ON Saturday, SpiceUK hit Sydney’s 38th annual Mardi Gras, an explosive event put together by the city’s thriving gay and lesbian community. Despite the threat of dark clouds, nothing could rain on the parade of this dazzling show of self-expression and equality.
Every year since 1978, thousands of revellers have lined the streets of Sydney’s gay district to celebrate the steps the country has taken in accepting and promoting the rights of their community. With same-sex marriage yet to be legalised in Australia; the parade was a true symbol of the community’s joyous defiance in the face of adversity.
The country lags in comparison to its global partners, best exemplified perhaps by the fact that homosexuality was only legalised in the state of Victoria in 1980. Public opinion may have shifted significantly surrounding LGBTQ rights, but the Government is dragging its heels on the subject, with a current proposed ‘reform’ failing to be robust in protecting the rights and freedoms of same-sex couples.
The estimated 250,000 people that attended the parade, from young teenagers to the ‘original mature gays’, reflected how imperative it is for Australia to legally entrench the rights of its LGBTQ community. The parade was also a platform for the voices of those minorities whom the current geopolitical climate is trying to silence. In a push to celebrate and not just tolerate, the essence of the mardi gras spirit calls for understanding and engagement on the issues that still affect this community.
In a heartening symbol of just how far societal views have progressed, a trans group from the Tiwi Islands made their debut at the festival, promoting the indigenous LGBTQ culture. Travelling over 4000km from Australia’s Northern territories, they crowd funded their appearance in the parade. It has taken fifteen years and suicides amongst the ‘sistagirls’ for them to be accepted within their community.
The magnitude of their achievement will have resonated with many, and their fusion of traditional aboriginal dress and glitz was a symbol of the substantial leaps they have made and barriers they have overcome.
2017 is yet to solve the question mark hanging over the freedom of minority communities around the world. With leaders in the global community adopting an increasingly apathetic approach, the importance of integrity is being sacrificed. Mardi Gras is not just a celebration of one community, but a rallying cry for the unheard voices, and a bold and glittery challenge to the powers that threaten to constrain them.