History of the Chicago Dyke March Collective and Why We Move

Back to Home

The Chicago Dyke March Collective would like to acknowledge that this document and information is a collaboration and integration of all the work that the organizers that came before us and current core members work to support the fierce and fabulous collective and the lessons learned and the lessons/mistakes/successes we continue to make. As always, we want to acknowledge everyone that has made this collective what it is today. It is important to acknowledge that the preservation of our the history of our collective, issues discussed, and information about the history of this collective are a collection of the work of many Dyke March organizers over the years, and we would like to thank them for their contributions.

Dyke March Chicago 2009,  BRIEF HISTORY OF DYKE MARCH

From Stonewall to parade: The first Pride March, in June of 1969 started as a protest against discrimination and violence against the lgbtq (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community in New York City. Since these actions, known as the Stonewall Riots, there have been street demonstrations across the country, over the years becoming less of a political march, and more of a commercial parade. In addition, while the community marched side by side, queer women, particularly women of color, often felt overshadowed by their male counterparts.

This is why The Lesbian Avengers, a direct action activist group, organized the first Dyke March in New York City in 1992. In 1993, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force sponsored a March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian rights. The Lesbian Avengers sponsored the first nationwide Dyke March the night before on April 24th,  there were 20,000 marchers. After returning back home, participants of the D.C. march started organizing Dyke Marches in their own towns and cities. In its originality, the Dyke March was intended to focus on queer women, but with time some cities have been working towards being more inclusive.

In 1996, a troupe of the Lesbian avengers brought the first Dyke March to Chicago. It was held in the in Lakeview, (around Belmont and Halsted area) without any corporate sponsorship, as a means to protest against the “corporate, white male dominated Chicago Pride Parade, and to build dyke visibility”.  In 1997, the march and rally moved to Andersonville, a neighborhood north of the city known for being an area with (mostly white) lesbian women and businesses, and so the march settled there for 10 more years.

The move: Pilsen in 2008: Although the march had a strong foundation of grassroots social justice, some people who attended the march, felt a lack of inclusiveness and accessibility, particularly towards communities of color. As more women of color began to become involved in the process of organizing the march, the Dyke March was challenged to face its deficiencies. Some of the dialogue of the March’s location move came from, by keeping the march in a predominately white, middle class, north side neighborhood, we weren’t being inclusive of, or accessible to other communities in the city. In order to better explain our reasons for moving, Dyke March collective (in 2008) members came up with this statement:


to create visibility

to honor our histories and identities

to disrupt oppression and dominance

to challenge silence and fear

because we are everywhere

because we must survive”

Many people in our various communities were supportive of the move. However, we did have (individually and collectively) long and intense discussions amongst the members of the collective, the lgbtq community, and others who were hesitant, and opposed to the move.

We also tried to outreach to the Pilsen community, to explain who we were, and why we were moving to this neighborhood. Although many of us believe that we could have and should have done more education and conversations with Pilsen residents, despite our efforts.

After the success and lessons of the 2008 and 2009 marches in Pilsenand changes in the the collective. It was decided that the Chicago Dyke March’s second move would take place in Chicago’s South Shore community. Attendees at the 2009 Dyke March Chicago were invited to offer their feedback about the location of the 2010 and 2011 marches. Complying with a 2008 decision for the March to remain in the same neighborhood for two consecutive years, the march was held in South Shore in 2010 and 2011.

In 2012, after a call for movement was made by the collective to the greater community and for organizations connected to the community that could collaborate with the Chicago Dyke March Collective. Two proposals were submitted identifying Argyle as an ideal location for future marches. Additionally, at the 2011 march, suggestion cards were distributed and tallied, identifying Argyle as neighborhood of great interest. In 2012, the Chicago Dyke March was pleased to announce that the 2012 and 2013 marches would be held in the Argyle neighborhood, which is predominantly new immigrants, the Vietnamese community, and a number of Asian American businesses and nonprofits.

While, the Dyke March Chicago had long been on the far north side; however, since 2008, the organizers have continued to move the March (Pilsen in 2008, 2009; South Shore in 2010, 2011). These moves show that dykes are in all parts of Chicago and to celebrate Dyke, Queer, Bisexual, and Transgender resilience.

Since 2008, the Chicago Dyke March Collective has seen some collective members move on, made the march happen despite a small core, grown, and continued to constantly evaluate the mission and values of the collective. All while learning some hard lessons and trying to hold ourselves accountable as best we could within our capacity and frameworks.

We have tried to make our decisions by consensus, because “In contrast to majority voting consensus decision-making is about finding common ground and solutions that are acceptable to all. Decisions are reached in a dialogue between equals, who take each other seriously and who recognise each other’s equal rights”

(as described by the website Seeds for Change)

Check it out for more on decisions by consensus: http://www.seedsforchange.org.uk/free/consensus

Most times it is a combination of this and discussion. The process and processing is continuous. Both in terms of the way that we work with community, as well as the education process, skill sharing, and general dialogue of the organizers. We are not perfect, and there is still a lot that we have to learn as individuals and as a collective. We all have the capacity to both be the oppressor and be oppressed.  We’ve made mistakes, learned some hard lessons, and have had issues to work out. Internally particularly we would like to share our skills, keep open dialogues as well as have more dialogue about gender and inclusiveness of gender-variant/ queer and trans folk, as well as other ways and factors that underrepresented folks and communities experience oppression on different levels.

After another shift and addition of new members in the Fall of 2012, we modified our mission & values – a process we are committed to constant re-evaluation and adapting to reflect our values of anti-oppression, anti-racism, and transformative justice.

Our most updated mission & vision statement:

Chicago Dyke March Collective is a grassroots mobilization and celebration of dyke, queer, bisexual, and transgender resilience. It is an anti-racist, anti-violent, volunteer-led, grassroots effort with a goal to bridge together communities across race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, size, gender identity, gender expression, sexuality, culture, immigrant status, spirituality, and ability. We challenge fatphobia and are body positive.

We also encourage people to do their own research and learning, particularly when attempting to be allies to the various segments of our community. If you have any comments your self about the process, vocabulary, inclusiveness, etc, we encourage you to ask questions, respect others, respect anyone else’s right to self determination. As always feel free to email us dykemarchchicago@gmail.com if you have any questions.

2 thoughts on “History of the Chicago Dyke March Collective and Why We Move

  1. Luis Gonzales says:

    I’m Latino , My partner is white. Is he welcomed at the events ? I’ve seen lots of “only poc” post and comments.

    • chicagodykemarch says:

      Hey Luis! We host a couple events that are for people of color only (and it’s always stated upfront in the event description), but the Dyke March itself and many of our events leading up the march are open to all!
      – Melisa, CDMC

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s