Out on the town


By Angela Matheson

SYDNEY — The gay community celebrated its sexuality on the streets of inner city Darlinghurst on February 17 in the annual lesbian and gay Mardi Gras parade. The event, which has been recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the biggest annual party in the world, attracted a crowd of more than 200,000 people from all over Australia.

"Not only is it the biggest party in the world", says Kath Phillips, an organiser for Lesbian and Gay Mardi Gras Limited, "but it's also the most vibrant and colourful celebration of gay political rights to be found anywhere".

The parade was led by a contingent of gays and lesbians protesting against government delays in the legalisation of drugs for AIDS victims. "While the government continues to enforce lengthy procedures in testing AIDS-related drugs, people in the gay community are literally dying while they wait", says Phillips. "These drugs have already been tested and approved overseas."

The political and cultural diversity of Sydney's gay and lesbian communities were reflected in the vibrant floats promoting issues ranging from leather lashing lifestyles to the Gay Immigration Taskforce's push for equal immigration rights for gay partners.

The crowd loved it. Tracey Keer from Adelaide said, "I'm straight but the Mardi Gras is still a great night out for me. It's good to see gay issues brought out into the open."

Says Michael Schembri from Gay Solidarity, "The Mardi Gras at least gives us some vehicle for making a collective political comment. It's a fun way of doing politics. But underneath the hype and colour, we all need to remember how so much more needs to be done for gays to get equal rights in Australia."