Annual event takes to the capital’s streets without a permit to raise awareness
On Saturday, June 12, more than 400 lesbians and their supporters converged on Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle for the eleventh annual Dyke March. This year’s theme, “Radically Reclaiming Queer Territory,” attempted to draw attention to the issue of gentrification and “straightification” of Dupont Circle, a historically gay and lesbian neighborhood in the city’s Northwest.
Although this year’s number of participants was a record high, the public demonstration of lesbian solidarity still pales in comparison to the marches in other cities such as San Francisco and New York City. Al Miner, in a follow-up interview on June 16, said, “There are several obstacles that plague the organizers of the D.C. march every year and that accounts for low turn-out. They include that, first, D.C. is a very conservative city—even the queer community is conservative when compared to other urban areas like San Francisco and New York City. The presence of gay mainstream organizations and lobbying groups, [the Human Rights Campaign] in particular, furthers that conservatism. Second, D.C. is almost a segregated city in terms of race.”
Despite Miner’s efforts at outreach into the queer minority populations, he said that “this year was more diverse than maybe past years, but the crowd was still overall young, white, female, and punk-style.”
Kashish Chopra, the current national Miss Congeniality of the Miss India Worldwide Pageant and a lesbian, was the featured speaker at a pre-march rally. Chopra, who spoke about her experiences as an out South Asian beauty queen and as a “femme” lesbian, stressed the need for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community to tolerate racial, gender, and ethnic differences within its ranks. Chopra got involved with the march because she said she wanted to increase the visibility of “femmes” in the lesbian community. When she was coming out, she said, she “didn’t see a femme minority [she] could identify with.” “Being a femme lesbian, people don’t believe that I am gay,” said the beauty queen.
At the rally, organizers distributed flyers for marchers to hand out to onlookers that read “You are on Queer Territory” in an effort to remind heterosexual spectators of the historic presence of LGBT people in the Dupont Circle neighborhood.
With those flyers and signs, participants then marched peacefully through the area’s streets, chanting slogans such as “Ten percent is not enough! Recruit recruit, recruit!” in reference to the oft-stated statistic that ten percent of the nation’s adult population is gay or lesbian. Some marchers chose to remain silent as they completed the route.
City police as well as Dyke March marshals were on hand to ensure the safety of those participating, who took to the streets without an official parade permit. Despite the traffic delays that the march caused, motorists and onlookers were mainly supportive, many of them honking their horns or cheering in solidarity with the marchers.