At first the marchers came one by one, then in droves. By 7 P.M., on April 24, 1993, Dupont Circle was filled to bursting, spilling over like a dyke Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Young ones, old ones. Suburban dykes in their khakis, city dykes in their boots, softball dykes with the little rat tails in the back of their short-cut hair, shaved Sinéad heads like mine, the big hair of die-hard femmes in dresses, butches dressed to the nines. People who knew about the march before they got to D.C. brought their own banners and signs. The rest dragged each other. I was supposed to be in charge, but how can you manage a hurricane? A tsunami of twenty thousand dykes? You don’t. You just try to get out in front. The Avengers gathered the fire-eaters and drummers together and with the banner pushed our way to the head of the crowd. When that huge entity started moving, what a roar.
[…] I bellowed the few words I had to say into a bullhorn. Probably no one understood, though it didn’t much matter because all those dykes knew where we were (in front of the White House), and how many we were (enough to fill the streets of the entire city), and that together we were Dyke America taking over the capital.
After I got done shouting, a dozen of us Avengers stood on the plastic crates we’d toted from New York. The crowd around us grew quiet. It was getting dark by then. You could hear voices shouting in the background, others yelling, “I can’t see. What are they doing?” We dipped our torches into lighter fluid, lit them, and raised the flames in the air. Then, silhouetted against the familiar glowing white form, we brought them slowly toward our faces, which were lit up, too. Exhaling, as the heat approached our lips, fire entered our mouths and disappeared. The crowds hollered and screamed. And we did it again, while Marlene Colburn tried to get a chant going, “The fire will not consume us. We take it and make it our own.”
That moment, of dykes eating fire in front of the White House, endured as the image of the Avengers. Photographers sent out their photos. The Ministry of Propaganda shot off their press releases. Journalists from major venues beat down our doors for interviews, marveling at the turnout, at the drama and life compared to the same old, same old of the official March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Rights and Liberation with all the groups lined up and orderly. All the speeches predictably moving.
The message of the Dyke March was in our bodies. All twenty thousand of them there together in front of the White House, lit up with flame. We were disorderly, raucous, happy to be behind our own lesbian banner for a change. I can almost hear a couple of dyke readers murmuring as they turn the pages, “What’s the big deal? I don’t need anybody’s validation.” But if you don’t think it makes a difference, it’s because you don’t know. Maybe you’re dulled a little by seeing one or two lesbian faces on TV, in your local politics. One among thousands. Well, imagine what it’s like to suddenly be the majority. Not even the one in ten on the street or whatever it is. But the 100 percent. I suppose that would be my Lesbian Dream if I could describe it now. To be big enough to count. To take up space in the great brain of the country, for even ten minutes a day. To be free.
— Kelly J. Cogswell describing the first national Dyke March in Washington, DC, in Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger (2014), Ch. 1, Pt. 8