“What are you doing tonight?, Mardi Gras of course!, Pfffft, Mardi Gras”

This was the exchange i had with a friend the afternoon of Mardi Gras, i flinched when i first read the comment, by the next morning i was quite angry about it. As per usual there was the last minute flurry of who was going, who wasn’t, and of course the friends who say they aren’t going who always end up with a smear of lippy, and a tail of tinsel hanging out of there ass, with ticket clutched in hand.

Maybe i fail my basic ‘Gay ABC’s’ because i never stress who is playing at the party, where, when and what DJ is playing, and most distressingly what I’m wearing, my main concern is, ‘How many friends are going?, hope to catch up with some old ones, and maybe make some new ones’ and that’s really it.

I can’t go to these parties and just switch off, in fact i can’t do anything switched off, I’m always observing, always contemplative, I’ve been thinking about this recently, and weather or not this is a good or bad thing, I’m going to run with good, i seem to be able to do this internally, while the outside facade has a great time partying.

I had to travel in by train, talk about a melting pot of loon’s, Queens, moperer’s, hard core Dykes, bewildered straits, drunk supportive strait guys and girls, drunk homophobic assholes (they know they want it) but a melting pot none the less, and that’s a great thing. I stared out the train window, and watched the people squish into the cramped carriage.

I had a big smile on my face, because all these people were getting on at suburban train stations, and many of them were dressed up, and also dressed down (in the best possible way), I realized ‘This is a chance for people who normally wouldn’t have a chance, to get in touch with there inner filth’, it’s a night where you have an excuse to dress up as Snow White, or as a tart with a heart, to stretch the norm, and to feel that it’s okay to step outside the box, even if it is for one night, it’s a taste of freedom, and hopefully a taste of ‘Fuck you!’.

This is what i hope is felt by the strait community who come to party, or to show support, they’re the ones who need to spread the word that’s it’s okay to be ‘different’, we feel it, they need to understand it.

For all the problems Mardi Gras has with some anti social behavior, I’m certain the good that is done by smooshing all these people together, far outweighs a public pissing incident in Taylor Square, or an inappropriate fondling of a police horse, you see, it’s all about visibility, and normalization.

I know normalization is an odd word to use in relation to Mardi Gras, by that i mean, people seeing that no matter how dressed up, how outlandish the behavior, how confrontational, it really all comes down to people wanting to be treated equally, that not everyone has to conform, and most importantly that no matter how far the boundaries are pushed, the sky hasn’t, and won’t fall. Someone way smarter than i once said ‘Change comes slowly’, maybe that should be ‘real change’, because tho on the surface things may look okay, even great in some instances, the truth is there is a lot more work to be done, before even the deepest and most hidden seams of homophobia are exposed and defused.

Mardi Gras (no matter the politics of the organization) plays a huge roll in this process, it’s a reminder to people, like ‘Pffft, Mardi Gras’ friend, that there is still work to be done, we still have a lot of yelling to do, petitions to sign, hearts to reset, minds to reprogram, or hopefully gently massage towards the direction of equality, and addressing what is essentially a disparity in our human rights.

I don’t care if the floats are shit, i don’t care if some of it has been seen before, i don’t even care if NAIR hair removal cream paid top coin for a float, to subliminally entice all those unmanscaped, glorious, strait guys to get a smear of pink cream on there ball bag, to smooth out a wooly nut (actually, i do care about that .. a lot, and for all the wrong reasons).

At work the following Monday I overheard a class of fifteen 18-23 year old trade students all talking about Mardi Gras, some grizzled that there girlfriends dragged them along, some recounted the fun they had, some recoiled as they relived the memory of seeing their first Leather Daddy, and a few protested a little too much (Shhh, I won’t tell) but they were talking, it was stilted sometimes, and a few you could hear the hesitancy in there voices, as they tried not to let on how much fun they really had, but these guys were ‘talking’ and they are ‘exactly’ why we need less ‘Pffft’ and more visibility, because it’s people like these guys who need to be comfortable in and around the GLBTI community, and a big party, with tinsel, and glitter, and flashing lights is just the way to slowly show them that ‘It’s okay’, it’s like the old psychological trick of exposure therapy for those with phobia’s, if you’re exposed to something long enough, it simply becomes mundane, ordinary and accepted.

