A small turnout marked Orange County's first "Dyke March" and rally, but organizers said Saturday's low attendance will not deter them from staging the event next year.
The march was billed as an opportunity for lesbians to empower themselves by becoming more visible in a county that has not always been tolerant of homosexuality.
But only about 100 people, including male backers, showed up at the rally, held at Lions Park in Costa Mesa. Men were not allowed to join the street march but were encouraged to show their support from the sidewalks with placards and banners.
"Our event is about empowerment and visibility. If only 10 people come, we've achieved our goal," said spokeswoman Katie Profeta.
Private guards provided heavy security for the rally, and there were no incidents or protesters. A free-speech area set aside for opponents went unused. Some entertainers also failed to show.
Profeta, 24, said organizers purposely billed the rally as an event for "dykes," despite the word's generally pejorative usage.
"We're using 'dyke' to reclaim the word and make it a positive theme, so it won't be used to hurt us," said Profeta. "Dykes don't have to be harassed. We want them to feel secure in Orange County."
Most attendees were younger women, including some high school students who are openly gay. The low turnout was a disappointment to some.
"It's really bad. That's why I'm not [taking part in the rally]," said Maya Solano, 28, who was sitting on the grass with her partner, Sunny Hennesey, 25. Both women are from Los Angeles.
"The booths don't have any interesting or educational stuff to hand out. It's sad."
Nevertheless, Solano and Hennesey stuck around to lend their moral support. The women have been dating for six months.
"These things are helpful because they educate people about lesbians. A lot of people think that two women together are just trying to fulfill their sexual fantasies. They don't realize that it's a true and strong love."
One 18-year-old said she is still looking for a way to tell her parents she is gay. The Long Beach resident attended the march hoping to get some advice, from "someone who's been in my shoes," about how best to break the news to her family.
"It's not easy. I think my mom knows. But I'm dreading having to out myself to my parents. I don't know how my dad's going to handle it," she said.
She said she is also uncomfortable being branded a dyke. She prefers lesbian.
Profeta said she understood the predicament, especially about the word "dyke."
"I hope that someday we won't need words to describe who we are. I hope that someday we will all be known simply as men and women, and that our sexuality won't matter," she said.