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Lesbians gather with pride in West Hollywood

Hundreds help kick off L.A. Pride weekend with a Purple Party and WeHo Dyke March, celebrating the gains made and anticipating Supreme Court rulings on Prop. 8 and gay marriage.

June 08, 2013|By Hailey Branson-Potts, Los Angeles Times
  • Women parading in West Hollywood on Friday night stopped in front of the Palms, the city's last remaining lesbian bar. The bar will close this weekend.
Women parading in West Hollywood on Friday night stopped in front of the… (Hailey Branson-Potts,…)

They said it loudly and repeatedly, and they wore stickers and clutched signs proclaiming it: lesbian.

"Yes, I am!" hundreds of female voices chanted in a crowded West Hollywood park. "Yes, I am!"

Lesbians, their supporters and friends gathered Friday to celebrate women and to kick off L.A. Pride weekend. The air was chilly for the night's Purple Party and WeHo Dyke March, but the mood was light.

One woman had streaks of purple in her hair. Many in the crowd wore purple T-shirts with the words "Dyke Power," as did West Hollywood Mayor Abbe Land and other city officials. The jacaranda trees nearby were dressed in purple too.

In a comedy set before the march, comedian Jennie McNulty, a lesbian, joked about setting up a booth this weekend to sell all the knickknacks she'd collected at Pride over the years.

But her jokes were sprinkled with signs of the times and the monumental policy decisions to come soon for gays and lesbians.

"This time next year, there may be a whole slew of legally wed Californians," McNulty said, referring to the Supreme Court's upcoming decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8, which outlaws same-sex marriage.

McNulty asked the veterans in the crowd to raise their hands so they could be applauded. To one female veteran, she said, "You can join again and be as gay as you want to be" after the 2011 repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" law.

Ivy Bottini, an 86-year-old lesbian activist with short white hair and a big smile, kicked off the annual WeHo Dyke March, holding a cane in the air and shouting, "Lesbians, let's march!"

The women marched down Santa Monica Boulevard, through an area known as Boystown, where men on the crowded outdoor patios of gay bars cheered as they passed.

Tonia Robinson, 53, of Reseda, walked alone, smiling to herself as she held up a sign reading "Dyke Power." She came out of the closet in the early 1970s, she said. This was the first time she'd joined in the march, and it was something she'd wanted to do for a long time.

"Lots of times, women aren't seen as powerful, and this is a powerful statement," Robinson said.

Donna Simms and Diane Rossiter of Valley Glen walked together, holding hands. In August, they'll celebrate 16 years as a couple. They came to support lesbian visibility, they said, and because they hope the Supreme Court makes the "right decisions" about gay marriage.

One young woman said quietly and excitedly to a friend as they marched, "Do you understand that we're making history right now?"

The crowd stopped in front of the Palms on Santa Monica Boulevard, the city's last remaining lesbian bar, which will close this weekend. Several women on motorcycles at the front of the march stopped in a line, honking their horns and holding the sound in a loud farewell.

The L.A. Pride Parade — one of the largest gay pride parades in the U.S. — will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday in West Hollywood. Tens of thousands of people are expected.

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