“You have to go fix your dyke drought,” says my multi-tasking fag friend, whipping coconut icing in his Martha Steward apron. I’d just collapsed into his couch Saturday afternoon after gleefully exploring the hot pot of San Francisco.
“You can’t be in San Francisco and not go to the Dyke March,” he says wildly. “It starts in an hour just down the street — slap on your ‘fuck-me’ boots and get going!”
I live on a small island where most queer women have been-there-done-that decades ago. Now they live partnered with their wives, their gardens and their mortgages, hidden somewhere in the woods.
We restless late-20-to-30-somethings have no more access to a vibrant women’s community than that small contingent of 21-year-old punk bois who sit at night in the park consuming more alcohol than I expect to drink in a lifetime.
The phone rings back in San Francisco. It’s Amanda and Lynx, my two former lovers and San Francisco locals.
“We’re at Dolores Park,” their voices crackle from their cell phone, a sea of excited voices in the background. “Get your ass down here and march with us!”
Suddenly the idea of mingling with thousands of sweaty lesbians sobers me. When else would I get an opportunity to celebrate with thousands of queer women in the queerest city of the world?
We meet at Folsom and 24th, giggling like 16-year-olds about to sneak into our first bar. The buzz in the air quickens as we near the park. Suddenly all the pedestrians slinking down the streets look like dykes.
We turn a sharp corner. Within seconds, as if timed to our arrival, the proud leather dykes on growling butch bikes roar by. The San Francisco Dyke March has begun.
I swim in a sea of screaming women, tens of thousands, or maybe a million. Joyful, hysterical and semi-stunned dykes strut in their leather and leashes, prance in their tie-dyed princess dresses.
Women with thick tattoos in black tank tops and baggy jeans fill a huge black pickup truck with monstrous speakers pounding out hip-hop beats.
Queer midwives and mothers march with babes in arms, in strollers, on breasts. Scarved Muslim women in lengthy traditional dresses earnestly hold hands, awareness of this powerful moment written on their beautiful young faces.
We dance, we cry, we laugh, we kiss in a beautiful chaos of celebrating women. We are a rainbow of ethnic representation, high femme, stone butch, hippie, punk, and so much more.
Supporting exuberantly from the sidelines, our gay brothers hang out of their apartment windows tossing down rainbow beads and glitter. Leather daddies nod proudly on the sidelines, regally raising signs reading, “Eat pussy not bombs” and “I came out of a vagina.”
Infected by the natural high of thousands of screaming dykes, and tired of seeing topless women with black tape covering nipples (it’s illegal there for a woman to go topless), Amy and I rip off our shirts to bare our breasts. Starting with one then growing to the few hundred in our immediate circle, all the women turn and scream in solidarity, worship and praise.
Camera lights flash, and before we knew it women were lining up to have pictures taken with us. Such a simple, natural act made us superstars for an hour. Who knew San Franciscan dykes would obey such an outdated puritan law so completely?
The police did not arrest us.
In fact, I noticed a few suppressed grins on the dyke cops who did their best to look stern and serious. It turned me on to be breaking the law and have those sexy cops get off on it. I have a thing for uniforms.
Hours later, the sun sets and the chill of fog settles into the bowl of the city. Not ready to end our night of dyke celebration, we wonder where else we can wrap ourselves in the bosom of queer women’s culture. Tired feet and a cool wind lead us to Osento, San Francisco’s bathhouse for women.
Climbing the steps of the sweet, humble classic San Francisco townhouse, we ring the doorbell.
Valencia St is now dark and quiet. Suddenly the locked iron wrought gate swings open.
A matronly stout dyke, who looks as if she’s seen a lot in her years, greets us firmly with a nod and guides us in.
The quiet and warmly lit house sports a simple Japanese decor. Having paid our $13 entry fee, we make our way into the small common space to undress quickly and luxuriate in the wet sauna.
The dark sky and warm, moist air softly caresses our naked bodies.
This quiet, this stillness reminds me of home. Looking around at the strangers minding their own business, the serenity of the space envelops me.
Two young college girls giggle loudly swapping stories of lovers gone by. A dyke in her late 60s salts and oils her beautiful body. After the hot tub and cleaning off in the communal outdoor shower, we take our weary bodies home.
I head to bed that night deeply satisfied and fall asleep to the buzzing of the urban sprawl, wondering what tomorrow might bring.