I haven’t always called myself a dyke. I’ve been a ‘don’t know’, a ‘mind your own business’ and, for a large part of my life, a lesbian.
I’ve heard the word ‘dyke’ used as an insult and understood that the user wasn’t only saying something about my sexuality. The implication was also: wearer of stout shoes; humourless; sporty; masculine; an over-dependency on cats. But so what? If homophobes want to think I like hiking, biking and being kind to animals – fine. I get all the kudos without the effort.
When author and historian Rose Collis and I decided to put on a non- festive piece of jollity called ‘Bah Humbuggers (or Dyke the Halls)’, we didn’t imagine for one moment that anyone would take offence at the word 'dyke'. We posted our innocuous flyer on various media sites. It came as a shock when Sussex University LGBTQ Society removed our posting from their Facebook page. Apparently, ‘dyke’ violated their ‘safe space policy’! ('Buggers' was fine, apparently). Rose tried to give them an emphatic lesson on the historic reclaiming of the word, to no avail. But we did receive masses of support from enraged dykes on Facebook and from various LGBT news websites.
Admittedly our show may have benefited from all the publicity. But it’s sad that some people deem ‘dyke’ unacceptable – even for a couple of dykes like us.