Dyke March, Mermaids and Donna Redwing

We asked Belinda Carroll, co-organizer for the Portland Dyke March and all-around kick-ass community organizer, to share her thoughts on the Dyke March this year, particularly given the current climate. As usual, she does not disappoint!

I have this friend who messaged me on Facebook the other day. She is a mermaid.
I have a few friends wondering if I’m talking about them, or if they qualify as mermaids; yes and yes, of course. Ah, Portland. Where people are unafraid to be exactly who they are. Boldly sporting a shiny tail, a fierce set of lashes and a belief that fairies are real. (We all know they are real, relax.)
I grew up in and around the Church, and listening to Right extremism. Yes, in Portland. Although, I don’t think my family would describe themselves as extremist, just Republicans.
My Mom was religious, Missionary Baptist, my family was taught to listen to Pat Robertson and Billy Graham as a moral guides, and Rush Limbaugh was in my house nightly. A lot of the people I knew actively used words against marginalized communities that would make me throw someone out of my house today.

Coming out in 1992, was difficult. (But, easier than in 1972. Perspective.) 1992 was the time of Measure 9, a horribly homophobic measure on the Oregon ballot. The amount of tension and anger around same-sex rights and if we deserved them was vitriolic and hateful. Not to vilify my biological family, my nieces and nephews are total rockstars and learning all the time; but I didn’t find acceptance in my family when I came out, to put it mildly. I had to find my place and family in the LGBTQIIA community.

Since then, I have looked up to various people in queer activist communities. When I was a wee gaybee I looked up to the grassroots organizations; Lesbian Community Project, Lesbian Avengers, Act UP, and Love Makes a Family. I loved learning our histories, and understanding the sheer determination that it took to give us everything we (tenuously) have, and seeing the scope of people’s work for our rights through the years. I’m a person who has had the blessing of a lot of mentors. I didn’t really understand the importance of mentors who have come into my life, and how they have really shaped me until fairly recently. Both the people supporting and teaching me directly and treating me as family, or people I’ve just learned from watching and reading, people I admire and respect who have taught me, helped me grow and pointed me in new directions.

A lot of people lost a mentor recently. Donna Redwing was a force of nature. Her work was incredible. In the 90’s, she headed up the Lesbian Community Project in Portland and was a force in defeating Measure 9 in 1992, a horrific anti-gay measure that would have written homophobic language into the Oregon constitution. Named ‘The Most Dangerous Woman in America’ by the Right wing Christian Coalition, during her work on the Dean campaign in ’04, she carried it as an honor and with pride. She had served as national field director at both GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign, and policy director at the Gill Foundation. She was co chair of the Obama for America 2008 LGBT Leadership Council and Howard Dean’s outreach liaison to the LGBT community when he ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004.
She was smart, media-savvy and a kick-ass trailblazer. I admired her greatly, even though I didn’t get the chance to know her personally. But, I’ve paid attention since seeing her work on Measure 9, the work she was doing, and the change she was creating. In short, Redwing was incredible, and she will be greatly missed. We at Pride NW send condolences to her partner, Sumitra and their family.

We’ve lost someone important to the fight we’re fighting; and right now we are in great need of “dangerous women” (and non-binary folx and mermaids). We are at a fighting point in LGBTQ+ rights. Thanks to our Orange-in-Chief’s rampant and open bigotry, we have seen the rise of anti-woman, anti-queer and anti-POC violence, the revocation of rights, transgender military bans…I mean, I could go on for fourteen pages here. You get it. He’s a horror show.

So, this is what I want you to do. I want you to harness your inner Donna Redwing (and/or Donna Summer, your choice.) and come down to the Portland Dyke March June 16th 2018, 6:00pm Kickoff at sw Naito and Pine. Let’s make noise! Dykes! Come with signs! Go to Homo Depot, head to home décor and grab some paint sticks from the cute femme with the side-hair, then hit the liquor store. You know, “For cardboard”,  for “your sign.” Make it a thing! Come with chants! Let’s be loud. Get drunk and ask side-hair to come! She likes you!

I know, it’s Portland. It’s easy to get lulled into a sense of security when you know at least ten mermaids, your neighbor is in an indie Queer band called the Pink Tomatoes and most of your friends are gender non-conforming. But, somewhere in the crowd, there’s a 16 year-old who really needs to see you.

YOU. Being fierce- balancing your Dyke March sign, your partner, your various toddler accouterments that go along with the toddler you are also trying to carry/drag; (Don’t drop the bunny!) looking flustered and half arguing maybe you shouldn’t have come because you can’t find parking downtown, and you knew you should have taken Lyft.

(Your chant: I’m here/I’m Queer/I’m Fatigued/Can we fight for naps?)

You are going a long way to balance out all of the negative images that queer kid is taking in. All the, ‘we don’t want you, your life is less, means less, will be less.’ messaging. And, it applies to you; no matter if you are a radical non-binary live welding performance artist, or an IT professional who goes to bed at nine.  In my opinion, we all need to be a little more visible right now. Which reminds me, the mermaids have promised to come in their entire dykey mermaid splendor. I’m very excited. I personally want to encourage a Portland with a strong Dyke March, a resilient spirit and a copious amount of mermaids.

If you’d like to volunteer (Because you are the raddest kinda Dyke), to be a support person for the march; you will get a great t-shirt, a fun time and maybe even new friends!

We love people who can provide trucks and the driving for accessibility, people who can be monitors, people to head up the front, people to chant. We’re All-Ages! If you are 17, that’s fine. If you are 91, even better! We’ll have bullhorns! Yeeeeaaaah, that’s right bullhorns. Who doesn’t want to chant into a bullhorn and scare the normies at least once? You can message the Portland Dyke March, or Belinda Carroll on Facebook.