A host of fringe Pride events drew large crowds last weekend while offering inclusive celebrations for minorities within the LGBTQ community — namely women and queer and transgender people of color.
After 21 years, the Philadelphia Dyke March remains a trailblazer on the local alternative-Pride scene — and a reminder that the community still has a fight on its hands.
Lead PDM organizer Stephanie Chando said the event aims to maintain a political presence during Pride weekend but, first and foremost, it’s a demand for equality and increased visibility for dyke-identified members of the community.
“Our Pride remains political for a purpose,” she said. “Without non-corporate-sponsored events like the Philly Dyke March, we fail to respect what our founders, including Gloria Casarez, fought to create: a space to protest our right to exist — a protest cry that is still incredibly necessary.”
Chando estimated that 500 people participated in the march this year — “definitely more than what we estimated in the past two years.”
The route was 2 miles long, taking rioters along major thoroughfares like 11th Street, around City Hall and south on Broad Street — a location that Chando said was particularly meaningful this year.
“We were unable to take Broad Street last year due to the PIFA Street Fair, so reclaiming [that] and marching our beautiful dyke selves around City Hall was especially empowering.”
Participants carried signs bearing slogans like “Proud Visible Dykes” and “Queer Liberation Not Rainbow Capitalism.”
“The first is a message always relevant to our movement. Being proud and visible is not something that all of us can celebrate on a daily basis, as many of us still risk our physical, emotional and economic safety to be out,” noted Chando. “The latter sign is particularly relevant this year, when it seems like every company wants to sell rainbows while many within the community are still fighting to afford basic necessities.”
The march began and ended at Kahn Park, with a rally featuring dyke-identified speakers and performers.
Highlights included speaker Sappho Fulton, who shared a story about survivorship and discussed the creation of the Sappho’s and LaRoyce’s Foundation, which provides holistic healing to LBTQ womyn of color. Burlesque troupe Sister Bear provided an antidote to the more-serious presentations with spirited performances backed by music from national hip-hop and soul recording artist Lizzo.
Nonprofit samba reggae percussion band Batalá also provided music for the march, which Chando said “took the protest cries and celebratory dance to a whole new level.”
On Sunday, GET Milked, a party at Center City bar and music venue MilkBoy, drew more than 300 people during the Pride Parade and Festival at Penn’s Landing.
The affair was hosted by performance artist Icon Ebony-Fierce, who said it was created in the spirit of inclusiveness and to give queers a “safe(r), air-conditioned” alternative to Pride’s more-hyped events.
“I wanted the party to be an alternative to both Pride and [the Odunde Festival] for the multitude of reasons people may have [for not wanting to attend those],” they said. “It’s vital to have an option for people who don’t fit in with the rest of the crowd.”
The party was free and offered local vendors — who may not be able to afford a display table at a larger event — the chance to set up booths at MilkBoy for a sliding-scale fee.
It also provided a stage for queer DJs and drag and musical artists, who performed throughout the day.
“The show was very impactful, powerful and allowed performance artists to fully express themselves in their own way,” Ebony-Fierce said.
Sa’mantha Sayten performed a number about trans activism, Damsal presented an anti-Trump number set to metal music and Bugalú Boogie represented the femme, Latinx, nonbinary crowd with a burlesque performance.
PDM and GET Milked were two of a handful of inclusive-minded Pride events that took place last weekend.
Artist collective MOVES Philly threw its annual JUICE Festival in West Philly to “affirm and expand opportunities for QTPOC.” A party hosted by Qunify specifically honored the black, brown and transgender individuals who kickstarted the Stonewall riots. And Stir Lounge hosted a trans and nonbinary drag show called Gender Queery.
These alternative events are examples of a shift in the way Philadelphia celebrates Pride, particularly in catering to folx who may not have felt seen or welcomed at Pride events past, said Ebony-Fierce.
“After the iCandy [racial] controversy, we’ve been seeing numerous inclusive events change the scope of what queer Philly really is,” they said. “Numerous people came up to me with emotion expressing that this was their first Pride and they felt at home. Another person told me they’d never seen anything as inclusive [as GET Milked]. That’s important for me.”
Sappho Fulton Photo by Kelly Burkhardt