This All-Women Bike Crew Is Running Gentrifiers Out of Town
This All-Women Bike Crew Is Running Gentrifiers Out of Town
By Tasbeeh Herwees /

Almost six years ago, Xela de la X, a local Los Angeles community activist and musician, organized the first Luna Ride, a nighttime bicycling event that takes place beneath the full moon. This event marked the founding of the Ovarian Psycos, a collective of brown and black women who are reclaiming the night, the streets, and cycling, as their own in a city that is famously hostile to both cyclists and women of color. The Ovarian Psycos are no novelty, however—they’re representative of a new shift in the world of cycling, which has a reputation for being excessively white and male-dominated.

Since that first Luna Ride, the Ovarian Psycos have been staging cycling events across the pothole-ridden streets of Los Angeles; one of the more notorious rides, Clitoral Mass, has become a national event, taking place in six cities around the country. This kind of provocative branding has garnered them plenty of attention from the local cycling community, and not all of it has been favorable. But founder De la X (her name, a pseudonym, is an homage to Malcolm X) and her comrades are unperturbed by these criticisms, concerned only with the health of their collective. Their struggles to helm a cycling community for women in the neighborhood of Boyle Heights is depicted in a new documentary by directors Kate Trumbull-LaValle and Joanna Sokolowski, called Ovarian Psycos, which premiered this past weekend in Austin at SXSW. GOOD spoke to De la X about the Psycos, the film, and the fight for mobility and access (this article contains spoilers of the documentary).

How would you describe the Ovarian Psycos to people who aren’t familiar with what you do?

It’s a collective of knuckleheaded women, women of color, brown women, black women, who give a fuck about their community and who give a fuck about the next generation. We’re placing ourselves within the historical context of our ancestry, of the legacy of the women that came before us, and understanding our place and position currently in our communities. The younger girls coming up, they know that this didn’t start and it didn’t end with Ovarian Psycos. We’re just one in the long lineage of brujas, of knuckleheaded, at-risk, psychotic, radical—whatever, however you want to describe us.

We work a lot with many, many different organizations and different circles in Los Angeles and beyond. There’s mad spaces, mad collectives in L.A. flourishing, really being intentional about linking with each other, and letting it be known to potential gentrifiers that we do not come alone. We will do whatever we need to do to protect our neighborhood and protect our community. 


What’s the significance of cycling in that mission? Why bicycles?

Bicycles because, first and foremost, we’re a working-class community, so for a lot of us, that is our mode of transportation. Bicycles are also very key in the sense that we as women, women of color specifically, in those areas—we were brought up with a fear of movement and of the spaces we inhabit, a fear of navigating them. We use the bicycles to say, “We will be fearless! We will inhabit every space, and be mobile, and have access.”

Access and mobility is very important to us, because that’s been taken from us. It’s been a very limited experience for most of us growing up. I don’t want my daughter growing up fearful. I want her to fucking navigate. We run this shit. And we have sisters that will run this shit with us.

How can the mobility of people within cities pose a challenge to gentrification?

We really need to engage in further exploring that conversation. First and foremost, one of the telltale signs of gentrification in our communities is [the appearance of] bike paths. In one sense, here are bike paths that are supposed to be meant for people. Our people are on bicycles. They need their own lane. And the motherfuckers in cars need to respect the fact that we’re here too.

At the same time, it [allows] for a certain class of people to now feel safer as well in our communities, where once they wouldn’t have felt safe. … To be really honest, I haven’t been to a lot of mobility conferences. I don’t get invited. And I’m going to tell you right now, I don’t get invited because I’m known to talk shit. But I encourage folks that are doing this work around mobility and access. I encourage them to be critical. And sometimes it’s going to hurt to be critical. And sometimes it’s going to be ugly to be critical. But we have an obligation to be critical. Or else, we’re only perpetuating gentrification ourselves.

So certain city plans to bring in bike racks or bike lanes can facilitate the process of gentrification?

Exactly. I feel like a lot of mobility folks—it can be like a “Rainbow Coalition” for bikes. Like, “Can’t we all just get along? Look how beautiful it is now.” And it’s like, yes, it’s beautiful, but for who? For whose access? When the price of rent and the price of our homes are going up? When police are still targeting black and brown youth, who the fuck is this beautiful scenery meant for at the end of the day? It’s not for us. Obviously, it’s not for us.


I’m sure there are similar efforts in New York or Brooklyn, or wherever, but I feel that Ovarian Psycos, specifically, is a unique product of L.A. Why do you think that is?

When you’re talking about East L.A., Boyle Heights, there’s a very strong history of social justice movements, where we’re not going to be your stereotypical, docile Mexicans. We come from that. I think that’s what makes it so unique. We’re coming from this legacy of rebellion. Of revolution. Of stand up to a fucking pig and chant down the system and reclaim [our] agency.

How did the film get made? Who approached you and why did you say yes?

[Directors Kate Trumbull-LaValle and Joanna Sokolowski] approached us. They were white. To be honest, we didn’t say yes. We said no from the gate. We want women of color to represent and document other women of color. But the truth of it is that we knew women of color filmmakers, badass fucking filmmakers that came from our hood, [but] they were busy with their own projects.

