(C. Proxmire, Ferndale 115 News, June 19, 2012)
Surrounded by almost 250 lesbians and supporters, 18 year old Dereian Kowaloskyk of Taylor and Alysiah Ervin of Detroit marched through Downtown Ferndale holding hands and chanting as part of the third annual SE Michigan Dyke March on June 16, 2012
“We believe in marriage,” Evin said as the couple sat in the grass at Geary Park after the march, holding hands and listening to music. “This is great just being here.” Behind them another young pair of women danced. On stage, following a number of passionate speeches, live bands played. Families played on the jungle gym, groups of friends sat around picnic tables, and some gathered in a shady area to hoola-hoop.
The young couple, who had never been to a pride event before, just sat there soaking it in. Kowaloskyk said there are places where she doesn’t fit in because of the clothes she wears and her short hair. When they are together in public they get whispers. “You always hear, ‘is that a boy or a girl?,” she said with a laugh. “I don’t care though. What they think doesn’t matter.”
Beyond taunting and behind-her-back comments, Kowaloskyk said she has experienced hate, and was once spit on by a police officer who pulled her over for smoking when she was not yet 18. “He had me get out, searched my car and asked me ‘Why are you dressed like that, are you some type of faggot?’ and he spit on my shoe.”
She’s also gone through several foster homes before now being on her own, though she is getting help from The Ruth Ellis Center, which provides services, clothing and shelter to homeless or runaway LGBT youth. She said that going through foster homes “either they were accepting or they really hated it and I moved on to the next one.”
Events like Ferndale Pride and the SE Michigan Dyke March give young people a chance to be around other LGBT people in a safe and affirming environment. Without stable families, and often without stable job opportunities due to discrimination, knowing there is a broader community of support can make a huge difference in the lives of individuals.
“I’ve come since the first year,” said Jamie Vanetten of Ann Arbor. This year she brought along Jenny Kohn, also of Ann Arbor, to join in the march and the festivities. “It’s important to be visible so we can get rights and show others we’re here. And being around other queers.”
Activism is also a big part of the Dyke March. Several politicians and activists gave speeches, and the special guest speakers were a family that many may recognize from the debacle with the Troy Mayor and the backlash against her homophobic comment on facebook. The Webber family Amy and Tina and children Logan and Aiden went before the Troy City Council and spoke about the harm Mayor Janice Daniels had done.
Standing before the women at Dyke March, Amy Webber explained why she and her family were activists. “When Tina and I were making our children, we both had a part of the making of Logan. We did in-vitro fertilization with Logan. And with Aiden we used the same donor and did artificial insemination So Aiden always says that Logan came from my egg but she came from my heart. So I love how she says that
“The day that we found out we were going to have Logan… when we found this historical day, oh my gosh we’re finally going to be moms, this is so exciting. We came home that night and our President of the United States George Bush was on television… He announced support for a Federal amendment to our Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman. And I stood there and one of the joyest days of my life kind of became an empty space in my heart. …I think it was then that we decided we have to stand up. We have to always raise our voices.
“Just like with the Troy Mayor, we did not have to be negative. We can love the Troy Mayor I think it’s important that we send love out into the world, because that’s what we need to get back is love.”
Eric Folkmire is the lone male on the SE Michigan Dyke March Board. “It’s important that we include women in the equal rights movement. It’s GLBT and we want each group to have a part.” The name “Dyke” is used to empower lesbians and reclaim the word that is often used against them. By showing that the word does not hurt and that the stigma does not stick, it takes away the word’s power.
Though tied into Ferndale Pride weekend, the Dyke March is an independent event that started a year before the Ferndale one. It is modeled after other Dyke Marches that take place in other states. To learn more about this annual event check out www.semidykemarch.org.