Lesbians, by the thousands, brave summer showers for Dyke March 14
Several thousand lesbians gathered at Bryant Park on Saturday, June 24, for the 14th Annual Dyke March, the traditional trek for lesbian visibility that moves down Fifth Avenue from 42nd Street to Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village.
A steady drizzle during the event, following the previous evening’s torrential downpour appeared to keep some participants at home. Others came prepared to promote both their political agendas and their own organizational events.
Dee Finley was out on the steps of the Public Library, pushing the X Party, which she first started at Luxx in Williamsburg after the Dyke March five years ago.
“I decided when I heard that South Dakota had made abortion illegal that I was going to make this a benefit, and I got Hailey Hotpink and Randy and Katrina del Mar, everybody just came together,” Finley said of this year’s event.
“Women need to fill up the cat food tray and come out,” she continued. “This is a war against women. The lines are drawn. When they say things like, ‘You can’t have an abortion, in the case or rape or incest,’ that’s some Inquisition-type shit.”
Blogger and femme lesbian Deb Botkin, who starred in the indie film “Boy I Am,” said, “Thought Mother Nature loves the gays and I’m really fucking pissed off now. I think our community is definitely afraid of a little rain, and I’ve got to say after 10 or 12 years I’ve been doing the Dyke March, I was put off. In my entire out life it has never rained on Pride, ever. This is absurd. The sun always shines on us gays, and I think everybody’s just shell-shocked right now.”
Mona Williams, a teacher in Woodside, Queens, was celebrating her second year at the Dyke March.
“I think a lot of people want to be here for gay marriage,” said Williams. “I think a lot of people here can’t really be out where they work, and they want that to change. I think there’s still a lot of violence against gay men and women—like just a couple of weeks ago with Kevin Aviance. That’s why I’m here and I think a lot of other people are here for that as well.”
Queens girls Cindy McBride and Knowledge the Prophet held aloft a placard that read, “The Lesbians are Coming.” These young lesbians of color said, “The importance is to come out in numbers, more and more each year to show people that we’re here, we’re queer, we’re not going anywhere. There’s power in numbers.”
Dyke March organizer and Lesbian Herstory Archives volunteer Maxine Wolfe paused for a moment before the March turned the corner onto Fifth Avenue and said, “We’re celebrating women this year, and the fact that we can still have a Dyke March, in the rain. As a community we need to focus on very basic stuff, like women losing their jobs, women who don’t have enough money, and women who are being harassed. This is not about gay marriage, this about bread and butter issues for women, for lesbians. It may be very nice to get married—I don’t have anything against people who want to do it. I did it once, never would do it again, but this is about basic liberty and freedom to be who you are, and to earn a living and be able to raise our kids.”
As the March moved down Fifth Avenue, the rain intensified. Under one umbrella, a lesbian couple from Sheffield, England, enjoyed the event they had traveled specifically to New York to participate in.
“We don’t really have much like this in the U.K.,” said Emma Corbecc-Ashby. “There are a few grassroots organizations that take on the community spirit of Pride, but by and large it’s really commercialized, about cashing in on the gay pound. So it’s nice to see something like this actually exists.”
Attorney Yetta Kurland watched the March with her Italian greyhound Salvatore, and joked about how the fact that the rain kept some lesbians away spoke to the community’s growing concern with matters of fashion. She got serious when talk turned to politics. “Let’s see what happens in the next election,” said Kurland. “Obviously under the Bush administration we’re not going to be able to do anything to advance our GLBT rights. In fact we’re looking at a really strong coalition on a local level to make inroads into anti-gay legislation—all these DOMA laws that are happening on state levels.”
Kurland continued, “I don’t think there’s going to be any forward movement, any kind of major legislation while he’s still president, but we can make a difference on a local level, and I think that’s what we have to do. I think the country is so trapped in a holding pattern of fear that the powers that be can push across major strikes against undermining the Constitution and we don’t really do anything about it.”
By the time the Dyke March reached Washington Square Park, even those more inclined see Pride as a time to party seemed politically and emotionally charged by the event.
Shavon Gaddy, the Miss GO NYC contestant in last weekend’s Miss LEZ Pageant, said, “As a community we need to unite all the races and the people however you are, unite and be together and fight for the common goal; which is whatever we need to be completely equal.
And Ellie Conant, Miss Snapshot and first runner up in the Miss LEZ Pageant, was positively jubilant.
“Even though my girlfriend’s Jewish, I still call it my gay Christmas,” said Conant. “I got up this morning and there was this anticipation. And, the Goddess is over us right now blessing us with presence of dykes all over, and so I’m opening present after present after present, if you know what I mean.”