Powerful speakers, exhilarating performers, a unifying march, and a beautiful Seattle summer evening in Volunteer Park just scratches the surface of everything that happened at the 2023 Seattle Dyke March & Rally. We were so honored to spend a few hours celebrating the identities of queer women and dyke-identified folks across the gender spectrum, and recognizing all the beautiful work our community does to fight injustice and make the world a safer place for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Every participant in the Dyke March & Rally represents a core part of our mission and why the march & rally exist. Our performers remind us of the joy and talent that exists in our community, and the pleasure that comes with celebrating who we are. Our speakers remind us of our history, how we’ve gotten here, and the work still to be done. And you, our incredible Dyke March community, are the reason we do this. Coming together to be in community, uplifting one another, and enjoying the experience of marching through Seattle streets and telling the world who we are — the march and rally exist as a safe space where we can enjoy these experiences to their fullest extent.
The rally began with a warm welcome from Miss Indigo Blue. Dressed in her (first) stunning outfit for the evening, she introduced Ramona Ahto, who is a member of the Yakama Nation and is also Quinault and Cascade. She led the rally in an opening prayer, reminding us to honor our histories and ancestors. At 82 years old, Ramona is a cornerstone of our community and consistently does her part to speak up against discrimination against 2 Spirit and LGBTQIA+ people.
Following Ramona was our first speaker, Elayne Wiley, who is a founder of the Gender Justice League. She was back to Volunteer Park from the previous day, where she helped organize Trans Pride Seattle, to share her experience as a transwoman in our Dyke community. Her inspiring words of inclusivity and cross-community support were echoed by our crowd, who cried out against her feelings of imposter syndrome and emphasized the belonging of trans and non-binary members of our community.
Belonging and intersectionality were common themes on our stage this year, and were spoken about extensively by our speakers from GenPride, Judy Kinney and Regina “Queen” King. GenPride is a “senior-focused” organization in Washington for LGBTQIA2S+ adults, and Judy and Queen shared the importance of being mindful of our “Rainbow“ elders, and how we can all work to ensure that those 55 and older have resources to live safely, with dignity, and in community. Social isolation and protection for older adults are challenges that are often overlooked, and GenPride reminds us that all members of our community need our continued love and support.
Joy, love, and support are some of the key reasons that the Dyke March exists. As organizers, we hope and exist to create a space where our Dyke March community feels safe, empowered, and joyful. Jill Mullins took the stage to represent the Seattle Dyke March organizers, and emphasized the importance of demanding joy in our lives. To better inspire that joy for all involved, she also shared the exciting news that Seattle Dyke March will begin transitioning to become the Seattle Dyke Alliance — an organization that still hosts the annual March & Rally, but will be better able to host events throughout the year. The Alliance hopes to become a hub for queer and dyke-identified Seattlelites, offering spaces and resources for safety, fun, and connection.
That connection is one of the most amazing feelings at the march — the reminder that you are not alone. People who share your love, identity, feelings, and experiences are all around you, and they are there to celebrate with you or empathize with whatever you’re going through. Jess Leslie from The Trevor Project spoke to us about the importance of this exact thing: the power of community and support networks to prevent suicide. The Trevor Project is the leading suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQIA+ people. Jess shared the harrowing reality of suicide rates amongst young LGBTQIA+ people, where more than 1.8 million members of our community seriously consider suicide every year. But, she also shared what is possible when we exist together and support one another. When we stand together actively against discrimination, transphobia, homophobia, racism, colonization, and xenophobia, we’re able to create spaces of love and support for those who need them most.
Our featured speaker of the Dyke March was Li Nowlin-Sohl on behalf of the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. As a Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU, Li has worked on significant cases that ensure that LGBTQIA+ people can live openly without discrimination and enjoy equal rights, personal autonomy, and freedom of expression and association. Li emphasized the history of Pride and its origins as an uprising. She also stressed that we must keep going — even as new legislation passes that better protects our community, other legislation constantly emerges to undo that work. Li urged everyone to stay vigilant, particularly to the more than 500 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills introduced this year, and to always remain active in our resistance to protect our collective future.
In between our speakers, we were graced with the presence of some exhilarating, titillating, and inspiring performers. Our first performer was Sara Camille Benson, a Seattle-based songwriter who sang her songs ‘Hope Begins at the End’, ‘Say It Loud,’ and ‘Nothing Left to Do but Belong.’ In addition to performing at the rally, Sara hosts monthly Singer/Songwriter events at the Wildrose and has coordinated with the SDM for quarterly Open Mic Nights at Distant Worlds Coffee.
Next up, our stage was brought to life by King Leo Mane’s funky drag king performance. He excited the crowd with a rousing lip sync performance to a Bruno Mars mash-up, which brought many audience members to their feet to dance with King Leo and offer up some well-deserved dollar bills. When he’s not capturing the hearts of the Dyke March audience, King Leo is a resident cast member at Sissy Butch: a transmasculine showcase and Producer of Seattle’s longest running open stage night, Studio Saturdays.
Another performer who worked our stage was Tracey Wong, who performed a jaw-dropping dance performance to Diana Ross’s ‘I’m Coming Out.’ Diana’s singing with Tracey’s incredible talent and show-stopping, mid-performance outfit change made for an unforgettable experience. In addition to dancing, Tracey is an interdisciplinary artist that lights up and inspires spaces through her singing, DJ-ing, hosting, education, and space-holding work.
A favorite instrument amongst the SDM organizers is the viola — not just for its queerness and beautiful tone, but also for the incredible music that Alex Guy performs with it. Alex is the principal songwriter for Led to Sea, a magnetic chamber-pop trio that fuses classical, pop and experimental music. She offered the Seattle Dyke March audience a mesmerizing performance where she balanced her singing with her viola playing, sharing her songs ‘Have Mercy’ and ‘Hold Still.’
Finally, our featured performer of the night, Chiku Nance, closed out the rally with a mix of original music and beloved covers. They’re a Chamoru, queer and non-binary indie singer/songwriter whose music focuses on how they process feelings of love, grief, and struggles with identity. They shared a sample of their original music, including ‘Hurry’ and ‘Havin’ Fun,’ and encouraged the audience to get on their feet and sing along to their cover of Britney Spears’s ‘Baby One More Time’ in preparation for the march.
This year’s march was a powerful experience in celebration, resistance, and joy. Dykes on Bikes led us through our new route and you, our community, filled the streets with your beautiful bodies, provocative signs, and loud voices that let Seattle know we’re here (and we’re queer).
We are so grateful to our performers, speakers, and YOU for making this year’s Dyke March & Rally an event to remember. We can’t wait to see you again next year, and look forward to all the ways we can continue to improve and move forward together.