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This article mentions reclaimed slurs, potentially offensive terms, and genital anatomy. If you are not comfortable with reading about this kind of topic, we suggest you take a step back.
A photo from the 2019 DC Dyke March. The banner says "All Dykes Celebrated Here" and lists many types of dykes including queer dykes, black dykes, bi dykes, butch dykes, femme dykes, gnc dykes, latinx dykes, trans dykes, etc.
A nonbinary person at the 2019 DC Dyke March.
A photo of the 2018 Pittsburgh Dyke and Trans March. A genderfluid flag is visible behind the main banner.

The words dyke, dike, bulldyke or similar, commonly refer to a lesbian, particularly one with masculine or butch traits (although femmes can also be dykes[1]). The word is commonly considered a derogatory slur, but has been reclaimed and used positively by some lesbians.[2][3] Dyke is sometimes also used as an identity for non-lesbians, such as bisexuals or pansexuals.[1][4]

Dyke is not a label exclusive to binary women.[5] Notable nonbinary or genderqueer people who call themselves dykes include poet Eileen Myles[6], entrepreneur Al Sandimirova[7], and author Rivers Solomon.[8]

Gender Census[edit | edit source]

In the 2019 Gender Census, 17 people (0.2% percent of respondents) wrote "dyke" as their identity, and one wrote "bulldyke".[9]

In the 2020 Gender Census, 89 respondents identified as a dyke, with an additional six people identifying as "dyke (in relation to gender)"/"dykegender"/"dyke-gender"/"dyke is my gender tbh", and several more as variants such as "dykeish", "dykefag", "boi dyke", "non-binary dyke", etc.[10]

Etymology[edit | edit source]

The etymology of "dyke" is uncertain. Some hypotheses for its origin include:

  • A shortening of hermaphrodite.[11][12]
  • Boudicca (Bou-dyke-ah), a Celtic queen who organized a revolt against the Roman Empire in 67 AD.[11]
  • From the slang term "get diked out" meaning "dress up".[11]
  • In the 19th century, "dike" was a slang term for the vulva.[12]
  • From the terms "bulldicker"/"bulldick", meaning "fake penis" or "fake man", describing the idea of "a woman with a clitoris extended enough to serve as a penis in lesbian relationships".[3]

Dyke Marches[edit | edit source]

A "Dyke March" is a visibility and protest march, much like a Pride parade. The concept began in the early 1980s, with a "Dykes in the Streets" march taking place in Toronto, Ontario in October 1981. It was organized by the now-defunct organization Lesbians Against the Right, and drew 350 participants.[13][14]

The first Dyke March named as such took place in Washington, DC, USA, on April 24, 1993, during the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation.[15] It was organized by the Lesbian Avengers, and had over 20,000 marchers.[16][17]

Nowadays, Dyke Marches take place during Pride Month in many cities across Canada, the USA, and Europe.

Flags[edit | edit source]

Dyke pride flag by ari-the-demigod.

A dyke pride flag was created in August 2018 or possibly earlier, by a deviantart user named ari-the-demigod.[18] This flag has seven horizontal stripes: the top three in shades of blue (hex codes #071164, #313b87, and #8089c9), the middle stripe in chatelle grey (#c5b7c8), and the bottom three stripes in shades of red (#e07361, #b43620, and #940600).

Dyke pride flag by Jace.
Another dyke pride flag was created in February 2020 by a tumblr user named Jace (urls disastergay, frostwitch, agenderwitch, and plantbutch). The black background stands for the "power, strength, and freedom that comes with reclaiming dyke", as well as representing "any and all black wlw and black nonbinary sapphics who identify as dyke, as they have always been the backbone of this community." The purple stripe stands for reclaiming "dyke" from a violent slur into a positive identity label. The magenta stripe stands for unapologetic love of women. The pink stripe stands for acceptance of trans women, as well as inner peace. The white labrys axe represents "empowerment, justice, and intolerance of bigotry".[19]
Dyke pride flag by Catastrfy.

In October 2020, a person going by the online handle Catastrfy created another dyke flag. This flag has five horizontal stripes, which are blue (hex code #3e6aa9), white (#fefeff), golden brown (#c9a156), silver-gray (#c0c0c0), and black (#010100). The middle (golden brown) stripe is much narrower than the other four. Catastrfy said this about the flag's meaning:

« There are all sorts of Dykes, of course, but the ones I've crushed on and loved have been the black leather, blue jeans, white tshirts, silver keyrings, and gold jewelry type. The first four inspired the two top and two bottom stripes, while the narrow band of gold reminds me of a gold ring.[20] »
Dyke pride flag by "Crow and the writer".

