By Karen Houston
Just two days following the Supreme Court’s historic decisions regarding DOMA and Proposition 8, I flew across the country to experience our nation’s largest Pride celebration. I immediately noticed how friendly and welcoming San Francisco’s residents were to one another. Strangers struck up conversations with me while I stood in line for coffee or had breakfast at a café—just curious about my story and why I was there. I met a couple of friends at Gay Beach, the top of a hill in Dolores Park, where hundreds of Pride goers gather before the kickoff of the Dyke March. Walking around and people watching, I overheard conversations about the positive energy of this Pride: “There are significantly more women at this Pride,” and, “This is a particularly happy Pride.” It was my first time in San Francisco, but my fourth Pride in general, and not surprisingly, it was the most lively and dynamic Pride celebration I’ve experienced.
At Dolores Park, with a gorgeous view of the city, we had a little wine and beer picnic in the unusually hot weather and soaked up the happy scene for a few hours. By late afternoon, there were so many people at the park that our cell phones no longer had service. Locals walked around selling beer and (ahem) edibles out of their backpacks, and there were DJs, performers, vendors, and non-profits set up for us to explore and enjoy. Being from Austin, Texas, San Francisco felt a little more like home to me and a lot more laid back than D.C.
Around 5:00 p.m., engines revved while motorcycles lined up to lead the Dyke March, which ended at the famous Castro neighborhood. The crowd, myself included, lined the street and fell in to march behind the bikes as soon as they took off. In the houses along the route, San Franciscans stood on their balconies and hung out of their windows cheering and holding signs that read, “RIP DOMA,” “I LIKE DYKE,” “Viva la Vulva,” “Buh Bye Prop 8,” “Who’s getting married?” and “Dyke Power.”
The goal of the march is to create visibility for our community. This is how the march’s organizers describe its diversity: “We are femmes, butches, and otherwise-identified; dykes-of-color, dykes of mixed race, Jewish dykes, and white dykes; dykes of varying ages and classes. Some of us identify as queer, or as genderqueer. We are dykes seeking to put our myriad of talents to use for our communities.”
I watched the main parade from the front row and about 200 feet from the end of the route. It was the most vibrant and emotional parade I’ve seen. I was standing next to two women who had just been married and who were both wearing shirts that read, “I love my wife.” Countless people marching in the parade came over to hug them, offer congratulations, or just to say, “Me too!” while they pointed to their spouse.
Of course Pride is a happy time, but because this celebration closely followed the Supreme Court decisions I could feel a stronger connection among everyone—a shared joy and exuberance about our latest leap toward equality. The tone was set from the beginning of the parade when marchers went by holding enormous balloon structures. The first one spelled out, “Love” in red, and walking behind them were people with the second structure: yellow balloons that spelled out, “Won”.
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