SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - Since 1976, "Dykes on Bikes®" has started off the San Francisco Pride parade. It began as a small contingent and has grown into a gathering of hundreds of riders with their motorcycles rumbling down Market Street.
"When we start up hundreds of motorcycles, there's power in that," said Dykes on Bikes® president Kate Brown. "It's about visibility in our community, it's about saying, ‘I'm a woman, I'm proud of who I am. I ride motorcycles and I happen to be a woman and I happen to be gay."
The small group that started leading the parade in 1976 now has 18 chapters across the world: in the U.S., Europe, Australia, the United Kingdom and Iceland.
"For me it symbolizes all the little girls who were told they couldn't ride motorcycles, this tells them, ‘Yes, they can,'" said participant Mindie Dodson.
Part of the group's legacy is a 13-year legal fight that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the end, the group won the right to trademark its name and logo, after being refused to do so by the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office. The dispute centered on the word "dyke," which the government considered a disparaging term.
"‘Dyke' was used as an epithet but that's the term we use to refer to ourselves," Brown explained. "As a self-referential term, it's a term of power."
Honoring the group's legacy includes honoring the memory of founding-member Soni Wolf, who died last year.
"She rode with us for almost 40 years," Brown said. "She was the heart of this organization and the memory keeper."
Current members want to pass on Wolf's legacy and share the group's history with new members like Pam Quan, who's riding in her first parade with Dykes on Bikes® this year.
"Whenever I say, ‘I'm a Dyke on a Bike,' it's automatically part of that legacy that Soni Wolf started," Quan said.
It's a legacy that Kate Brown said she plans to carry into the future. "There's something about being a Dyke on a Bike that is powerful that I don't know that I would find anywhere else."