Mardi Gras 2018 is on it’s way and we’re celebrating 40 Years of Evolution
There’s not much I’ll go out in the rain for but not even that stopped me from hitting the Opera House to welcome Sydney Mardi Gras into her 40’s and launch the 2018 Festival on Friday night.
It’s a bit of a tough time for the LGBT crew in Australia right now and although the marriage equality debate was of course a talking point, the only thing that overshadowed the celebration was the pink and rainbow lit sails of the Sydney Opera House. It’s been a long time since the festival was launched at the house, so it was wonderful to be welcomed back in style!
The theme for Mardi Gras 2018 is Evolution and while I’m not entirely sure what’s meant by that, as the future slowly (painfully slowly) gets brighter for the LGBT community we do have a lot of reflect on, be thankful for and celebrate from over the last 40 years, and there are thousands of stories that can and should be told, so let’s see where evolution takes us.
At the Opera House we are on Gadigal land and to show respect to communities older and wider than ours, Millie Ingram lead a Welcome to Country as a the perfect start to the night. There’s also a lot of blood, sweat, tears, laughs, friendships, glitter and hot glue gun burns that have helped keep Mardi Gras going all these years, so it was wonderful to hear thanks given to all the boards, volunteers, parade entrants and supporters who have been part of the ride. I’m only a couple of years older and I can tell you, it’s taken a mid size village to get me this far, so you can only imagine how many thousands of people it’s taken to keep this festival flying.
Then the ever so thirsty Joel Creasey took over the stage, hosting us through the night. Joan Rivers called him “a fucking star” and honestly, anyone who can distract me from the fact that I was sitting outside in the rain in what was basically a full body condom to stay dry, is worthy of the title. ( give me summer any day!). He wasn’t the only one working it though.
Perth Newsreader Nerelda Jacobs shared the meaning of marriage equality, and why it is so important to her. After being forced into her first marriage at 19 after falling pregnant, one that only lasted 6 months much to the ire of her parents, not being able to marry her long term partner now and have her meaningful, loving relationship recognised is heartbreaking. Even more so is that when marriage equality is passed, her parents, unsupportive her sexuality, will not be by her side at her wedding this time.
What she does see marriage equality as though is an evolution of the Australian community and a clear message that we are open minded and embrace and accept diversity. As an Aboriginal, lesbian who bought up her daughter as a single parent, and now one of Australia’s most successful Newsreaders for Channel 10 in Perth, this message of acceptance is something she truly believes in because she has felt ( and maybe at times fought for) it.
Jordan Raskopolous, the self titled “loud and proud transgender lesbian” talked about the journey from shame to pride, which is about opposing as emotions get – and a journey that many of us have been on at some point in our lives. With a message that tolerance of our differences isn’t enough, and that acceptance of who we are is one of the keys to the evolution of our values that Neralda spoke of, Jordan reminded us that we should of course be proud of who we are, what we have achieved and what we want – both as individuals and a community. I’ve been a big fan of Jordan since talking with her at TEDx Sydney earlier this year, her talk on the laughs and frustrations of life with high functioning anxiety is worth checking out
side note: there is wonderful TED talk on understanding and overcoming shame that I think everyone should watch.
Mardi Gras president Terese Casu reflected on the courage of the 78’ers. The people who faced the hatred and fear of the times (and the police) to fight for their rights, and ours, and started what we are still celebrating today. 40 years later we have our own fight on our hands, but history proves we can change. Helen Razer said in a recent article that marriage equality is something we’ve only been fighting for since it became a popular cause in 2009. The first Australian Marriage Equality campaign may have been in 2011, but we’ve been fighting for equality and creating change in one way or another for even longer than Mardi Gras has been around. Jordan is right, we should be proud!
It’s not just our marriage laws that are (hopefully) evolving though, packed with new events, greater diversity and more venues, 2018 seems to be a year of growth for the festival as well. Just some of the highlights include Koori Gras – celebrating our Indigenous LGBT community, Trans Sydney Pride telling 40 years of stories, a night of New York Vogue dancefloor realness – served by the House of the 80’s – at Sissy Ball, a welcome and long overdue return to Sydney of the marvellous Mitzi Macintosh and more parties, movies, theatre, events and talks than you can wave a double ended dildo at. ( and that’s not even including main party and parade). As usual, the question is just how to fit it all in!
The night wasn’t all talk though, the stage sparkled with tunes from Trevor Ashley and Samantha Jade was hot af in pink as she sang Firestarter. Australian pop royalty closed the night as Danni Minogue hit the stage with songs and stories of her 20 year history with Mardi Gras, and the weekends and dancefloors that come with it. Yeah of course I sang along like the homo I am, I also remembered being with her on some the dancefloor stories she shared. You have to love the Mardi Gras madness!
The speakers were great, the Opera House looked hot, the entertainment was perfectly camp, the crowd was fun and diverse and spotted with a few celebs and community leaders and personalities, the Auslan interpreters worked hard for inclusivity and everyone came together to create a fun evolution into 40 that left us with one simple message to remember:
Be proud, be strong, look after yourself, look after your mates, look after the community and have a happy (fucking) Mardi Gras!
To check out all the 2018 Mardi Gras Festival events pick up a program (it’s hot pink, you can’t miss it) or visit http://www.mardigras.org.au/