Temperatures soared over 30 degrees Celsius, but that didn’t stop thousands of people, both marchers and spectators, from turning out for the Toronto Dyke March on June 28.
Although affiliated with WorldPride and funded by Pride Toronto, the march stayed true to its political roots. Lesbian and bisexual women were joined by members of the trans, two-spirit and gender-variant communities as they made their way west on Carlton Street before turning north onto Yonge and ending with a rally in George Hislop Park.
The route is almost the exact opposite of what it has been in previous years, a change Dyke March team lead Laura Krahn says was made to reinforce the march’s political and grassroots origins.
The day began at Allan Gardens, where participants and organizers gathered to make signs and prepare. “We do a lot of organizing and building throughout the year towards this one day,” Krahn says. “The goal is to make the Dyke March a culmination of something, so that when people come to the march, they arrive and already feel that sense of community and welcoming and belonging.”
Groups marching this year included the Ontario Rainbow Alliance of the Deaf, Women’s Health in Women’s Hands, and the Toronto Fierce Femmes, who were this year’s honoured group. The Canadian Cancer Society and the Colorectal Cancer Society of Canada were also on hand at Allan Gardens, encouraging everyone to get regular mammograms and be screened for other types of cancer.
Political supporters, including Vancouver East MP Libby Davies, Toronto Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam and Toronto mayoral candidate Olivia Chow were also in attendance to show their support for the women’s community. “It’s absolutely wonderful to be in a space with all these powerful women,” Chow says. “Yet still, the transgendered and transsexual folks have not had their bill pass the Senate, and so there is still work to do.”
Chow also made reference to Mayor Rob Ford’s ongoing avoidance of Pride festivities in Toronto. “It’s Rob Ford’s loss,” she says. “He doesn’t know the joy and the pride that comes with the march. He’s missing a whole lot. He’s also not representing a whole lot of people, and he has systematically offended the LGBTQ community, women, visible minorities [and] immigrants.”
The Dyke March has a trans-inclusive mandate, which was affirmed by the strong and visible presence of trans women. Sally Salvaterra has been part of trans marches in the past, but this was her first year joining the Dyke March. “It’s important for the trans people to be more represented and depicted. That way our presence becomes more normalized,” she says. “We become much more accepted.”
Body positivity continues to be an important part of the Dyke March, with women of all shapes and sizes celebrating and embracing their differences. For Lauryn Kronick, who marched topless, it was also an opportunity to assert the importance of women having autonomy over their bodies.
“It’s a way to kind of say ‘fuck you’ to cisgendered men who take your photos without consent,” she says. “I think body positivity is something that is celebrated by any person of any ability, and it’s just really liberating to be topless or even naked if you want to in the streets.”
Kronick thinks conversations about body acceptance need to become more mainstream, particularly within the queer community.
Many families brought their children to the march, including Gabi Trujillo and Inessa Petersen, who brought their four-month-old son Gabriel to the rally in Allan Gardens. “We always do the Dyke March,” Petersen says. “It’s important for us to be at Pride with our son because it’s important for him to know that we’re not the only family — he’s not the only one with two moms.
“We’re really lucky to be able to be a lesbian couple and have a child and to have support for that,” she adds.
As the march wound its way through the streets, many women chanted slogans that included “Pride is not enough” and “Let’s get critical; our Pride is political,” reinforcing the radical, grassroots spirit of the march. “Every year we try to make it political and we still try to keep it grassroots,” performer Natalie Nox says. “Sure, we have things to celebrate, but we are political. This is a political space — we take the streets, we reclaim them as ours, and that’s why we march.”