Yesterday, gay bi and queer women and their friends marched through central London for the first time in over 20 years – and I was honoured to join them.
There were many wonderful things about Dyke March: the fantastic speeches, the chanting – random onlookers expressing support for us, as we danced past proclaiming our queerness. The best moment, though, came as we passed three beefy-looking straight blokes. (I assume they were straight.) The look of utter disbelief on their faces was a delight, topped only when one of them said: “I never knew there was so many lesbians!” Yeah, that was kind of the point mate. Dyke visibility.
It was also a satisfyingly inclusive event, and I couldn’t have felt more welcome. How daunting though to stand up in Soho Square and out oneself like that. And how liberating. As someone pointed out afterwards, it was probably the first time a trans woman had spoken at a lesbian rally in the UK. Things can and do change folks: don’t ever lose sight of that. Speech below.
Are there any dykes here today? Great!
Now I’d like to tell you who I am.
I’m the girl who’s afraid to tell her mum about the other girl I have a crush on. I’m the one who rarely sees her life on TV. I’m the woman who feels uncomfortable because she’s not like everyone else in the bar. I’m part of the couple who just kissed, the couple that the rest of the restaurant is now staring at. And I’m the lonely one, whose family disapproves of her “lifestyle choices”. I’m a dyke, ladies.
I’m also a trans woman. I’m a trans man. I’m a dyke, a queer, a gay boy, a bisexual babe, a twink, a butch, a heterosexual woman, a lipstick lesbian, a pretty boy: I am everyone who has ever been made to feel uncomfortable about their bodies; their minds, or their sexuality. I’m all of you, and we are all each other.
I only caught the tail end of the 80s, and I wasn’t that political back then. I was more interested in Superted than gay rights. But I admit to a bit of nostalgia for an era that I missed out on. For those of you who remember the Lesbian Strength marches over 20 years ago – I salute you, as I salute anyone who’s ever taken a stand against patriarchy, misogyny or bigotry.
Many women do not fit neatly into the boxes which society provides – boxes like gender, sex and sexuality. These labels only tell part of a person’s story. I asked my twitter followers what to put in this speech and one said I should talk about the reclaiming of “dyke” and what an expansive, strong and beautiful word it is. Many people dislike “dyke”, and yet it brought us here today.
I’d like to thank my colleagues at DIVA: Eden, Louise and Jane. These wonderful writers are smart, funny and truly passionate about making a magazine for all gay, bi and queer identified women. I’m also really proud of my magazine, META, which is written by, for and about those of us who are affected by social gender norms. I couldn’t make META without my deputy editor Roz Kaveney, though. She’s my deputy dyke.
Working for DIVA has taught me much about lesbian culture – mainly that there is one! It’s made up of talented women, from 18 to 80, who are creating things, pushing boundaries, living their lives and loving their lives.
There is, however, a lack of visibility of trans women in the dyke community. Many, me included, have been abused by the other colours in the rainbow. I’ll never forget how it felt to have my top pulled down by a gay woman in Brighton, who wanted to know if my breasts were real. I guess she just couldn’t help herself.
Just like I couldn’t help my friend at Pride last year as she walked through this square and these streets. She’d only just transitioned from male to female, and comments ranged from “You’re not a real woman, what are you doing here” to “You don’t do your make up right for a drag queen”. That last one came from a gay guy, but you get the picture.
With this in mind, I’m especially pleased to be here today, and I thank the organisers for inviting me.
So, solidarity. Pride. Doing it for the girls. Whatever your reasons were for coming to march today, congratulations. You’ve made a decision to be visible, to be heard, to be a part of things. For people who are so often excluded, this is important.
I was the girl who felt scared to walk down the street on her own. Not today though. I’m here to march with you, sisters. I’d like to finish with a quote by Drew, from Channel 4’s My Transsexual Summer. She’s not lesbian, but her words should inspire us all: “These are my streets too!”
They’re also our streets, ladies.
Let’s march on them.