Motorcyclists Lead The Way At L.A.’s Dyke March & Pride Parade

Photographed by Morgan Lieberman.
“Rebel Dyke.” “Gay Purr-ide.” “I’m A Dyke, I’m French, I’m Fabulous.” These are just a few of the slogans proudly worn by motorcyclists participating in L.A.’s Dyke March earlier this June. Founded in 2017 by Marna Dietch, the Motorcycle Contingent For Equality led both the Dyke March in the evening of Friday, June 7 and the Pride Parade in the morning of Sunday, June 9. “People love the motorcycle contingent,” Dietch, 61, tells Refinery29. “I asked the bikers to put all different Pride flags on their bikes so the cameras could see all different spectrums of Pride, including the American flag.”
Photographer Morgan Lieberman was there to capture the scene. Deitch wore a rainbow-striped blazer and matching tie — an outfit she’d picked out six months in advance but almost decided not to wear. She’d chosen the outfit before learning that West Hollywood's Lesbian & Gay Advisory Board would be presenting her with a Melissa Etheridge Award for community leadership right before the March began. “I thought, I’ve got to change my whole look,” she says. “But I decided to accept my award without the jacket and put the jacket on to ride.”
Deitch has been a leading figure in the lesbian and LGBTQ+ motorcycling community for over three decades. The origin of her interest in motorcycles is, as she says, "a sad story."
As a young adult, Deitch lived in New York and worked as a stage actor. In the five years between 1980 and 1985, her parents and grandparents passed away — her parents and grandfather within a few months of each other — and many of her friends died of AIDS. “The final straw was, in 1985, my best friend disappeared for six weeks, and I was in charge of the civilian hunt for him,” Deitch said. “A missing person is the worst thing you can go through.” When her friend’s body was found, Deitch knew she had to leave New York. “George, his lover of six years, who was also my high school prom date, said, ‘You’re moving to California, aren’t you?’And I said, ‘I’m out of here,’” Deitch remembers. “He said, ‘How’d you like to go by motorcycle?’”
Neither Deitch nor George had ever ridden a motorcycle before, but they embarked on a cross-country ride. “I needed to do something stupid to bring life back into me,” Deitch says. “It was scary as hell.” She and George made it to Texas together, where George decided to stop (he was feeling tired; soon after, he would be diagnosed with AIDS). Deitch decided to continue the ride to California on her own. “For the first hour, I was petrified,” Deitch says. “And then all of a sudden, an exhilaration hit me.”
Once she made it to L.A., she got involved with the lesbian motorcycle community. “I guess word kind of spread about this girl who went cross-country on a motorcycle,” she says. The community at the time, she says, “was a lot of fun. When you don’t have a lot of your rights and you have to be kind of secretive about it, you have private jokes, you get little winks of the eye. It was a dangerous time to be gay — you could lose your home, you could lose your job — but within the struggle, there’s a sense of fun that’s kind of sexy.“
Since that first ride in '85, Deitch has gone coast-to-coast four more times; biked to the Arctic Circle and back twice; and ridden in all 50 states, including Hawaii. She participated in many Dykes on Bikes events over the years, but she never started an official chapter of her own. She didn't need to. “No matter what name we’d use, they’d call us Dykes on Bikes,” Deitch says.
Then the 2016 election happened, and Deitch decided that her group needed an official name: the Motorcycle Contingent For Equality. “Even though Dykes on Bikes is my heritage, my point of view is that if we’re working for equality, I want it to be all,” Deitch explains. She wanted the group to welcome people of all genders and sexual orientations, including straight allies. She also chose a new name out of respect for Dykes on Bikes founder Soni Wolf’s lengthy battle to trademark the name Dykes on Bikes (Wolf passed away in 2018). Now, “the name is actually catching on,” Deitch says.
The newly-dubbed Motorcycle Contingent For Equality’s first event was leading L.A.’s Resist March in 2017, which replaced the city’s annual Pride parade that year. “It’s always been an issue who’s in front in the Pride parades — are the women up front, are the men up front? — and I just wanted it all,” Deitch says. She made sure that the front line included gay men, gay women, trans folks, and straight allies — all on motorcycles. “To everyone else, I said, I don’t care how you set up, but don’t pass this front line,” she adds. “It’s indicative of gender and sexuality across the board.”
The group even welcomes Republicans. “There are gay Republicans, there are gay Libertarians,” Deitch points out. “My point of view is, if you’re going to ride under our banner, you better be for the rights of everyone. Personally, I’m a Democrat, but we need gay Republicans to go back to their party and say, ‘Hey, what about my rights?’” She adds that even though the Trump administration might pay lip service to LGBTQ+ rights, in reality, they are working to roll those rights back. “These past two years since the last election, more of our trans brothers and sisters have been murdered than before,” Deitch says. “Our slogan is, if you come against the rights of any one group, you come against us all. I want the people that ride with me to stand up for their rights, and to stand up for the rights of their trans brothers and sisters and nonbinary friends.”

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