Exploring the fearless activism of self-proclaimed Dykes on Bikes

Several Dykes with Bikes butch women dressed in black pose with motor bike.
Several Dykes with Bikes butch women dressed in black pose with motor bike. Instagram @sfdykesonbikes https://www.instagram.com/p/CQxGV5xrzwz/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

On Saturday, April 29, 2023, a band of butch motorbikers stood together in solidarity outside of Middlesex County Library in Ontario, Canada to create a barrier between far-right protestors and families attending a local drag story hour. As dozens of anti-drag demonstrators blared sirens and tried to block the library’s entrance, the group of so-called ‘Dykes on Bikes’, called Wind Sisters, proudly linked arms and prevented the protestors from entering the library doors.

Drag has been under attack for over a year. In 2022, far-right agitators targeted over 124 drag shows, and more recently, these extremists have circulated claims that family-friendly drag performers are dangerous to children. However, resilient as always, the LGBTQ+ community and their allies are taking a stand.

At events, some groups have used rainbow umbrellas to form barriers between disruptive protestors, while others use songs and chants. The Wind Sisters, inspired by years of activism from Dykes on Bikes, used their loud and proud presence to create space between the families and far-right groups.

The butch bikers group explained that it wanted to support the family-friendly drag story hour because of members’ own hardships related to growing up without adequate LGBTQ+ representation.

Patricia Ginn of the Wind Sisters said, “Historically, a butch – like myself, and I’ve been one for 50 years now – our role in the community has always been one of the great protector.”


While this is just one example of butch bikers’ activism, the movement dates back to the 1970s.

The original concept began in San Francisco in 1976 when 25 lesbians driving motorcycles moved to the front of the city’s Pride parade, where they served as leather-clad bodyguards leading festivities and protecting other participants. One group member informally identified them as Dykes on Bikes, and the name was printed in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The collective’s first meetings took place in a private residence in San Francisco before they moved into a room above the legendary Amelia’s lesbian bar. After the venue closed down, the activists moved to the Eagle, one of the first leather bars, where they still meet today.

The fearless organisation strives to support and empower queer women by organising rides and charity events, leading Pride parades and supporting LGBTQ+ education. It has always traditionally been trans-inclusive and has been making history for over 40 years.


The group chose the name ‘dyke’ to reclaim the slur and emphasise that being a dyke is not something to be ashamed of. Rather than hiding, the group believes lesbians should feel free to be out and proud, riding motorbikes, leading change and fully embodying their power and masculine energy.

The organisation has, however, faced some pushback throughout its lifetime, including from a lawyer who filed a suit against the “scandalous and immoral” name synonymous with a “deep obsessive hatred of men”. Thankfully, the court ruled in the activists’ favour and found that the plaintiff had no reason to be offended by the word.


The group’s Co-Founder, Soni Wolf, successfully advocated for the Dykes on Bikes trademark with the US federal government’s Patent and Trademark Office, so they now own exclusive rights to the Dykes on Bikes name.

Wolf participated in the city’s Pride parade for over 40 years and was named Community Grand Marshal of San Francisco Pride before passing away in 2017. Former President Kate Brown said, “Soni steadfastly refused to accept ‘dyke’ as an epithet. She blazed the trail for the rest of us in courage and LGBTQ pride.”


Over forty years later, Dykes on Bikes chapters exist in countries worldwide, and the theme of visibility continues to be at the forefront of their work. London Dykes on Bikes earned its official status in 2019, and new chapters will undoubtedly continue to form.

Dykes on Bikes are informally known as the grandmother of the lesbian protest movement. While far-right groups may try to intimidate LGBTQ+ spaces, these activists will continue to use their presence as a marker of bravery, visibility, and empowerment.

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