We have to be seen, we have to keep moving forward, that’s what i picture as the parade lurches, farts and backfires up the street, i see people moving forward, P-FLAG mum’s dad’s, nana’s, grand dad’s, same sex couples with kids, young GLBTI kid’s marching for the first time, the aged in the community, the Bears, the twinks, the Dykes on bikes, all moving together.

Until myself, And family, and friends in the GLBTI community can move as freely as our strait brothers and sisters can ‘anywhere’ we wish, until I, and those who share a differing sexual attraction, or are gender diverse, are ‘completely’ comfortable, safe, and at ease with displays of loving affection, then we still have work to do, ‘Well enough’ is not ‘Good enough’, not in homophobia, not in sexism, not in racism (insert your own ‘Ism’ here) even ‘Pffft-ism’.

Later at the party I was very aware of a brotherhood and sisterhood, an energy. I was greeted at the gate by an ‘Emotional baggage handler’, where I was asked to check in any woes or emotional baggage I may be bring, no matter if it was Louis Vuitton, the baggage was to stay at the door, and before me lay our special little land, a little corner of the universe in Moore Park, where all the things I mention above are real (well, sort of, at least you get a glimpse of the promise of it), it’s a little pocket of what (with a little tweaking) things could, and should one day be (more) like.

It was so empowering, and so joyous, to see the shy, the outrageous, the happy, the sad, the gay, the strait, the Bi, the intersex, the transgender, the ‘whatever’ all moving and flowing with each other, no looks down noses, no looking over shoulders to see who might be following you for holding hands.

I gasped and glowed, as I watched just your average guys and girls walking around comfortably, and proudly, holding hands, looking like anyone on the street, that’s what myself and others fought for, and worked for all those years ago, that’s ‘all’ I really wanted, nothing more, nothing less, than anyone else on the street, all I wished and worked towards was a time when your average guys could be seen walking along proudly, lovingly, and adoringly holding hands, for the life of me I cant see why people would fight against that, or be afraid of it.

What i saw as i danced, were others all dancing in time to the same music, i looked at these guys holding hands, some from ethnic backgrounds which i could only imagine how tough it may have been, or could be, to be out and safe. I saw older guys who had obviously seen first hand the horrors of HIV, i saw young girls wearing t shirts saying ‘I haven’t told my boyfriend yet’, i saw happily married, strait couples dancing with us to show love and support, and i saw people who perhaps this was the only time, and space they could feel this freedom.

I knew when we left this space that we’d be leaving a little more empowered, a little more aware, and maybe, hopefully able to take this awareness into the outside world, and slowly, but surely show the world that ‘It’s okay, it’s going to be alright, you have nothing to fear, but so much to gain’

So, here’s raising a glass to the world’s biggest exposure therapy party, long may you run.

Ps/ yes that was me at 2.00am standing in front of the Gozleme stall, staring for half an hour, waiting for a show to begin, it’s Mardi Gras, you get that.

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4 Responses to “MARDI GRAS 2011 (AKA, GOZLEME AU GO GO):”

  1. Melyssa. says:

    I sliiiiiiiiggghhhtttlllyyyyy disagree with you in this post. Although the whole time I was reading it I wanted to throw my fist in the air, rip my bra off and ride a Harley down the street I realised I slightly disagree with you at the same time.

    For instance, I like being different and I know a lot of other gays who also like the fact that being gay makes them different to others.

    I hate being assumed hetero as much as a hetero would hate to be assumed gay. I don’t think there’s an equality there at all. I hate the fact that one must categorise themselves but honestly, I think deep down there’s something inherent in most gays that is proud to be different- evident by Mardi Gras night.

