Every year San Francisco’s Pride Parade starts off the same way: With a deep growl and an earth-shaking rumble, as the Dykes on Bikes roar down Market Street. It’s a tradition that dates back to the late 1970s, when LB Gunn, Kalin Elliot-Arns, Christine Elliot, Sabine Balden, Mel, and Soni Wolf first hopped on their metal steeds for an informal celebration. In years since it’s been re-christened as the Dykes on Bikes Women’s Motorcycle Contingent, and up at the front of every single parade for the past 40 years was Wolf, leading the pack.
But this year, the DOBWMC will have to proceed without her. In an announcement posted to their site on Monday, the group disclosed that Wolf passed away from natural causes at her home in Daly City on April 25, at the age of 69.
Wolf was instrumental in making Dykes on Bikes what it is today: a registered nonprofit with 16 branches in the United States, U.K., and Australia, all which have pledged a commitment to philanthropically support queer communities. By day Wolf was a lawyer at 50 Balmy Law; a useful skill, as she ended up taking the trademark Dykes on Bikes all the way to the Supreme Court, paving the way for the term to be reclaimed by millions.
“Soni steadfastly refused to accept ‘Dyke’ as an epithet,” says Kate Brown, spokesperson for the San Francisco Dykes on Bikes. “She blazed the trail for the rest of us in courage and LGBTQ pride. She taught me leadership takes many forms; there is strength in patience, power in listening, and small acts have a way of being defining moments in history. Like the roads we ride, our lives take many twists and turns. I am forever grateful for the route that brought Soni into my life.”
Wolf’s life will be remembered and honored in a public celebration at the Pride Parade’s main stage in Civic Center on Sunday, June 24 – a fitting tribute, as she was selected by the celebration committee to be a Grand Marshal this year. Anyone who knew her who would like to contribute can send their thoughts and memories to RememberingSoni[at]dykesonbikes[dot]org.
In addition, the Soni Wolf Memorial fund has been created to help pay for Wolf’s memorial funds, and to create a historical archive for the Dykes on Bikes movement. Funds raised will go toward preserving this history for future generations.