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Orange County

Lesbians Celebrate Lifestyle, Take Aim at Stereotypes at Dyke March

August 17, 2003|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

For the second time in as many years, members of Orange County's lesbian community turned out Saturday for a rally and march to show fellow citizens just who they are.

"We're here to promote visibility and to counteract stereotypes regarding what our lives are about," organizer Lori Hutson said of the daylong festivities and evening Dyke March at Lions Park in Costa Mesa. "Sexuality isn't just about sex. It's about who we love and who we choose to spend our lives with."

Last year's march, she said, attracted about 200 participants, and this year's drew about the same number or slightly fewer, depending on who was doing the counting. Police estimated the number at 150, while the organizers said it was closer to 200.

Chanting, "Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Homophobia's got to go!" the participants, accompanied by Costa Mesa police officers, marched through the streets surrounding the park. "We're here! We're queer! Get used to it!" chanted others.

Police Sgt. Dave Anderson said the march was uneventful. "There were no traffic problems," he said.

Shortly before the march started, six men in military-style uniforms with "Aryan Army" shoulder patches , stood silently at attention facing the women, hoisted a flag emblazoned with a cross and then marched away.

The gathering also attracted a handful of protesters with signs bearing such messages as "Jesus Loves You" and "Celebrating Your Addiction to Sin -- Jesus Can Set You Free." There were a few verbal exchanges between the protesters and the women, but no altercations.

Hutson said the annual festival and march are important to the lesbian community, "because we still think that women have a long way to go, especially in Orange County. This is a time to celebrate who we are."

About 70 women -- and several men -- lounged Saturday afternoon in a large grassy area, browsed at vendors' booths or listened to the sounds of an array of bands, punctuated by an occasional speech.

The march, which got underway at 5 p.m., was routed through about a mile of city streets around the park.

"We want acceptance and understanding," said Ellen Thompson, 34, of Long Beach. "We want not to be looked down upon."

Samantha Tierno, 21, of Newport Beach agreed. "We're here showing ourselves, not afraid to say who we are and who we love," she said. "It's so people will accept it and know that it's around and it's OK."

The event was called the Dyke March, even though "dyke" is usually a pejorative term, Hutson said. "The word has always been used by the straight community to hurt us," she said. "When you take a word that's been used to hurt you and begin using it yourself, it takes the sting out of it. You begin to feel empowered."

Event organizers say they had to jump through more than a few hoops to make the march happen, notably a disagreement with Costa Mesa over conditions the city wanted to impose on the parade permit -- conditions that are still the subject of a lawsuit.

Hutson said the obstacles were overcome because it was necessary.

"Until my wife can put my picture on her desk at work without fear of getting fired," she said, "we need to keep doing this. Until we can hold hands in a mall without having to worry about getting hit in the back of the head with a baseball bat, we need to keep doing this. This is a day for us to come together."

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