Loosely established in 1976, the quintessential opening act of all SF Pride parades, Dykes on Bikes, rolled through SF for the 42nd time on Sunday. As KTVU reports, there were just two dozen women who love women riding their motorcycles in the Pride parade that first year, and now some 300 or so show up, revving their engines and summoning cheers as they celebrate LGBT freedoms and love.
There are 22 chapters of the Dykes on Bikes organization around the globe, and they are a traditional element of many Pride parades now, but it all started in San Francisco with the 1976 parade, when they were placed at the front of the procession because organizers knew they would need to move faster than any of the on-foot contingents in the parade.
Noe Valley olive oil shop owner Janell Pekkain, who's been riding on her partner's motorcycle the last eight years in the parade, tells KTVU that in the first years Dykes on Bikes was, on purpose, "a courageous, in-your-face, display."
Pekkain says it still gives her chills, riding in the parade, and thinking about that history. "It was really brutal because there was a lot of resistance. you know. People were not accepting and hats off to the pioneers because they've had a hard road; a really hard road. And now, it's really we're all here and hats off because they had to persevere. They had to go through a lot of struggle, a lot of pain, a lot of challenge."
The embracing of the disparaging term "dyke" of course led to the establishment of another SF Pride weekend tradition, Dyke March, which also includes a Dykes on Bikes contingent.
Recently, the Dykes on Bikes organization has been participating in legal proceedings around the trademarking of a band name that government officials found offensive or disparaging similar to troubles Dykes on Bikes had in registering their name as a trademark. An Asian band called Tam and The Slants has been battling over this issue all the way to the Supreme Court, with DOB filing an amicus brief on their behalf, and just last week the court decided in favor of the band, saying the First Amendment protected their right to register that name.