Mardi Gras launched
By Jen Crothers
SYDNEY — The annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras was launched on the steps of the Opera House on February 11. After a colourful dance piece which made a dig at the Olympics, hosts Julie McCrossin and Bob Downe welcomed the 30,000-strong crowd.
Acknowledgment was given to the original Aboriginal inhabitants of the area, the first of many times during the night. Mardi Gras president David McLachlan spoke about the positive achievements of lesbians and gays. He acknowledged that, for some, "gay" and "lesbian" are inclusive words while others prefer "queer" of "GLBT" (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender). Whatever the name, we have a shared history of struggle for the right to love whom we want, he said.
McLachlan said it was a mistake to measure Mardi Gras only in economic terms, a comment that was extremely well received. He spoke of the strong sense of solidarity that arises from events such as Fair Day and the parade.
The Mardi Gras is the only event of its size in Australia that does not receive any kind of state or federal government funding. Ironically, Mardi Gras continues to publish politicians' "messages of support" in its festival guide. This year, messages from Kim Beazley, Bob Carr and Kerry Chikarovski are included.
The guest speaker for the launch was New Zealander Georgina Beyer, the first transsexual to be elected to a national parliament. Beyer's electorate is rural and conservative; she explained that people, including other politicians, appreciated her openness and honesty.
The launch marked the start of 23 days of films, parties, art exhibitions, plays, talks and sport. The Mardi Gras parade and party are on March 4 and those unable to make it in person will be able to watch it live on pay TV or the net, and a few days later on free-to-air TV.