Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

Pride in Protest in Sydney. Photo: Chloe de Silva

Pride In Protest organised a colourful and successful Mardi Gras march down Oxford Street, taking the event back to its protest roots, reports Rachel Evans and Oscar Bray.

“Stop police attacks on gays, women and blacks” shouts an iconic poster at the 2018 Museum of Love and Protest gallery exhibition.

It was the slogan that reverberated down Sydney’s Oxford Street 40 year’s ago as the protest-parade marched through Darlinghurst, laughing, dancing and imploring others to come out of the closet and join the fight to repeal anti-homosexual laws.

The Mardi Gras festival provides the space to give the queer community a powerful voice. During the festival we can also hear diverse voices within the broader queer community.

Queer Muslims were one of these diverse groups that made their voices heard with a special event on 16 February. Sydney Queer Muslims, a non-profit independent organisation for mostly religious queer Muslims, presented a symposium at Sydney University Business School.

It was a packed night at the Stonewall Inn, a Mafia-controlled gay bar in downtown New York City on June 28, 1969. Stonewall was the only bar in town where gays could dance together, which meant that despite it being dilapidated — there was no running water behind the bar, no fire exits, the toilets overflowed — there was a heavy door charge and the drinks were overpriced.

Mardi Gras — now the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, (LGBTQI) pride march in the world — started in June 1978 when New South Wales police viciously assaulted queer people dancing through Oxford Street. 

A controversy broke out at Sydney's Mardi Gras on March 6 when organisers the No Pride In Detention refugee rights float if they criticised Opposition leader Bill Shorten's refugee policies. And fair enough. The Mardi Gras was begun by people demanding basic human rights and an end to dehumanisation and unjust repression, so there's obviously no connection with the current bipartisan treatment of refugees.
You might expect that this year's Mardi Gras parade, which came just days after the institutional apologies to the original queer rights activists — the 78ers — would be free of the political heavy handedness that launched Mardi Gras as an annual protest march in 1978.
Racism and homophobia are on the rise. Millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) and sex and gender diverse identifying (SGDI) people face life-threatening persecution. About 2.7 billion people live in the 76 countries that criminalise homosexuality. The death penalty for homosexuality is applied in Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen. In China, several hospitals use electric shock therapy as “anti-gay treatments”.
The Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition released this statement on March 4. *** On March 2, the Sydney Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition (SAWC) entered their 100-people walking float in Sydney’s Mardi Gras parade. Supporters came from all over Australia to help raise awareness of the plights of Bradley Manning's and Julian Assange. Participants in the first section of the float held up an image of Bradley and chanted “Free Bradley Manning”, whilst carrying banners displaying the website bradleymanning.org.
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