By Christina Wolfe
Gender/Sexuality Reporter

“We’re here, we’re queer, we’re not going shopping.”

This is just one of the many slogans shouted during the 16th annual Santa Cruz Dyke March. The march is held every year to increase the visibility and activism of Santa Cruz lesbians.

The march kicked off last Saturday at the clock tower, starting with a rally that combined music, poetry and politics.

The theme of this year’s march was “I am not a failed attempt at being you.” The event highlighted the anti-assimilation attitude espoused by the supporters and planners of the event.

Coordinator Melissa Bernstein explained the ideas behind the march.

“Gay pride is very white-male-focused, on issues and in the paradigm, so women decided to take over the streets,” Bernstein said.

The fliers for the event state the march’s desire to oppose the struggle for straight Eurocentric privileges.

Bernstein, who’s marched in many different places including New York, also discussed the differences between marching in a town the size of Santa Cruz.

“It’s different here,” Bernstein said. “Here you’re really, really out. I see people I know.”

The Dyke March also works to break down stereotypes about lesbians. In the words of emcee Cheri Lovedog, “It’s kind of like, ‘Come and look at the lesbians — they do more than raise cats.’”

Lovedog stressed the recreational aspects of the march instead of the politics.

“It’s important when any community gets together,” she said. “It comes around pride. It’s not just for dykes, [it’s for] anybody who can come: supporters, artists, anyone who’s not homophobic.”

Lovedog also called it “an excuse to get together and have fun.”

Performances included poetry, dancing and singing. Stu Doogan and Vines Dowling performed in the band Frootie Flavors. This was their 10th time playing at the march.

Marissa Valera is in charge of the dance group Motion Pacific, which also performed. Valera has been teaching and dancing for Motion Pacific since 2001. She was recruited to the march through people she knew while she was teaching dance at UC Santa Cruz.

“They wanted help bringing UCSC to the Dyke March,” Valera said.

Participants marched from the clock tower, down Front Street, turned onto Pacific and marched back to the tower. They blocked traffic at every opportunity.

Bernstein, wearing a makeshift homemade artillery belt that was filled with big sticks of colored chalk, led the group. She chanted cheers through her megaphone, keeping the energy up.

The chants ranged from neutral — “I love you, you love me, homosex-u-a-lity” — to teasing — “Two, four, six, eight, how do you know your wife is straight?” — to defiant —“Poverty, greed, discrimination! Fuck your kinder, gentler nation!”

As shoppers and employees on Pacific stopped to watch or photograph the marchers, everyone around Bernstein heard her chant:

“Two, four, six, eight — we will not assimilate!”