Sunday, March 22, 2015

Australian Sojourn – March 2015

Part 4: The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

After spending the day roving Sydney's eastern beaches, my friend Raph and I attended the annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras on the evening of Saturday, March 7.

It was my first time at this popular event, whereas my straight friend Raph has been attending for years. Go figure!

During the course of the parade, Raph received a smooch from a good-looking female participant and I got kissed by a hot young leather guy . . . all of which prompted my friend Mick to opine: "Raph's gay quotient is increasing. It's like 63% now. And yours in diminishing – only a kiss? For shame."

Above: A photo I found on the website of the Sydney Morning Herald. It shows a young man who looks very much like the one who kissed me!
(Photo: James Alcock)

Notes Wikipedia:

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is an annual LGBT pride parade and festival in Sydney, Australia, attended by hundreds of thousands of people from around Australia and overseas. It is one of the largest such festivals in the world, and includes a variety of events such as the Sydney Mardi Gras Parade and Party, Bondi Beach Drag Races, Harbour Party, the academic discussion panel "Queer Thinking," Mardi Gras Film Festival, and Fair Day, which attracts 70,000 people to Victoria Park, Sydney.

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is one of Australia's biggest tourist drawcards, with the parade and dance party attracting many international and domestic tourists. It is New South Wales' second-largest annual event in terms of economic impact, generating an annual income of about A$30 million for the state.

The event grew from gay rights marches held annually since 1978, when numerous participants had been contentiously arrested by New South Wales Police. The Mardi Gras Parade maintains a political flavour, with many marching groups and floats promoting LGBTQI rights issues or themes. Reflecting changes since the first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, participants in the Mardi Gras Parade now include groups of uniformed Australian Defence Force personnel, police officers from New South Wales State Police, as well as interstate and federal police officers, firefighters and other emergency services personnel from the Australian LGBTQI communities.

Above: A member of the Sydney Convicts Rugby team helps get the parade started. (Photo: James Brickwood)

Notes The Advocate about this year's Mardi Gras

Big names in Australian sport were cheered by the crowds as they helped shine a spotlight on homophobia at Saturday’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Over a dozen elite professional athletes led this weekend’s parade, including Aussie Rules, rugby, cricket, soccer and Olympic LGBTI athletes.

The Mardi Gras parade is one of the largest gay events in the world. Nearly 10,000 people took part in the parade, watched by hundreds of thousands of people in person and many more through a national TV broadcast.

The first three floats of the parade were dedicated to highlighting the success of elite gay athletes, the commitment by the major Australian professional sports to promote a more diverse and inclusive sporting environment, and the international success of the Sydney Convicts, who last year won the Bingham Cup, the world cup of gay rugby.

Above: Also prominent at the front of the parade was a contingent of Aboriginal LGBTI Australians. Their presence reminded me of an insightful 2014 article about homosexuality and Australian aboriginal culture by Steven Lindsay Ross. Following is a brief excerpt.

Aboriginal people have been in Australia for more than 60,000 years in what many anthropologists describe as a triumph of survival and mathematics. Given the overwhelming evidence that homosexuality is biological, it is logical to assume that homosexuality would have been a part of such a social equation. It is estimated that there have been four billion Aboriginal people In Australia since the dawn of time. Four billion, and not one gay person? That just defies belief.

. . . I know a dozen or more black LGBTI people who are strong and powerful leaders in their communities. Some have led their mobs to successful native title consent determinations – a role that is built on trust. A native title case would include holding secret knowledge of sacred sites, family histories and land management practices, not to mention being entrusted to negotiate on behalf of thousands of claimants.

This responsibility would not be given lightly. It is a position that involves trusting a person’s character. The fact that LGBTI people have been entrusted in these processes speaks volumes for the support we have within our communities.

Of course, there will be narrow-minded people in our communities, too. We may dislike the Fred Niles, George Pells or Tony Abbotts of mainstream culture, but we are not surprised that those voices exist in a liberal democracy. There are narrow-minded indigenous people. There are also indigenous fundamentalists, climate-change deniers, racists and misogynists.

Above: This young woman sure can work that neon hoola hoop!
(Photo: James Brickwood)

Above: No gay pride parade would be complete without "dykes on bikes"!

. . . or leather men!

Above: Members of Acceptance participate in the 2015 Mardi Gras parade.

Acceptance is a Sydney-based faith community that has existed for almost four decades and supports gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics, their family and friends. The community's mission is to "affirm the authenticity and dignity of GLBT Catholics in our church through liturgy, witness, and fellowship."

Notes Uniting Network Australia on its website:

Imagine marching surrounded by LGBTIQ Christians and their allies in matching black T-shirts proudly emblazoned with the Uniting Church logo and "Our Passion for Justice." We have a group of drummers in front, many of us have lanterns and placards that say "LGBTIQ Refugees are welcome here." Behind us is a bus draped in black with the same message on the side. We are here at Mardi Gras reminding our community that many around the world flee their homes for the rights and freedoms we enjoy here in Australia – but our government has closed its doors.

Uniting Network Australia" is the national network for lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex and transgender people, their families, friends and supporters within the Uniting Church in Australia. The organization pro-actively participates in "helping the Church wrestle with issues of faith, sexuality and membership and working for greater inclusivity within the Church.

Above: Pirate booty! (Photo: James Alcock)

Noted a February 27, 2015 media release from the Australian Defence Force:

The three most senior enlisted members of the Australian Defence Force have, for the first time, volunteered to lead the Defence contingent at this year’s Sydney Mardi Gras parade.

Warrant Officer of the Navy, Martin Holzberger; Regimental Sergeant Major of the Army, David Ashley; and Warrant Officer of the Air Force, Mark Pentreath will join more than 150 Defence personnel, including members of the Australian Defence Force Academy, Defence public servants and allies of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex community. Military members will again march in uniform.

Defence participation in the Mardi Gras parade is an opportunity for members to demonstrate pride for their Service and support for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex members.

Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, said Defence’s participation in the Mardi Gras parade demonstrated its commitment to evolving the Defence culture.

“Defence values all its members and is absolutely committed to ensuring a diverse and inclusive culture,” VADM Griggs said. “The Sydney Mardi Gras is an opportunity for Defence to communicate its support for and inclusion of members within the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex community.”

Defence will march in formation followed by other uniformed agencies who are participating in the parade.

ADF personnel have participated in the Mardi Gras parade since 2008 and marched in uniform for the first time in 2013.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Dan Furmansky on Why We Have Pride
Catholics Make Their Voices Heard on LGBTQ Issues
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride

Images: Michael J. Bayly (except where noted otherwise).

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Oh, wow. How wonderful.