Ending the Bush presidency an overriding theme for Fifth Avenue marchers
The excitement was palpable among the crowd gathered at Bryant Park last Saturday for the Twelfth Annual New York City Dyke March as 5 p.m., the time for taking over Fifth Avenue, neared. As the women prepared to initiate what has become the city’s biggest lesbian event of Gay Pride weekend, many participants expressed a sense of urgency not seen in recent years. Perhaps this year’s theme, “Women of Mass Defiance Lick Bush,” expressed it best and was responsible for galvanizing marchers into a cohesive force of political activists intent on affecting political change.
As march organizers stepped into Fifth Avenue, stopping traffic, a cacophony of chanting and drumming generated by a crowd of nearly 5,000 women followed them, many wearing messages that reinforced the message: stickers with “Lick Bush,” T-shirts emblazoned with “My bush would make a better president,” and signs promoting everything from same-sex marriage rights to transgender awareness.
“I think it is more important now than ever to be out and to make our presence felt,” said Diane Dolan-Soto, a marcher who is director of client services for the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project. “And from the tone of the T-shirts and outfits here, people feel the same way as I do. But it is also more dangerous to be out now. There has been a 53 percent rise in [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] hate crimes in the past six months than in the prior six months of 2003. We are more visible, but that means there is also more of a backlash—but that is also the only way we move forward.”
Move forward the marchers did, heading downtown from 42nd Street, past the Empire State Building and the Flatiron Building, through Chelsea and into the northern environs of Greenwich Village, eventually ending in Washington Square Park. The air was festive, and like last year, marchers were treated mid-route to the comic relief of the Church Ladies, a group of gay men dressed as churchgoing women, singing tunes like “God is a dyke.” Women holding a clothesline adorned with pink panties bearing the slogan “Lick Bush” also helped provide a theatrical element, but for the most part, lesbian participants wound through the appointed route in an orderly, even composed manner, violating few noise ordinances.
The march’s organizers, in an act of political defiance, traditionally refuse to file for a parade permit and this year was no exception. Nevertheless, members of the New York Police Department were on hand, as in keeping with past years, to hold off traffic on cross streets as the line of women passed.
For the Demirtjis clan—mothers Shan and Ann, Ayden in his carriage, and daughter Sydney marching alongside in cowgirl boots and a T-shirt that read, “I love my two mommies”—the march was the perfect combination of sunny outdoor fun and political advocacy.
Representatives from numerous political activist groups worked the crowd, organizing opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment, which seeks to ban same-sex marriages, and garnering support for Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry.
A lesbian couple from Washington, D.C., clad in matching “Wax Bush” T-shirts, bemoaned the fact that, as district residents, they have no direct representation in Congress, adding that attending the Dyke March was an indication of their opposition to Bush. “We do what we can,” one of the women said.
The head of the march reached Washington Square Park shortly before 7 p.m., and attendees fanned out around the fountain, where drummers rallied the women with festive beats. In less than an hour, the crowd had mostly dispersed, an anticlimax for some women who had wanted more political venting.
Later that evening, lesbians resurfaced at the Dyke Ball, held at the Theater for the New City, and at the LGBT Community Center’s Lesbian Pride Dance, where deejays spun records on two dance floors. Karaoke singing drew a crowd, until Maine, an erotic dancer, began her floor show, eliciting shouts of approval from the women.
Once the dancing stopped, many women left quickly, homebound to rest up for Sunday’s parade and more festivities.
Two women kiss during Saturday’s annual Dyke March on Fifth Ave.; supporters lined the route including “The Church Ladies.”