My Dyke Bike (r)Evolution
by Cici Cauterucci
Dyke on a bike.
An accusatory description so fraught with preconceptions and politics, pedals and pussy,
that—until recently—I rarely counted myself among the brusque, badass ladies in muscle tees and brass knuckles to whom I imagined it applied. I was never cool enough to be a biker, and I was never gay enough to be a dyke.
Or so I thought.
Like all good things in this world, my scratched-up Schwinn aluminum roadie was a Craigslist find. The product of a half-hearted search for a commuting option that would bring some free time and sanity back into my bus-centric life (let it be known, public transit crowd: Bloomingdale to Glover Park is a bitch), my bike and I weren’t a fairytale love story match. I took her home on the orange line from Falls Church, and we stared warily at each other all the way back to D.C.—she at my freshly ironed biznass-casual get-up, me at her unforgiving toe clips and slightly-too-big frame that got all up in my biznass when I straddled her.
I was a biker like I was a swimmer: I knew enough to survive and have an occasional bout of summer fun, but I was by no means proficient. My inner thighs endured a constant state of bruise-dom from some quick, sloppy stops I made during that first month. I literally fell flat on my face in a botched attempt to flirt with a fellow biker at a stoplight. I spent the better part of a Saturday failing again and again to wedge my tire back onto the rim after a tube patch.
And then, just like Dan Savage promised, it got better. I was cutting through traffic, hopping curbs, zipping around the city with a tiny ghetto blaster clipped to my bag like I owned the place. The day I rode hands-free for the first time, I broke off a dead-end relationship, feeling stronger and more self-reliant than ever. I was a biker. I was free.
My dyke evolution wasn’t so dramatic. Thanks to a romantic history sprinkled with biologically male, male-identified and masculine-presenting folks, calling myself a dyke felt disingenuous, like I was diluting one of the most potent chemical weapons we queer girls kept in our arsenal. No one had ever called me a dyke. I’d actually been told more than once that I didn’t “look like a dyke.” Who was I to assume an identity that held such deep historic context, such painful roads to reclamation? I resisted the corset ties of classification, worshipping dykes from afar without joining their ranks.
The language of queer identity is loaded, delicate, diverse and complicated. There are benchmarks and rites of passage that every would-be biker must hit before she can call herself such. Not so with dykery. But as I dipped my toe into the ever-widening pool of dykes—socio-political dykes, psycho-sexual dykes, old-school vanguard dykes, drunk rugby dykes, dirty backpacking dykes, Olsen twin lookadykes, spiritual vegan dykes and, of course, bike dykes—I gave up my fear of the term’s exclusivity. I could be a dyke, too, if I felt like it. And I sure as hell felt like it.
I’ll never forget the day that I passed Fab on the ride home from work and thought, “Hey, I’m a dyke on a bike.” I gave a little giggle and a mental pat on my own back for growing into the phrase. It felt right—and I’ve always loved a good rhyme.