Inspired by the theme of Mardi Gras 2020, we asked Sydneysiders how they mark the occasion and importantly, ‘What matters to you?’
“I'm a mature age gay guy who remembers when it used to be a crime to have gay sex. I have supported the struggle for 30 years in various capacities in both my native New Zealand and here in Australia. Believe it or not, in 1992 I was Mr Gay Wellington and used the platform to advocate for LBGTIQ+ issues in NZ. I have been a regular attendee of Mardi Gras since 1993 and became a member as soon as I moved to Sydney in 1999.
It is absolutely essential that we cherish and celebrate the gains we have made. They were hard-won but would be very easy to lose – and there are plenty of people in Australia that would try to take them away from us.”
“Mardi Gras is like gay Christmas. It's an amazing event where we support and fight for the LGBTQ+ community!
Not sure what I’m gonna wear but probably some undies or jockstrap and a harness and some make-up and, to Laneway, probably some shorts and t-shirt. I will definitely go all out – it's the one time in the year where we can be how we want to be!”
“This year I will be checking out Fair Day and seeing JVN from Queer Eye with my besties – 'gorgeous!' On parade night I will be watching from the street (or my gym balcony again – shout out FF Oxford St) then party in the streets surrounding. I’ll be with close friends and I hope to see my brother on the kiss cam!
When I was in high school a group of my friends and I caught the bus into the city to watch the parade. My brother came out to me that same year, so I always hold a special place in my heart for parade weekend.
What matters most to me? Less judging, more accepting, less negativity, more inclusivity and 100% more self-love. Do you, that’s it.”
“It’s a time to celebrate not only who we are, but also how far we have come. I think it is super important to mark the occasion and acknowledge all those who have come before us to make it possible for us to celebrate without fear of oppression or retribution – while still moving society forward when it comes to acceptance.”
“In previous years Mardi Gras begins with pre drinks and getting ready with a bunch of friends, ranging from gay, bi to straight or curious. We then find a few milk crates to balance on whilst watching the parade, find a bar close to Oxford Street and then hit one of the parties. I think everyone needs to experience the official after party at least once – although it’s not for the faint-hearted.”
“For people who don’t understand what it's like to hide who you really are from those closest to you their whole life, it's hard to explain how important events like Mardi Gras are. It matters that there are things like this for people who get to express who they are and not have to hide.
For a long time, I couldn’t celebrate Mardi Gras. I couldn’t even watch it. I grew up in a very religious household, and to this day, some of my family no longer speak to me as I have fully embraced #whatmatters to me. I think it's an important tradition for everyone to promote inclusiveness.”
“To people who question why there isn’t a ‘straight parade’ – be grateful that there wasn’t ever a need to have one. Be grateful that your existence was never questioned or looked down upon. Mardi Gras is a time for everyone to come together and just have unconditional fun, be with people who make you laugh and smile and acknowledge that we are all equal.”
Daniela lo Guidice
“Growing up my brother was labeled 'gay' from as early as nine! Bullied through primary school, my parents gave him the choice to move schools, as long as I moved too. Seeing my older brother/best friend go through such torture, I made the move without hesitating. It continued at our new school and I spent years protecting him and standing up for him, all through primary and highschool.
Four years ago he came out after being in a five-year relationship with one of my closest girlfriends. The hardest part of dealing with this was knowing that he had lived so many years suppressing these feelings, trying to conform to society – perhaps trying to prove his bullies wrong. From that day I swore to be his biggest supporter! I want to show him and everyone my love and support.”
“Mardi Gras is incredibly important to celebrate as it represents how far we’ve come as a nation. My mother-in-law was recently sharing stories of what it was like when women weren’t allowed to work after they were married, and I just couldn’t fathom it. I hope that when my children grow up and I tell them stories of how women weren’t allowed to marry women, and men weren’t allowed to marry men, that they’ll laugh and be unable to imagine that too!”
“I am currently working at an HIV/STIs testing clinic with full passion as regular testing is important. On days off, I love to cook, arrange flowers or go for a bushwalk, otherwise just have a chill day at home surrounded by music and books.
It's important we celebrate but at the same time, we’re also paying respect and remembering those past when they fought for equality for us who are living right now. What matters most is accepting difference.”
“I’ve worked in HIV and sexual health for nearly 11 years and I coordinate a free and confidential rapid HIV testing clinic on Oxford St for gay, bisexual and other men, regardless of HIV status.
My first Mardi Gras parade was so exciting and breathtaking, the energy and vibe was electric! It’s a celebration and acknowledgement of our wonderful and diverse communities and it's very important that Australia marks the occasion and celebrates with us!”
Mitchell Petropoulos & Kieran Kartun
“Mardi Gras is a celebration of how far we’ve come as a community but also a remembrance of those who fought for our rights and have allowed us to lead such peaceful and happy lives. We should never forget the 78ers and their rebellion against the oppressive police at the time in Sydney. We should also aspire to help and empower those in the LGBTQI+ community from different cultural, ethnic and religious groups that still suffer under oppression. We’re not fully free until we’re all free.
What matters to us is very much the same as any other person in Australia. Our friends, our families, supporting each other, our pets, our garden, our communities, and the world around us. Greater acceptance and recognition of queer people and their wonderful contributions to this world would be great too.”
“Mardi Gras this year is shaping up to be a really cute wine-fuelled candlelit dinner with my partner. It’s definitely an important occasion, it raises so much awareness about the community. We should never underestimate the impact it may have on even just one young person who may be unsure if they are going to be accepted because of their orientation or how they identify themselves. Mardi Gras hopefully serves as a reminder each year that what matters is their happiness, and there's a massive community out there who does accept them!”
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