The term was first used when 'Dykes on Bikes’ opened San Francisco Pride in the late ’70’s but women had been causing a stir on motorcycles long before then.
The idea and the sight of a woman on motorbike was and still is seen as radical and defiant. A woman who rides her bike is in control of her own destiny. She might take off and ride free on the open road. She might just know how to fix up a bike better than a man and she might even ride it faster.
Dykes on Bikes, like butches, have been criticised for not presenting a more ‘acceptable' face of the LGBT community, often being labelled as archaic and reinforcing the binary (criticisms I also faced when I started Butch, Please! at the RVT). They also faced a long, though thankfully successful, legal battle in the US to have ‘Dykes on Bikes’ registered as trade mark - since the term ‘dyke’ was offensive - although to whom exactly was up for debate apparently.
It’s shameful that as little as a few years ago self-identified dykes were being robbed of their right to use the word - because it offended parts of the LGBTQ community and straight people.
Dykes on Bikes chapters around the world (Sydney, Portland, Oakland, Sussex are a notable few) see it as their mission to support and empower "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and women’s communities through rides, charity events, Pride events and education.”
It seemed obvious to me then to have the next Butch, Please! (one that falls in the month of Pride) about Dykes on Bikes. So often on the frontline - at Pride, on the streets and in the charitable and political work they do - dykes with and without bikes, now and those who came before us, should be honoured and celebrated.
And maybe they’ll also help us find a way back to Pride we used to have.