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One of the most fun events of the year in Sydney is the Mardi Gras parade. I’ve been a regular attendee now since the late 1980s. It is a little bit different every year, as the political and cultural messages shift and change over time and the floats become even more numerous and impressive. With movies like Pride coming out of England in the last year, it is fascinating to see how social and attitudes have shifted and changed within a lifetime.

The Sydney Mardi Gras is a very popular event and so it is a great idea to plan the best vantage points to see the show.

This year I was at the Sideshow which means there’s seating, toilets, a bar and food, ANZ was the corporate sponsor this year. ANZ have introduced the GAYTM in recent times in a bid to secure the queer dollar.

These days I am living in the city, so the travel involved a bus ride up to Central from Circular Quay, duck through the Devonshire tunnel and through to Chalmers St, onto a coach for paid tickets and up to Albion St, (avoiding the hill). All the while observing the colourful characters attempting to scale the challenging Albion St in a bedazzling array of wigs, sequins, feathers and fierce heels.

Unfortunately there was quite a wait to get in at the Sideshow but I wasn’t too worried really. Lately I have taken to bringing fold up directors chairs to these public parades and events which enables seating anywhere at the front on the fence line – a VERY good strategy!

After a while the parade began, Dykes on Bikes opened up, then Boys on Bikes, Indigenous Australians and the 1978ers bused by.

It was getting pretty exciting, I was standing next to six super hot gay men – this was an interesting experience in itself! Men in the parade would spot them and flirt with them and they did the same back. Kind of instant and predatory behaviour – all in good fun though.

There were so many highlights but I got a real kick out of seeing my exes solar powered Sunny Bin wheelie bin sound systems charging down the street – so perfect for events like this.

And stunning Christine McQueen unmistakeable and bewigged at the front with an Asian contingent of marchers.

And my gorgeous client Steven happily sailing by with Northcott, a very important representation in the march.

I LOVE Mardi Gras, so if you’d like to come with me next year and feel the Mardi Gras passion feel free to get in touch.

Mwah and air kisses.

Karen x

 

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Last Saturday night in Sydney, we celebrated the 33rd annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. If you’ve never been, it is an enormous event, it has a fair day, a dance and several other events. The centre piece of the Mardi Gras is the parade. I am going to talk about the parade, comprised of around 135 floats which celebrate all the diversity available in the Gay and Lesbian community. Many people visit from overseas to be here. It brings millions of dollars into the Sydney economy. The Mardi Gras had humble beginnings as a march in 1978. My interest in Mardi Gras goes back many, many years. In my first job in the public service, I met a wonderful man “Paul”.

There were a few differences between us, I was a base grade clerical staff and Paul was the Officer In Charge. I was a teenager and he was in his early forties, I am straight and he was gay. Perhaps that is where our differences stopped. He lived in Dulwich Hill then and I live in Dulwich Hill now. It was the late eighties and we dressed outrageously and were fabulous, we both knew it so we got along famously. We liked all the same music and went to the same clubs. We were work colleagues who became personal friends. So it was heartbreaking when Paul was diagnosed with HIV + that became AIDS back in the late eighties. Not so much was known about it then. As he was a good public speaker with fairly high level job he did a bit of work talking about it on TV and media at the time. Paul was trialled on drugs like AZT but he didn’t know if he was getting the real drug or a placebo to treat his condition, it must have been a complete mind fuck. After he became to sick to work, I visited at him at home. I saw how his body visibally decombusted from the inside out. It was heartbreaking. The day he died I rang his phone but no one answered.

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Pauls’ wake was at the Mardi Gras work shop in 1990, celebrated by a group of his personal friends, he must have loved that. He gave me the poster you see in the picture, he is the guy in the orange veralls. Wow, that was what the Mardi Gras publicity looked like thirty years ago!

I always think of Paul at Mardi Gras. For a long time, I attended the Mardi Gras standing on a milk crate in Oxford St like everyone else. A few years ago I figured I could give something back to people like Paul who live with an illness but also the negative effects of discrimination, stigma and isolation.

The Bobby Goldsmith Foundation is a charitable organisation that helps to support people living with HIV +. It’s main fundraising event is the Glamorama area at the Mardi Gras. There are three areas at Glamorama, theres the Glamorama Stands, theres chairs down the front and there’s the Glamour Bar. I like the Glamour Bar best. I’ve been going for three years now, its full of warm wonderful people that are nice to you and you can have a drink and nibbles, there’s a DJ or entertainment and there’s clean toilets. This year, once again the MC was the amazing and totally FABULOUS Vanessa Wagner. Possessing a biting sense of humour and a sharp wit as well as being able to articulate another level of consciousness are the qualities that Vanessa has above others, as well, of course, as her obvious good looks.

There had been a late cancellation, my friend that was going with me has been sick and couldn’t make it, I absolutely understood the issue but I had to find another friend to take their place, luckily this was no problem.

My costume was very simple, a pair of Elton John Pink Flamingo glasses I picked up at Castro last year. This is them.

We prepared for the parade, Vanessa begins the commentary and we are taken through who are the real movers and shakers in the Gay and Lesbian community. As usual Dykes on Bikes lead, followed by the Boys on Bikes, then the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence on Sedgeways :O) An amazing spectacle of colour, sound and visual stimulation unfolded, Special shout out to the Whores, ACON and Clover Moore, great food was coming around and the bar was close by. All too soon the 78ers the orginal crowd that marched bused by. I thought of Paul once again.

Every couple of years I take up a straight job. Five years ago I worked as a Census Collector. My job involved dropping off and picking up data. I often met gay and lesbian couples asking the question why their relationship was not legally recognised? Well, don’t know, that’s an interesting question for the policy makers isn’t it? The issue of the discrimitive wording on the form and the interest in same sex marriage certainly was reported back to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Say something!

Happy Mardi Gras.