A couple days from now, several thousand hollering dykes will take over Fifth Avenue for New York's 20th annual NYC Dyke March. The event still compels, even though it was begun in seemingly distant 1993 by the Lesbian Avengers. At a recent panel at the Center, a mix of veteran and younger organizers agreed that a passionate desire for lesbian visibility is what attracts the multitudes. The Dyke March is one of the rare times society at large has to remember we exist.
More importantly, we get to see each other in vast anarchic numbers. And surrounded by the full spectrum of ages, ethnicities, styles, we remember there's more than one way to skin a cat, be a dyke. Stereotypes go out the window. The word lesbian sits more comfortably. You can almost feel yourself relax in the crowd, be expanded by it. Together, our lives have more meaning, more weight.
You only get a sense of identity in miniature when you walk into a dyke bar, or pull up a lesbian novel or poem or magazine on your tiny electronic device of choice. With several thousand lesbians, the Dyke March is bigger than some small towns, shows a political edge. We want to party, and pick up girls, and see friends, but we're also there because we Lust for Power, the '93 Dyke March theme.
I try to imagine what it's like on the other side, to always be at the center of power. To see myself reflected everywhere, a little bit larger than life, the rough edges smoothed, a filter applied to the lens like they used to do in old movies so the leading lady would always look her best. In short, I imagine what it is like to be a man, a straight man, like my father.
It starts immediately, when you're dressed in blue and pushed around in your stroller, and women murmur a certain kind of coo. And you learn pretty quickly that the most important person at the dinner table is your own father. You were named after him. And one day like him, you'll sign all the checks. You'll have the last word.
The perks of being a boy child spiral out beyond the family into casual social encounters. In real life, I remember being a little kid, and trudging into a mechanic's or some other masculine domain and the approving sound of the guy's voice when he saw my short hair and asked my father, "That your son?" Then the brief pause before my Dad said, "My daughter." And the other man lost interest entirely.
In my Dad's Catholic Church, the priests were Fathers that even had the right to tell uppity nuns what to do. Of course, God himself was a Father, too. My father played sports in high school, and a hundred years later, I imagine him sitting in front of the TV and watching The Game, any game, really. Let's pick football. He sees those guys in their pads, on the gridiron, and thinks that it could be him. Those solid bodies reaching for the ball, dragging it across the goal line.
When July 4th rolls around, or Presidents Day, or most of the other holidays, and when there are local elections, or national elections, somebody's sure to talk about Founding Fathers. He has a connection to that, too. Even if it's just there floating in the back of his mind. Impregnating a country with your ideas isn't so very different than begetting children.
He, or some other man, writes all the books. Directs all the movies. Edits the newspapers and magazines. Runs the companies. There's something very cozy about being a white heterosexual man, something cocooned. I remember the confused, angry look he got on his face the few times his expectations were thwarted, like when his wife asked for a divorce.
I imagine all that, and feel that my father is from a different planet. They all are, all the father's. All the men. Even the men of color. Or the gay ones. Who so rarely rebel. Because they still have so much to lose. And we dykes, who have so very little at stake, also keep to our place.
Because acknowledging our insignificance is terrifying, too. To see how alien we are. Admit the accommodations we make to survive, trying to find reflections of our selves in hostile faces. Moving in an atmosphere too light for us. It often makes us seem too grave, too serious, at least around outsiders. But what do you want from extraterrestrials living in your artificial world? Only gathering occasionally in sufficient numbers to let loose, expose our true ecstatic faces along with a lot of bare breasts.
The NYC Dyke March sets out from Bryant Park at 42nd St at 5 pm on June 23. Men are requested to support from the sidelines, so that lesbians are alone in the spotlight.