation was the inclusion of trans people in the Dyke March — an issue that’s caused turmoil in the past. In 1999 there was a schism over trans participation; half the Dyke March’s organizing committee quit. The organizers who supported trans inclusion stayed on and it’s been trans-inclusive ever since.

“Probably the strongest take-away from the meeting was the consensus that the Dyke March needs to be a safe and inclusive space for the trans community,” says MacAdam. “Self-identification was another issue. That is, that a person who identifies as a dyke makes that decision for themselves, and will always be welcome in the march.”

While consensus at the consultation reaffirmed the existing policy, Robinson notes that the Dyke March organizers should be in a position to take the lead.

“Consulting the community is good, but you can’t always assume that what the majority wants is what’s best or what’s right.”

Robinson, who was a Dyke March cochair from 1999 to 2001 notes that gender politics among Toronto dykes have shifted since she was at the helm.

“Few people at the consultation introduced themselves as trans, but there was more variety in gender presentation than I’d seen at Dyke March meetings in my day. But then that’s typical of the change in the options available to queers now. There’s no clear-cut line between who is trans and who isn’t. Many lesbians have a new awareness of themselves as genderqueer and view that as being on a spectrum with trans folk.”

Consultation participants also tackled the problem of volunteer apathy. Organizers say that while there’s an ever-growing number of people taking part in the event each year, the event is constantly threatened by a lack of volunteers. In particular, as the number of marchers grows more and more marshals are required to avoid having to resort to barricades along the route.

“I would encourage anyone who is interested in either year-round or weekend involvement to email them through the Pride Toronto website,” says MacAdam.