Another dyke pride flag was created in 2021 by headmates in a disabled Latine xenogender dyke collective,[21] Crow and the writer.[22] Fae wrote that "This flag refers to dyke as a reclaimed slur as well as a multi faceted identity, encompassing orientation, gender (ie dykegender), and culture."[23]

This flag has four horizontal stripes, which are black (hex code #000000), purple (#6d19a9), hot pink (#ff00ff), and gray (#6d6d6d). Fae gave the color meanings as follows:

« Black: Alienation, rebellion, lack of gender, the aro/ace spectrums, stone dykes, and butches

Purple: Mixed or masculine gender, masculinity and femininity, nonbinary & trans dykes, mspec dykes, and futches
Pink: Queerness, feminine gender, femininity (including non-female femininity), womanood, love, WLW, and femmes
Grey: Confusion, blurred identity, disconnect, greyro/grey ace spectrums, and those who identify with no or multiple gender presentations


References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 @bigbadbutchh (19 August 2020). "like fr look at this dyke march". Archived from the original on 19 August 2020 – via Twitter.
  2. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/dyke
  3. 3.0 3.1 Krantz, Susan E. (1995). "Reconsidering the Etymology of Bulldike". American Speech: A Quarterly of Linguistic Usage.
  4. "About Us". DC Dyke March. Retrieved 5 March 2021. Dyke March is an inclusive community consisting of, but not limited to, black dykes, brown dykes, Latinx, Trans, Two-Spirit, Pan, Bi, Poly, Non-Binary, Disabled, Sex worker, fat, poor, young and old dykes.
  5. The San Francisco Dyke March (25 June 2018). "To our community, we want to reiterate our support of ALL dyke identities including transdyke, MTF, transfeminine, transmasculine, genderqueer, and gender fluid dykes". Facebook.
  6. @EileenMyles (February 24, 2016). "@DeJesusSaves @rugamarspr plus as a gender queer dyke I am trans" – via Twitter.
  7. "The Costs of Identity: Running a business as an LGBTQ+ person". Chasing the Dream. 10 February 2020. Retrieved 3 October 2020.
  8. Rivers Solomon bio
  9. Cassian (30 March 2019). "Gender Census 2019 - the public spreadsheet".
  10. GC2020 Public Copy, 1 November 2020
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Belge, Kathy (14 July 2017). "What is the origin of the word "Dyke"?". LiveAbout. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  12. 12.0 12.1 "dyke (n.)". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  13. "Lesbians Battle the Right". The Body Politic. Pink Triangle Press. October 1981. p. 10.
  14. Marushka, Anna (November 1981). "Dykes Against the Right". The Body Politic. Pink Triangle Press. p. 13.
  15. Cogswell, Kelly (May 18, 2012). "The Dyke March Hits 20!". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 7 November 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  16. Teeman, Tim (March 22, 2014). "Tick-Tock: The Explosive Power of the Lesbian Avengers". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 3 December 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  17. "Herstory — NYC Dyke March". New York City Dyke March. 2018. Retrieved 3 December 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  18. ab (27 August 2018). "Dyke: an identity adopted by lesbian and sapphic people". Beyond MOGAI Pride Flags. Archived from the original on 25 June 2021.
  19. "DYKE FLAG 🪓 👊". 21 February 2020. Archived from the original on 19 March 2021.
  20. Catastrfy. "Pride Flags". catsnco.com. Retrieved 6 February 2022.
  21. "sol_v_diaz Twitter bio". Retrieved 2 July 2021.
  22. Sol Diaz/the Body et al. [@sol_v_diaz] (05/13/2023). "NOTE: this flag was created by Crow & the writer of the body et al. (@bodyEtAl ) while closeted as plural" – via Twitter. line feed character in |title= at position 79 (help); Check date values in: |date= (help)
  23. Diaz, Sol [@sol_v_diaz] (28 May 2021). "May I present: my new #dyke pride flag [...] This flag refers to dyke as a reclaimed slur as well as a multi faceted identity, encompassing orientation, gender (ie dykegender), and culture. (Keep reading for details and stripe meanings! 1/2)". Retrieved 2 July 2021 – via Twitter.
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