Montréal’s Radical Dyke March: political and visible
Tomorrow night (Tues. Aug 14), hundreds of lesbians will take to the streets to live a historic moment, claiming to be Montréal’s first ever Dyke March. Organized by an independent collective looking to repoliticize and give visibility to the lesbian community, the group also hopes to raise awareness and celebrate dyke identities.
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“We’re not just girls who like women, we’re also a group of girls living under oppression in a patriarchal society, in a heterosexist society. This is part of our identity,” Radical Dyke March spokeswoman Barbara Legault told our sister magazine Entre Elles.
In order to come to terms with these kinds of oppression, the Dyke March team established a clear basic rule: their pride-timed march will be non-mixed, i.e. only lesbians will be able to be part of the procession. It’s a radical choice that goes against the trend of inclusiveness in similar marches, such as Toronto’s. But for this collective, it’s a political strategy that they say their allies have to understand and support.
“Non mixity is useful for feminists, people of colour [as it is for] workers who come together to talk about labour conditions. We believe that if you want to plan an event that makes lesbians visible, you need to organize an event that is by and for lesbians,” says Legault, adding that the term “dyke” or “lesbian” is “very broad” and not limited to biological or essentialist definitions. Anyone who is dyke-identified is welcome.
The collective also chose to be financially self-sufficient. It is independent of Fierté Montréal Pride, which the group criticizes primarily for reasons of “integrity,” citing the “opportunist” involvement of corporate sponsors. “It is not by charity or altruism that Pfizer and TD Bank fund Montréal’s pride parade. It’s solely for commercial interests, they’re after the pink dollars. We were quite appalled,” Legault added.
Rediscovering their history and image
As in Myriam Fougère’s recent documentary about 1970′s lesbian separatist communities Lesbiana, the Dyke March’s other goal is to bridge generational gaps in order to help dykes rediscover their past. Some of the forerunners of Montréal’s dyke scene will take the mic during the march, which will be a procession past various points of historical importance in Montréal. The route of the march and speakers involved are being kept secret for now.
“The March is really for us to say ‘We’re here, we exist, we’re strong we’re proud, we have fun, we party, we like cats and we like women, we love diversity, we are colourful, we are old, we are in wheel-chairs, and all that,” Legault expounds. “We’re going to show ourselves in all our diversity,” she says, explaining that part of the march’s mission is also to reappropriate the community’s own image and its identity.
A collective political orgasm
“We are mobilizing for a repoliticization of the community, but that’s not to say that everything has to be political” says Legault, who is also known as DJ Radikale and was voted one of the city’s 10 loudest activists in the Mirror‘s last Best of Montréal. “Everyone knows that we like to party and that we do it well,” she says with a half-smile. In addition to performance interventions planned throughout the march, the after-party will be headlined by JD Samson and MEN, along with rapper Benni E, performance artist Laura Boo and drag king Guizo LaNuit (Cabaret Mile-End, 9pm, $10-$20 sliding scale, non-dykes admitted).
The Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012 Radical Dyke March starts at 6pm from Berri métro’s Place Émilie-Gamelin, as deliberate wink to the student strike night marches.
“I really think the energy will be like your first orgasm, but political and collective. With that many dykes all together, it’s something I haven’t seen before, who knows how many we’ll be,” Barbara Legault muses.
Photo: Dyke March Collective (Barbara Legault centre, third from left). Photo courtesy of Rachel Vanier.
Editor’s note: This article is an English translation of the original Entre Elles piece here. Though it is widely acknowledged that there have been previous lesbian marches in Montréal, notably in 1976 and 1983, the Radical Dyke March earns its designation for being the first of its kind since the gathering will not have a purpose external to the lesbian cause (such as the anti-Olympic movement, as in 1976). In interview with anti-homophobia research Chair Line Chamberland last year, the historian and sociologist confirmed to Entre Elles that there has never before been a Dyke March, per se, in Montréal.