SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — When the San Francisco Pride Parade gets rolling Sunday morning, a groundbreaking group will lead the pack without one of their founding members for the first time in 40 years.
Pioneering Dykes on Bikes founder Soni Wolf passed away in April, but during her life, she blazed a long trail for free expression.
“She set a particular tempo that kept us on track, and wasn’t afraid to give us leadership abilities and allow us to make mistakes,” explained Mindie Dodson, a member of the Dykes on Bikes Board of Directors. “She also helped us see the things that just didn’t matter.”
For the members of Dykes on Bikes, Soni Wolf was an indispensable leader.
“Yeah, she was a rock. She was the heart of who we are and what we came to stand for,” said said Dykes on Bikes Treasurer Kate Brown.
Wolf started riding with what was then called the “Women’s Motorcycle Contingent” in 1978 and took on an official leadership role in 1990.
She served as the group’s secretary for as long as anyone can remember.
“I wouldn’t change anything that I’ve done, because every step of my life, I’ve learned something. Whether it’s been right or wrong or crazy or not,” said Wolf said in a 2016 interview.
The word “dyke” has an offensive edge to it for some, but to Soni, it was part of her identity. And she fully embraced the word, encouraging others to do the same.
In 2003, the organization voted to officially recognize themselves as “Dykes on Bikes.”
“It took a lot of courage to be ok and to say, ‘This is who I am. I’m a dyke. I’m not gay, I’m not lesbian; I’m a dyke. That’s who I am,'” said Brown. “And being bold like that is something that gave inspiration to our organization. And then that resonates with people around the world.”
Convincing the Supreme Court that they had reclaimed the word “dyke” proved to be a bigger challenge as the organiztion fought to trademark their group’s name.
Testifying as an expert witness in Washington, Wolf enunciated the groups stand eloquently.
“There’s different descriptors of being gay, and what that means. But if you’re going to call me anything other than woman or a human being, call me a dyke,” said Brown, quoting from Wolfs testimony.
After 12 years of fighting, Dykes on Bikes ultimately won, thanks in part to Soni Wolf.
40 years after Soni began to ride her bike in San Francisco, her friends say this year’s Pride Parade will be very different without her leading their contingent down Market Street.
“I will always carry the vision of Soni resting on her motorcycle and her Pride flag, and her Dykes on Bikes flag. And her US flag duct taped to her bike and just the vision of her there,” remembered Brown. “She was always just this calming presence just waiting for it all to happen.”
But they doubt her spirit will miss out on one of her favorite days of the year.