November 12, 2019 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

L.A.’s Long, Storied History of Chicks on Bikes

by Annette Semerdjian

In the streets of East Los Angeles (the birthplace of the Chicano rights movement,) a dangerous crew known as the Ovarian Psycos Cycle Brigade can be seen coming through. They are a group of women of color finding strength in numbers and joining together to ride through some of the roughest neighborhoods that they would otherwise feel threatened by. They’re dangerous because they know that the scariest thing to society is a group of women empowered by each other’s support.

They ride not only for each other but for the injustice and pain that weighs heavy on their communities against women of color such as themselves. The Ovas not only have to fight to have their place within their communities, but they also fight against Los Angeles’ growing gentrification by claiming the streets of East L.A. as their own. Xela de la X founded the Ovarian Psycos as a mother, social activist, musician, and survivor of sexual abuse looking to empower women and give them their own space on L.A.’s streets.

In a world occupied by men, these ride-or-die sisters unlearn the discomfort in taking up space of their own – and L.A. is no stranger to this female biker culture.

The San Bernardino Hell’s Angels were a subject of interest for photographer Bill Ray in 1965 as he spent a month with the biker gang only to discover the real significance in the female bikers. Ray didn’t even think about the Angels’ female counterparts, just as most people disregarded women in the ‘50s and ‘60s. He later found that they were their of their own volition and weren’t captured by the bikers, but rather accepted by them.

Photograph by Bill Ray, 1965

Yet the separation of the sexes was still apparent as the men gathered and excluded the women, who would subsequently gather together on their own. “When those guys were busy, the women just sat and waited. They’d smoke, drink beer, gossip, but they were pretty much just on ice until the meeting broke up,” Ray said in an interview with Time. “I remember, too, that many of them were surprisingly young: teenagers, or in their early twenties. They didn’t look young, though. Riding around on the back of a Harley at a hundred miles an hour in all sorts of weather will age you, I guess.”

Although their place may have seemed secondary to the men, they were very much still a part of the crew and their weathered appearance proved it. One of the women photographed by Ray even proudly sported a nose brace after a biking injury. Thsey were not women who could be accepted by the straightlaced society of ‘60s, and instead found their place among the outcasts who spend their life on the road. Ray’s fascination with these women came from their visibility in rebel culture and the agency they had in placing themselves there.

Over five decades later and women claiming space in both normative society and rebel culture continues to be equally audacious. The Ovarian Psycos are their own kings of the road and they ride with abandon while staying vigilant of the repression that enchains their sisters.

You can catch the full documentary Ovarian Psycos on PBS’s website.

Related Posts

Honoring Los Angeles’ LGBTQ+ Vets on Veterans Day

November 11, 2019

November 11, 2019

In honor of Veterans Day, some LGBT Senior Veterans at the Los Angeles LGBT Center shared their stories and experiences...

GAY LA – When Drag Was All the Rage (But Queerness Wasn’t)

August 6, 2019

August 6, 2019

Today, it’s not hard to find drag culture wherever you are. From VH1, to Netflix, to Twitter, the language of...

35th Anniversary for AIDS Walk Los Angeles

July 28, 2019

July 28, 2019

This week 35 years ago in history, actor Rock Hudson publicly announced that he had AIDS. He was one of...

GAY LA: The Fate of Damron Address Book?

July 14, 2019

July 14, 2019

Before AIDS, Airbnb and Grindr changed the face of gay life forever, there were limited ways of finding your people,...

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: This is Queer Family

July 11, 2019

July 11, 2019

Queer representation is every-evolving, ever-progressing. Yet, it can still be frustrating trying to identify with mainstream media. We all want...

Crowning the Kollectin Queen

July 8, 2019

July 8, 2019

By Melanie Camp After finishing her first season on RuPaul’s Drag Race, Gia Ichikawa said she found herself confused. While...

OUT LOUD Art Festival in LB Examines the Queer Future

June 27, 2019

June 27, 2019

What does the Queer Future look like? A simply, yet vastly complicated question. The exact query that the OUT LOUD...

Brave Trails Summer Camp for Queer Youth

June 27, 2019

June 27, 2019

The campers at  Brave Trails are told, above all else, they get a “second family” while participating in this Los...

“LGBTQ of Steel” Reflects Queer Community’s Strength

June 20, 2019

June 20, 2019

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Picture this: A group of LGBTQ individuals who bravely and without...

Going Bak in Time with a Photographer

May 30, 2019

May 30, 2019

Spying a thirteen-year-old Sunny Bak, amongst a crowd of New York paparazzi, Elizabeth Taylor showed concern that the young photographer...

Spillin’ Tea with Willam

May 29, 2019

May 29, 2019

When she’s not on your television or making appearances at DragCon L.A., Willam Belli, the famous Drag Queen, is amping...

GAY LA: Their Name Still Spells “Lesbian”

May 29, 2019

May 29, 2019

When SCWU, or Southern California Women for Understanding, started up in 1976, it quickly became the largest lesbian society in...

The Revolution Will Be Televised

May 27, 2019

May 27, 2019

For the first time ever, the L.A. Pride parade will air on live television.  When the first Los Angeles Pride...

LGBTQ Seniors Share Their Stories of Love in NewStages’ “I Do!”

May 24, 2019

May 24, 2019

NewStages is providing an artistic outlet for the LGBTQ+ seniors in the Los Angeles area. Comprising of 10-25 participants at...

Asking Long Beachers the meaning of “Pride”

May 21, 2019

May 21, 2019

The Pride L.A. asks Long Beach Pride guests why the event is important to them. By Jorge Paniagua Long Beach...