Students Representative Council, University of Sydney

A week before Mardi Gras

Visiting Mardi Gras is so much more than just a party

Mardi Gras final

A week before Mardi Gras, I was on my way home from a movie with friends. As the bus started to cruise down Oxford Street, the woman behind me started to rant. It started with her complaining about the “disgusting” gays “ruining the area”, and gradually grew into her making an appalling incitement of violence against the LGBT community. “The gays should be lined up Oxford Street and shot,” she said, before escalating to the suggestion that the Mardi Gras parade should be bombed. This left me with a dilemma: do I out myself to a hostile stranger, risking my personal safety to confront them about how what they’re saying is not even remotely acceptable, or do I just try to get away from it as soon as I can and live with knowing that I stood by and did nothing?

I did end up getting off the bus as soon as possible, but the experience left me knowing I had to do something. The following week, I went to my first Mardi Gras to send her a message. We – the LGBTQ+ community – aren’t going anywhere.

Mardi Gras is sometimes described as just one big street party. That’s not entirely wrong, but it’s certainly not the whole story. Mardi Gras is so much more than just a party, it’s a safe space where queers can be themselves without consequence and show each other the affection that we might not otherwise display in normal life. It’s a place where an increasing number of allies can come to celebrate our community with us. It’s us showing the world that we are who we are, and we’re proud of it.

With this show of visibility, we’re telling the homophobes and transphobes that we will keep standing strong together and will not accept their bigotry – no matter how much hate they throw at us, and no matter how many cowardly threats they make, they cannot scare us. Visibility is such an important part of our day-to-day life, not just as a statement against hate, but as a message of hope. By being openly gay or otherwise queer at work or amongst friends and family, we are telling everyone that it’s OK to be gay and that as a queer it’s possible to be proud of who you are, and thrive as an individual. It shows the closeted folks among us that there is a welcoming community waiting for them.

Personally, it is this that has had such a big impact on me. Going from a boy’s high school rife with homophobia to an LGBT-friendly university filled with queer role models has given me the courage to be proud of being gay, to explore who I am and to come out to an increasing number of people. I hope that in doing so, I can inspire people in the same way I’ve been inspired.

Every time you casually show how queer you are is a step closer to equality, whether you’re holding hands with your significant other, giving them a pash or talking about your crush. Some straight people might complain we’re shoving our gayness down their throats. If they do, just remember that they’ve been doing the same to us with their heterosexuality since time immemorial. Rather than hiding our queerness from them, we need to display it loudly until they get used to it. We need to let them know that we’re queer and we have always been here.

A week before Mardi Gras, I was on my way home from a movie with friends. As the bus started to cruise down Oxford Street, the woman behind me started to rant. It started with her complaining about the “disgusting” gays “ruining the area”, and gradually grew into her making an appalling incitement of violence against the LGBT community. And here I was faced with a dilemma – do I out myself to a hostile stranger, and risk violence by confronting them about how what they are saying is not even remotely ok, or do I just try to get away from it as soon as I can, knowing I stood by and did nothing. I did end up getting off that bus as soon as I could, but I knew what I had to do. The following week, I went to my first Mardi Gras to send her a message – we, the LGBTQ+ community, are not going anywhere.

She said “The gays should be lined up Oxford Street and shot” and ”ISIS should drop a bomb during mardi gras. Go ISIS”. Might be a bit too violent to put in, but it gives it context.)

Mardi Gras is sometimes characterised as big street party. That’s not wrong, but it’s not the whole story either. Mardi Gras is so much more. It’s a safe space where we can be ourselves without consequence, where we can show each other the affection that we can have trouble showing in normal life. It’s a place where an increasing number of allies celebrate our community with us. It’s us telling the world we are who we are, and we’re proud of it. With this show of visibility, we’re telling all the homophobes and transphobes that no matter how much hate they throw in our direction, no matter how many threats they make, they cannot scare us away – We’ll keep standing strong together and we will not accept their bigotry.

This has had such a big impact on me personally. Going from a boy’s high school rife with homophobia to an LGBT-friendly university filled with queer role models has given me the courage to be proud of being gay, to explore who I am and to come out to an increasing number of people. I hope that in doing so, I can inspire people in the same way I’ve been inspired.

Every time you casually show how queer you are is a step closer to equality, whether you’re holding hands with your significant other, giving them a pash or talking about your crush. Some people might complain we’re shoving our gayness down their throats. Just remember that they’ve been doing the same to us since time immemorial. Rather than hiding our queerness from them, we need to display it loudly until they get used to it. Let’s let them know that we’re queer and we have always been here.