The Best of DYKE TV on VHS (1993-2007)

dyke tv

by Clyde Petersen

In the winter of 2014, Clyde Petersen and Paul Shin began the overwhelming task of watching and reviewing every film in the GLBTQ section of Scarecrow Video. While Paul and Clyde have only made it through a few hundred of these films so far, it’s fair to say they are slowly becoming historians in the art of the DIY Homemade Homosexual Art Films. This series will highlight a select few standouts. Find out more here:

For many years I have wanted to watch DYKE TV. I perused the films at Scarecrow Video and over and over these 4 VHS tapes stood out. But no one would watch them with me and it felt lonely watching them alone.

Until one day, just weeks ago. My friend Colleen was in town for the film scholar conference. We attended a film screening at Scarecrow of a video called Adjust your Tracking. The filmmakers traveled the country interviewing total VHS addicts who binge purchase videotapes when movie stores close.

In addition to this inspiring film, Scarecrow Video had recently publicly acknowledged their financial troubles. My head throbbed.

What if I never see DYKE TV?

What if Scarecrow closes its doors and those Queer VHS tapes disappear, sold off to a collector? I couldn’t stand it.

I went home and told my roommate Paul the plan I was hatching: To watch all of the Queer films at Scarecrow Video. The first thing out of Paul’s mouth: “CAN WE WATCH DYKE TV?”

I couldn’t believe it: A fellow DYKE TV admirer in my very own house. I rented all four tapes.

DYKE TV began in April of 1993. They had a production office in Brooklyn and the show was televised on over 60 public access stations across America. Producers from all over the country mailed in segments. My favorite segment: “Lexa’s Innercity Goddesses.” Lexa gives you spells to cast to heat up your love life. She suggests you put a crystal in your vagina and say a spell three times. I’m not joking.

This collection will send you to another planet. Call me old fashioned, but I miss militant lesbians and angry feminists. They just don’t grow them like that anymore. Watching these collected films reveals a painfully obvious void in our modern queer culture. We are no longer a people of the late 1980s and 1990s, united to fight HIV, Ronald Reagan and homophobia. We are no longer Northwest fags and dykes, side by side at the Capital Theater Backstage, jumping up and down to Sleater-Kinney and chain smoking between sets.

Do we even cruise anymore?

How did we end up so lost?

Why are we all dressing the same?

Just because Sleater-Kinney broke up and left us with some really boring solo albums and a TV show that’s only funny half the time, and mostly only because we were already laughing at Portland anyways, doesn’t mean we have to follow suit.

DYKE TV reveals a world that gave a shit. It cost $4,000 to make and distribute each episode. That’s 1993, $4,000. They practically went door to door getting donations, sponsors and grants.

It’s not that I want to go back in time. But I want people to give a shit like they did then. I want them to use everything in their means to make art, political statements about their world, fantastically beautiful objects, meaningful and stupid and trite and flippant comments about whatever the fuck they want. I want people to stand out in a crowd.



This week I went to Vancouver BC. The sun was out and queers abounded, blatantly cruising. While walking down Commercial, AKA “The Drive” in East Van, we admired 2 older women in a smart car, the sun roof open and the thumpa thumpa blaring. They were partying and dancing at the stoplight. They caught our eye and as they drove by us, they threw an arm up out of the sunroof and dropped a “Limp Wrist” our way: The one-handed homosexual salute known round the world. We cried out with delight. I could not have been happier.

The clear message to take home from DYKE TV: Isn’t it time we try harder? Take back our culture that the mainstream is stealing from us and commodifying. Build queer community. Stop being totally racist dickheads. Support the Trans community. Let your wrists forever hang limp and your lisp grow shrill in tone. Fan your flames, cause no one else is going to do it for you.

To find out more about DYKE TV, check out this short documentary online.

Clyde Petersen is a Seattle based artist, working in film, animation, music, installation and fabulous spectacle. He is a member of the transgender and queer communities in Seattle. He travels the world with his punk band Your Heart Breaks and hosts the TV show Boating with Clyde in a small handmade boat in the Washington Park Arboretum.

Content Archives