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At San Francisco Dyke March, celebration—and worry for the future

Thousands of people participate in the Dyke March in San Francisco on Saturday. | Justin Katigbak for The Standard

Rainbow-clad bodies lined the streets of The Mission on Saturday near Dolores Park for San Francisco’s annual Dyke March.

As they marched, attendees said they were grateful they didn’t have to hide who they are.

"It's wonderful to celebrate," said Sheila Bagley, holding hands with her partner, Priscilla Peters-Castillo. "We can be out having a peaceful march without any fear of being exposed."

A house party waves and shouts in support as the Dyke March passes by in San Francisco on Saturday. | Justin Katigbak for The Standard

Other attendees came out to support their children.

Athena Anderson came to the march from Portland, Oregon, along with her father and brother, both of whom came from Mendocino.

Anderson said she felt the march was "supportive" but was glad to be with family members, given the risk of violence at queer gatherings such as the 2021 shooting at Club Q, a nightclub in Colorado Springs, that killed five.

"They're here to bodyguard and support me," Anderson said.

Nancy Wango, left, and Thais Ward, right, embrace as they walk in the Dyke March in San Francisco on Saturday. | Justin Katigbak for The Standard

Fran Taylor and Iris Biblowitz of San Francisco have attended the march since its inception in the early 1990s and stood along Valencia Street waving at those turning onto their street.

What’s special about the Dyke March, as well as Friday’s Trans March, Taylor said, is the absence of corporate influence on the events.

“The great thing about this march is that it is grassroots,” Taylor said. “The parade on Sunday is good, but this is the kind of march that’s in your face.”

People wave and shout in support as the Dyke March passes through the streets of San Francisco on Saturday. | Justin Katigbak for The Standard

The couple recalled the decades when they marched, but said that now that they are older, they are physically unable to participate. However, they wanted to encourage the younger generation with their presence.

“The young people in this movement have a lot to deal with,” Taylor said. “Hopefully, they will continue the fight and succeed where we failed, although the movement had success in combating homophobia, racism and sexism.”

“We saw yesterday many calling for justice for Banko,” Biblowitz said, referring to Friday’s Trans March. During that event, participants memorialized Banko Brown, a Black trans man slain in April by a Walgreens security guard. “It is during these marches we see the overlapping of LGBTQ issues with Black and Brown solidarity.”

Shelley Champlain high-fives people as they walk in the Dyke March in San Francisco on Saturday. | Justin Katigbak for The Standard

Others said that high-profile hateful rhetoric and violence against marginalized groups have made people scared to publicly celebrate being queer.

Sabrina Brennan, who has been coming to the Dyke March for 30 years, said that Saturday was the smallest march she's ever seen. She attributed the situation to the loss of reproductive rights in wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the threat of mass shootings.

"I think women are afraid," Brennan said. "You have to be brave to show up here."

Emma Rice, a trans woman who moved to Oakland from the Midwest three years ago, said she was concerned about a rising tide of political sentiment against trans people. Rice said she was afraid that the reversal of Roe v. Wade was a harbinger of attacks on gay marriage, despite the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act in December.

"There are right-wing people showing up to drag shows," Rice said. "I just don't feel secure."

Attendees said they relished the gains that have been made but expressed fear about rising hate incidents nationwide.
Thousands of people partake in the Dyke March in San Francisco on Saturday. | Justin Katigbak for The Standard

Both Taylor and Biblowitz see the Dyke March as another important layer in Pride weekend where the solidarity for equal rights intersects with the struggle of various marginalized groups around the country.

“San Francisco should be a refuge for all people. We see what is happening at the border with migrant groups and what is happening here with people being criminalized for drug addiction or mental health issues,” Biblowitz added. “We’re very privileged here, but we are also away from all of the discrimination around the country.”

Joel Umanzor contributed additional reporting for this story.
Garrett Leahy can be reached at