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june 30, 1996: dyke march.

the dyke march

Last night, I tried to go running, and I found myself at the Dyke March.

Every spring, the Castro district of San Francisco holds a huge celebration called "Gay Pride Weekend." It consists of parties, stampedes, music in the street, and of course, marches.

I am not a huge fan of marching. I always feel like I want to go faster than the crowd is going, and like I am being suffocated, and like I sound silly screaming these things. I usually have little problem with public speaking, or dancing on pillars at clubs, or singing karaoke, but it is something about marching that usually makes me feel insane.

This personal experience, mind you, has nothing to do with my attitude towards marchers. I think it is great that people come out in huge herds and show their support for an issue, especially if it is an unpopular opinion, and especially if it is an issue with which I agree.

So, I was generally happy that so many women came out to the march, looking funky and chic, gorgeous and happy, spirited and rebellious. I felt happy that they were sending a message that the very diverse community known as lesbians is actually a lot more happy, funny and better-looking than its reputation, which tends toward the angry, humorless, and ugly side (as if we women go out with women because we can't get a man -- sheesh).

Nonetheless, as usual, a couple things about the event caused me a little irk.

First of all, I noticed that, in the crowd, very few of the supporters and cheerers-on were male. This upset me, since women come out and support the "Gay Pride" March, but not that many men come out to support the lesbian march. The best conclusion I reach based on this obversation is that Lesbians consider the "Gay Rights" issue -- and even the "Gay Male Rights" issue to also be a lesbian issue, but not that many gay men men consider "Lesbian Rights" to be a gay male issue.

For anyone who idealistically believes that sexism is absent in the gay community, guess again. Look at the city -- and every city I've been to, for that matter -- gay men have staked out much territory, are are the primary clientelle at hundreds of bars, restaurants, clubs, and hotels. There are many spaces these days that are almost all male.

But the same cannot be said about lesbians. Lesbians, on the other hand, have not staked out as much space. Often there are no bars whatsoever dedicated on a regular basis to dykes; but rather, gay women who want to engage in the singles bar scene have to call "Dyke Town" or "GirlBar" hotlines to learn at what bar the women's night will be held at that week. Usually the bars are gay male clubs that have "lent" the club to the ladies for one night or so. Some day, I will finish my rant about my experiences in the GirlBar scene in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Really, I have learned, there is not much of a gay-and-lesbian community; there is a "gay" community; and there is a smaller and more scattered "lesbian" community.

I often feel uncomfortable in situations where I am the only female. Sometimes I have been shown outright hostility for invading an all-male space; other times I am just ignored or shunned. Often guys are nice, but not as much as they should be -- which should be always. If you do not believe me, ask my friend Christine about our experience one Halloween as we tried to drive through the Village in Manhattan while the Gay Halloween Parade was going on nearby. You know, gay men can be just as sexist and abnoxious as straight men, and sometimes more so -- perhaps because they lack one of the few reasons why straight men are sometimes nice to women -- so they can fuck us. It's not like women are usually their bosses or professors or supervisors or elected officials or anything -- at least not often enough.

It depresses me to no end that sexism can be prevolent in the gay community. Especially when the basis of homophobia is so entrenched in sexism -- for example, the problem is not that these men like to date other men; the problem is that they do not want to date *women.* Thus, homophobia is very gender based -- if it were a woman, not a man, whom the gay man wants to marry, then all would be hunky dory with Jesse Helms and company.

In fact, there is an argument that an Equal Rights Amendment will destroy the institution of marriage. Briefly stated, present laws allow women only to marry men, and vice versa. It is descrimination based on sex to allow a woman to marry a man, but not to marry a woman. Thus, marriage under its current form would be declared unconstitutional as violative of the ERA.

But anyway, sexism sucks. And it especially sucks at a lesbian-rights march.

The other thing that bothered me is that so many women in the march were not really just celebrating the fact that they are lesbian, but they were also celebrating the fact that they were in a couple. They walked together, hand in hand, or kissing and hugging and getting naked, celebrating their coupleness as much as they were celebrating their sexual orientation.

This bothers me because it seemed that what they were celebrating through this behavior was not really the fact that they are different -- but rather that they are the same as mainstream America. And what is so great about being the same as mainstream America? It is embarrassing if you ask me.

The other reason this couple-bragging bothered me is that often I am called nasty things like "a wanna-bi dyke" for professing an attraction to women in addition to men. People tell me that I cannot claim to be a lesbian (or a *gasp* bisexual) if I am not dating a woman.

But they never call me a wanna-be heterosexual because of the fact that I am not dating a man!

It is ridiculous and stupid. I like to think of myself as having "no" orientation, and I really do strive to unemphasize the importance of gender in my human interactions, sexual or otherwise. The guts of a person is on the inside, and not in the plumbing. I tend not to find women who wear belts with matching shoes and bags, and neatly coiffed hair attractive, and I find the same traits unattractive in a man.

But whatever. I am not in a couple, so I am not really a dyke, and I cannot march. I entertain myself in other ways.

I was fascinated with the people, however, and I followed the march most of the way. At one point, I was walking in the street behind them, behind the crowd. I was actually thinking about the things I wrote about above -- about how tragic it is that the event was infected with sexism, about how important it seems to be to so many people to be in a couple, no matter what the community. And about how non-coupled people like me can feel pretty damn left out at those times.

And just when I was sure that my face looked pretty sad, a group of four really cute women with cute grungy outfits and funky hair cheered and clapped at me from the curb on the side of the street.

Without realizing it, I had been marching in the parade.

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Copyright 1996 Rebecca Eisenberg All rights reserved.