Yesterday, I kicked off my Pride weekend1 here in Vancouver by heading to Commercial Drive for the 6th Annual Vancouver Dyke March.2 Sweet.
I’ve written recently about why I like the Dyke March: its inclusiveness, the sense of community, the cute girls… but mostly, it’s an opportunity to feel normal without being normalized.
Despite popular rumours to the contrary, Catherine Winters is not a combination of Angelina Jolie as Acid Burn in Hackers and Katherine Moennig as Shane on The L Word. I’ve never been arrested by the FBI, I don’t bring a different–or even the same–girl home every night to my lesbian bachelor pad, and I’m not the greatest programmer ever. It’s true, I’m afraid.
In fact, I’ve only been in a stylized, cyberpunkesque sword fight at most three or four times. (I know, right?)
Still, while I may tend towards the femme/lipstick side of the scale these days, I’ve never exactly considered myself particularly straight-acting–whatever that means. For some reason, some people are still surprised to learn I’m gay though. In a way, it’s actually more irritating than my baby dyke phase when I buzzed my hair and was assumed to be a lesbian by pretty much everyone I met. At least then, I knew where everyone stood.
In fact, after I decided that maybe being gay and tall didn’t necessarily imply “butch”, I didn’t actually figure out how to come out to anyone for a while. I hadn’t done it since I was a teenager and even today, I’m out of practice. In fact, I still tend to assume everyone just knows at a glance. It’s always quite jarring to me when acquaintances ask about boyfriends or expect some commiserative banter about men: “You know what guys are like!” “Um, sure!”
Sometimes I don’t bother correcting anyone, and I wonder at times, if that’s being dishonest. Maybe. Then again, most of the time it isn’t relevant. What I’ve never become confident about is my ability to tell when it is.
As I pointed out to a friend over coffee recently, I hadn’t actually ticked the “Interested in Women” checkbox on my Facebook profile until a few months ago. On the one hand, if we’re friends on Facebook, you probably already know that about me. Still, what if you don’t? Almost nobody assumes “I don’t know” about people’s sexual orientation–that’s simply not how our society works. Instead, we assume a default of “straight”. In the absence of that bit of information, someone would have an inaccurate picture of who I am.
So what’s the rest of that picture? Well, I’m loyal to my friends. I like coffee. I’m into graphic design and web development and user interaction and typography. I read a lot of novels and like riding my bike. That’s what defines “Catherine”, not who I am–or am not–attracted to. That said, my sexuality affects who I am in a significant way, just as my height does. I see the world differently as a lesbian than I would if I was straight.
I wonder at times if I’m putting too much of myself out there when I share my thoughts about this kind of uncertainty. My overshares usually involve bodily functions, so I can’t use my usual tricks to figure out if this is getting too personal. At the same time, it’s impossible for me to write about queer topics or events without getting into my personal experience–and I do want to write about them.
So that said, how did the Dyke March go, anyway?
Good! Except it was really hot out. That’s definitely my least favourite part, honestly. I managed to escape without a huge sunburn, thankfully, but I still got more sun than I prefer.
I got to McSpadden Park early and chatted with a few women before my friends arrived. By the time it was ready for us all to walk up Commercial, there were a thousand women clustered under the limited shade provided by the trees at the edges of the field. “No, you all have to come over here,” the emcee shouted into her megaphone.
Mable Elmore, currently the Member of BC’s Legislative Assembly for my riding, LGBT and Filipino community activist, transit union organizer, and formerly my bus driver, opened the march. When talking with friends, I’ve been quite enthusiastic about her, (“You grew up in a big union town, huh, Cat?”) but sadly, we’ve never met.
The weirdest part of the day came at Grandview Park once we’d arrived: someone actually recognized me. By reputation.
I finally found a friend and her “lesbrarians” banner, complete with Venn diagram indicating the intersection between “librarians” and “lesbians”. Frankly, I’m guessing her illustration was conservative about the overlap.
She introduced me to a couple of the other lesbrarians: “And this is Catherine, the Drupal developer I was telling you about!”
“Drupal!?” my friend said. “Pfft, Catherine also invented Second Life–”
That is not even close to being true,” I said.
“Second Life? Wait, Catherine Winters?”
Yes, seriously. It was the most impressed anyone has ever been with me. So that part was pretty rad.
As for photos, no, I didn’t bother taking my camera, and my iPhone is not well-suited for outdoor shots in incredibly bright direct sunlight. There aren’t many on Flickr either, as it happens. I guess the crazy social media circles I usually run in haven’t totally spread to Vancouver’s lesbian community yet.
I know there plenty were photos taken, mind you. While walking up the Drive, my friend noticed a couple dudes with fairly serious-looking video cameras.
“Wait, are we going to be on the news?” she asked.
I assured her I felt this to be extremely unlikely.
“Really? Are you sure?”
“Well, the media tends to not be sure how to describe the event…”
“Well, ‘Dyke’ is kind of a slur…”
True enough, there’s hundreds of stories about Vancouver’s Pride Parade in Google News today and three about the Dyke March. So maybe next year.
 The rest of it will be spent being a tired old lady and going to bed at 9PM.
 Proof I can be wrong about things:
Girl: “Is this the first one they’ve had?“
Other Girl: “Like… the second?“
Me: “It’s the eighth, I think.“
Most Engergetic Emcee Ever: “WELCOME TO THE SIXTH ANNUAL VANCOUVER DYKE MARCH!“
And then they kept mentioning that! It’s like I have some kind of reputation.
 Disclaimer: while I had a phase–and it was a phase for me–where I thought I had to identify as butch in order to be a “real” lesbian, I do want to clarify that I’m not speaking of androgynous or butch lesbians in general. This is strictly my own personal experience of figuring out my sexual identity and the implications thereof. It took me a while to feel comfortable with the idea that I wasn’t betraying anyone by being true to myself. (And hey, I’m still compelled to write this footnote, so maybe I’ll get there fully one day!)