by Elizabeth Trever -
Special to the SGN
The Seattle Dyke March, the oldest continuous Pride event on Capitol Hill, is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2014. The event kicks off with live music and speakers at 5 p.m., Saturday, June 28 at Broadway and E. Pine St., followed by the march. New this year is an after party in Cal Anderson Park featuring a performance by The Redwood Plan.
Seattle Dyke March began in 1994, just one year after the inaugural Dyke Marches in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, as a way to create visibility for a community whose long involvement in Gay pride activism was often sidelined or diminished.
'I think it's critically important to our community that we create and maintain this space that is reserved for celebrating the activism and adventures of the Dykes of Seattle,' said Whitney Fraser, who has been an organizer since 2000. 'We also bring a political voice to Pride as opposed to the more commercial endeavors.'
Speakers and performers at this year's event include Chonie Vargas, Sistah Hail Storm, Nina Packenbush, Rainbow City Band, Militant Child and others. The event's organizers open the stage to performers and speakers who are Queer women and Dyke-identified people across the gender spectrum.
'Gay women need their own space within the Gay world and also within the female world,' said Laura Mullins-Cannon, who joined the planning team with her wife, Jill Mullins-Cannon, who has been an organizer for about a decade.
'A lot of our lives are spent among people who we like, but who don't necessarily understand or identify with us. The Dyke March is a healthy, fun way for us to be completely comfortable with our Gay female selves and surrounded by other like-minded women,' Laura Mullins-Cannon said.
For Jill Mullins-Cannon, that sense of community may be the most powerful part of the Dyke March experience.
'Women are often marginalized, even in the LGBTQ community. The Pride parade is overwhelmingly male. There needs to be a space for women,' Jill Mullins-Cannon said. 'I love walking on the streets and being surrounded with Queer women in every direction. All ages, races, abilities, gender expressions, and feeling like the sea of women doesn't stop. There is simply nothing like being with about 1,000 Queer women and feeling that sense of powerful community.'
Diversity of identity and expression are key components of the event, and organizers work hard to find speakers and performers who represent a broad spectrum of Queer women's experience.
'The first Dyke March I ever went to had several members of the deaf community, and I learned there was a vibrant deaf LGBT community. Being LGBTQ can be hard, when we have multiple identities it can even be harder,' Jill Mullins-Cannon said. 'I think a Dyke March is always a success if a person has seen themselves and found a community that fits her and all of her identities. I also love it when the Dyke March can inspire us and show us all that we are capable of.'
There have been many changes in the LGBTQ community since the Dyke March began. And arguably there have been even more changes in our culture at large. Marriage equality is becoming the law in more states every day. In 1994, we were still three years away from the frenzy that surrounded Ellen Degeneres' coming out on her television show, which prompted advertisers to flee from the show, which was cancelled the following season. Today Ellen is a top-rated talk show host and homemakers all over the country cooed at Ellen and Portia's wedding photos.
Even in light of remarkable progress, the Dyke March remains important.
'The Dyke March is important for the same reason the Pride Parade is important, the Million Man March is important, May Day is important. In our day-to-day lives, we are the minority,' Jill Mullins-Cannon said. 'A girl who is too strong, too opinionated, too talented, but especially pro-woman - she is accused of being a Dyke. The Dyke March is our opportunity to say, 'If being a woman and loving it, and believing women are worthy of loving, well then, hell yeah! Sign me up.'
Seattle Dyke March and Rally
Saturday, June 28
5 p.m., Rally, corner of Broadway and Pine
7 p.m., Dyke March
8 p.m. After party featuring The Redwood Plan, Cal Anderson Park
March Route: Begin from the south plaza of Seattle Central Community College, head up E. Pine St., then go north on 12th Ave. Turn west on E. Mercer St. and march down Broadway back to the starting point.
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