Sydney Australia celebrated its 30th Gay Mardi Gras last night! The Mardi Gras Parade is quite the huge event, and draws up to half a million people, both residents and tourists, each year. It is, without a doubt, one of the largest LGBT pride events in the world. The original 1978 march took place when homosexuality was illegal and resulted in police violence. Now, it’s one of the city’s biggest tourism draws.
I went one year while living in Australia — 2003, I believe. It is quite the blast. The floats in the parade mock everything imaginable, particularly those who would like to see them go away, like the Australian government and Catholic Church. They also promote social justice. This year, they focused largely on same-sex marriage rights and the environmental crisis. Oh, and they also had Rupert Everett lead the parade and a float with 250 men dressed up as Aussie pop star and gay icon Kylie Minogue. And I can only assume that the shirtless Dykes on Bikes made their usual appearance.
Of course, the Christian groups like to whine every year about the existence of the parade, and handful turn out to hand out pamphlets. But they don’t get a lot of airtime. The religious fundies have a lot less political power in Australia than in the U.S. I remember being awed and thrilled every year by the open promotion and acceptance of the event by the mainstream media and the dismissive (or outright lack of) attention given to those who want the event stopped.
Is this partially motivated by the huge amount of money that the event brings in for the city? Of course. Does it mean that Australia is some kind of hugely-accepting gay haven? Absolutely not — I ran into a lot of homophobia myself, particularly regarding one professor at uni who was openly gay, proud and, as he liked to say, camp (he was also brilliant, the best teacher I’ve ever had in my life, and a big reason why I’m a feminist). But the fact remains that we’re many years away from this kind of general public acceptance of sexual pride and flamboyance in the U.S.
So happy 30th, Mardi Gras! Did anyone reading this attend? If so, let us know about it in the comments!
(Thanks to Patrick for the head’s up.)