It was a long process to build our trust with [Kate and Joanna] and even to get me on board. I was like “I don’t trust them. What’s their angle? What’s their agenda? Who sent them?” But after a period of time of building with them and knowing their own backgrounds—like, Kate has a Mexican mom that grew up in Chihuahua, Mexico. She was also working [on] the documentary No Más Bebés, about the forced sterilization of women from East L.A. So I was like, ok, they got some legit credentials. They have an invested and sincere interest in documenting the work that we’re doing—not with their own agenda, not with their own spin on it. Just an honest account. The moment that I felt comfortable with that, then I agreed.

One of the most interesting moments of the documentary is when that guy, who was wearing the CicLAvia shirt, was complaining about Ovarian Psycos. The organization has clearly rubbed some people the wrong way. Is there contention between Ovarian Psycos and other cycling organizations?

We had a lot of pushback. We had a lot of folks talking mad shit about whatever we were doing. Not only talking that shit, but minimizing the work [that we were doing] and ridiculing our efforts. Even saying that we’re not “real cyclists.” And we didn’t give a fuck, at the end of the day. We were not looking for the cycling community’s validation. That was never on our agenda. We want folks to learn, like, survivalist shit. These topics are fucking real. How can we address them? Laugh at us. We don’t care. We’re going to continue to do that work that we know has to get done.


Xela de la X and her daughter

The film’s narrative is centered on your relationship with the Psycos, and it documents your departure from the organization and stepping down as leader. How did it feel to see that depicted on the screen?

Painful. Even through the process, I was reliving a lot of trauma that I wasn’t necessarily ready to revisit. It was a bittersweet type of situation. When I stepped down, it was also painful and bittersweet, in the sense that I stepped down specifically to prioritize my relationship with my daughter. I was really neglecting that. I get choked up just thinking about how I was just neglecting her because of the work that I do. I work a 9-to-5 at a shelter for homeless kids. On top of that, I do my music. And on top of that, I was cycling. So my daughter got the really shitty end of the stick for a couple of years. I had to be honest about the fact that she needs me. She had to be my number-one priority.

And I had to be honest about the fact that these women have that power. They are all capable of this shit. They’re going to be fine. They’re going to be fine without me. Who’s not going to be fine without me is my own kid.

What’s your current involvement with the Ovarian Psycos? Are you still organizing with them, since stepping down?

I will organize with them until I die. Once a Psyco, always a Psyco.

Images by Sylvia Frances Films.

3.9 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
F*ck That: A Guided Meditation for the Realities of Today's World
2 min · 9,703 views today · Just acknowledge that all that sh*t is f*cking b*llshit — you're here now, in this place, with your inner stillness. Take in a deep breath ... now breathe out. Just feel the...
Inside the Invisible Government: John Pilger on War, Propaganda, Clinton and Trump
John Pilger · 8,588 views today · The American journalist, Edward Bernays, is often described as the man who invented modern propaganda. The nephew of Sigmund Freud, the pioneer of psycho-analysis, it was...
Free Trade Explained In An Excellent Comic
Michael Goodwin, Illustrated by Dan E. Burr · 6,416 views today · The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) are the latest in a long line...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 5,044 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 4,543 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
Democracy in the Digital Era
Birgitta Jonsdottir · 4,543 views today · Our current democratic models are crumbling and outdated. We need to make something more real and meaningful. Activist and politician Birgitta Jónsdóttir points to how it might...
Open Up - Have the Difficult But Important Conversations With Loved Ones
5 min · 3,035 views today · “The biggest casualty of humanity is the lack of communication, it’s the thing that breaks most relationships. It just feels so much better to talk and get it out.” There is...
Who I'm Voting For...
3 min · 2,817 views today · Prince Ea announces who he's voting for. It's probably not who you think.
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 2,788 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise
3 min · 1,682 views today · In addition to her well-known autobiographies, Maya Angelou has steadily written poetry over the years. In this video Professor Angelou recites her poem, "And Still I Rise,"...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 1,437 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 967 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
25 Mind-Twisting Optical Illusion Paintings by Rob Gonsalves
Dovas · 895 views today · The beautiful and mind-bending illusions in Canadian artist Robert Gonsalves’ paintings have a fun way of twisting your perception and causing you to question what in his...
'Maritime Graveyard': 2016 Deadliest Year Ever for Refugees Crossing Mediterranean
Deirdre Fulton · 743 views today · "From one death for every 269 arrivals last year, in 2016 the likelihood of dying has spiraled to one in 88," says UNHCR spokesman
Forget Shorter Showers: Why Personal Change Does Not Equal Political Change (2015)
11 min · 736 views today · Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday; or that chopping...
#Hypernormalisation - Why Heathrow Plan Is Proof We Exist in a Catastrophic Fantasyland
Matthew Adams · 716 views today · The British government recently gave the green light for Heathrow airport’s third runway. It was heralded by its supporters as a vital boost for jobs and growth – and proof...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 709 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
The Empire Vs. The People - Police Attack and Arrest Peaceful Protestors at the Dakota Access Pipeline
6 min · 550 views today · On October 22, just before dawn, hundreds of people, including many families, gathered and prepared to march toward the Dakota Access pipeline construction site near Standing...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 433 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
Ode to Lesvos
5 min · 409 views today · An inspiring story of a few remarkable heroes on the Island of Lesvos who helped almost half a million refugees in 2015 has been documented in a new short film called Ode to...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
This All-Women Bike Crew Is Running Gentrifiers Out of Town