Chicago Dyke March
June 26, 2010
7054 S. Jeffery Boulevard
from the Chicago Dyke March Collective:
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
It is June and queer is in the air. Pride Month! Breathe it in deep, people. It’s a time to celebrate but also a time to reflect. Unfortunately, the reflection part gets lost way too often during many of our city’s bigger, mainstream celebrations. The history and political messages that were at the core of the original Pride Marches seem to be all but gone–which is especially unfortunate considering all the basic rights that have yet to be granted to such a large segment of the US populace: the LGBTQ community. The Chicago Dyke March Collective (CDMC), though, has been working tirelessly for years to offer a more inclusive alternative to the highly commercialized, increasingly impotent masquerades that pass for today’s more palatable mainstream Pride celebrations. The Annual Chicago Dyke March, this year to be held on the city’s south side in the South Shore neighborhood, is a direct means of responding to the corporate, historically white male dominated Chicago Pride Parade.
Don’t get me wrong, I love early morning drinking while listening to extremely loud dance music, gawking at half (or fully) naked people and admiring expertly created ornate drag costumes more than I could ever articulate. On the few Pride Sundays in which I have been able to successfully drag myself out of bed at the ungodly hour of 11am to get to Boystown, I enjoy myself. I always find myself in a hot, sweaty crowd, beer in hand, thinking, “It’s not officially Pride Sunday until I am flashed by some marching or float-riding dude’s flaccid genitalia.” When I inevitably see said package–either as a result of flopping about freely as a part of some “artistic performance” necessitating nudity or simply because it’s hanging out of shorts that are so short they are rendered useless–I offer a solitary toast to myself for making it to another Pride Parade and get on my way trying to find the next spot or party to continue the merriment.
Debauchery and all of the over-the-top artifice of drag female impersonation aside, what I really love to see is a supportive audience and a conscientious marching contingent that has not forgotten the history of LGBTQ Americans and the struggles of all LGBTQ people in all corners of the city of Chicago, not just Boystown and Andersonville, the main neighborhoods commonly associated with the LGBTQ community. The CDMC does just that–keeps it real and upholds the true spirit of Pride. The Dyke March has been getting stronger and better able to do that over recent years, too, especially in light of the 2008 move of the march outside to Pilsen, and now the South Shore, after twelve years in predominantly white, affluent Andersonville.
I am brown and came out as a teenager. I was born in the Back of the Yards and grew up in Little Village. As an out teen, that meant there were many long weekend Red Line train rides to Belmont to find “my people.” However, like most people in my position, I did not necessarily identify with the upper-middle class white male demographic that defines that area of the city. This again left me asking, “Where are my people? Where is my family?” It took me years to realize that my family is actually everywhere around me. We are everywhere. The sooner all people in all communities can accept that, the better off we will all be. There is no better embodiment of this message than the current Chicago Dyke March. In the words of CDMC Member Edith Bucio, “When marching in the Dyke March, I feel like I am with family. I may have never met the person marching next to me, but we are family. We are here for each other.”
The primary mission of the CDMC is to promote visibility of and create resilience within the LGBTQ community. According to the CDMC, “Chicago Dyke March is a grassroots mobilization and celebration of dyke, queer, and transgendered resilience.” In keeping with promoting that much needed visibility, the CMDC moved to Pilsen for 2008 and 2009. The 2010 and 2011 march will be held in South Shore. The very presence of the Dyke March in these neighborhoods represent much needed acts of expressing solidarity and community building, very unlike what one would find with other mainstream Pride celebrations. By moving the Dyke March into Pilsen, and now the South Shore, the CDMC is very clearly and admirably demonstrating that LGBTQ people are not only present in but are allies and contributors to all communities in the city. We are not just queermos prancing around northside gay bars and clubs. Our identities are complex and do not stop at the level of our sexuality or gender expression. Most in the LGBTQ community strongly support immigration rights. We work against gentrification of neighborhoods, are serious advocates for equal and fair access to healthcare, housing and education. We are committed to environmental causes. We fight relentlessly for equality year round in all parts of the city–some of us dedicating our entire lives to the struggle for equality, justice and a better future for all people. We are your neighbors, teachers, friends, family. And come on, people, you love us. You know you do. So, come show some love and support on Saturday, June 26. Allies to the cause are always warmly welcomed, of course.
And, then, on Pride Sunday, you can go get drunk.
Special thanks to CDMC Member Edith Bucio for sharing history and information about the CDMC with me.