    To some, it’s not about bridging the gap, it’s about letting the freak flag fly safely. Whether they actually want equal rights and gay marriage and would live it out as “normal” marriage and not actually call it “gay” marriage is a different thing also. Same, same but different.

    I don’t know. I just think the two can never meet. Not when one wants to dress up in ridiculous costume that even if they were straight would garner negative responses for being outside the norm, and say ‘look at me i’m just like everyone else’… not when someone goes out there and does things that make ‘their type’ seem just like the stereotypes that a lot of people, even within their own community, dislike…

    I get what you’re saying but I think the exposure needs to be something like “Trail A Gay Day” where people go round with a gay person for the day and see that their day to day situations and life are just normal like everyone else. Not that one day a year we all dress up in fanciful ideas of what gay is and splash it out there. that’s not what being gay looks like to me. And it’s not an image I want others of having about gay people either.

    Get me?

    All in all, I love what you wrote. It was beautiful to read and made me even more proud of you. You gay.


  2. Mitchell Macaulay says:

    I would like to firstly thank you for your words. I agee with every word you say. I had my first march in 2011, and found that the energy within the whole parade is amazing and you feel on top of the world. And i hope that one day (sooooon) we can all live in peace and harmoney and be able to be who we want to be and not live in fear, make it easier for GBLTI teens to say to their families “im gay!” and not be sucked into a mental trauma about it.

    I am going to forward this to EVERYONE i know and make sure that people are aware of what you have said, you are very inspiring, and i thank you once again for your words

    Kind Regards

    Mitch xo

  3. greg says:


    Not to defend anything posted, because I stand by what was written, but more to expand on, or clarify a couple of points, I don’t entirely disagree with what you’re saying either Lys.

    I ‘think’ I know some of what you may disagree with, I’m totally proud of my Queer heritage, and protective of it’s history, I’d never want to see the GLBTI community ‘Beige out’ or continue to be anything less than different, fantastic and unique, or I’d at least like them to have the opportunity to be all those things without fear or consequence. Not for a second do I want to see us levelled out and constricted by our ‘acceptance’, we are a unique group of people, with an amazing history, I don’t want to see that forgotten, just for the chance to have a nice house in the burbs, with a perfect car, and perfect pecs to match (tho if you do want that, more power to you, just so long as you are ‘allowed’ to do it.)

    “To some, it’s not about bridging the gap, it’s about letting the freak flag fly safely”.

    Long may the freak flag fly, long may we not conform, but i think for it to be flown even more safely, a little sting still needs to be taken out of the homophobes tail, I don’t think in my original post I used the word ‘conform’, perish the thought, but I do believe ‘exposure therapy’ can play a big part in watering down the venomous tail.

    I understand the concerns of many about our representation in the parade, my understanding of if, and acceptance of it, comes about because, if we were ‘forced’ down the street, or if we were really doing it for self loathing reason’s or ‘Look at me! Look at me!, love me!!’ I’d be pretty uncomfortable with that, I said in my earlier post, a lot of it’s about colour and movement, to get people looking, a lot of it could be people dipping there toes in to fly the freak flag for the first time, a lot of what I see in the parade is full on camp history, and tradition, being played out under our noses and upturned milk crates, I think a healthy dose of the crowd is also smart enough to get the message of how silly some of the old feelings, fears, prejudices are, the GLBTI is still very much a sub group in larger society, to be able to fly the freak flag, we have to wear down the fear, I’m not suggesting a boiler maker is going to become instant besties with flaming queen (remember, change comes really slow), but it’s about the non freak flag wavers becoming comfortable enough to allow the waving, and I’m seeing it, the class I mentioned, all guys 18 -23 all discussing Mardi Gras, some agreeing, some disagreeing, but all thinking about it, all discussing it, that’s a huge step.

    So sure, the pissed strait guy from Blacktown on the sidelines might be looking at a shimmying twink in ball separating lycra, and he may very well be that stupid to think the guy walks around like that 24/7, but maybe somewhere in the parade he’d see a sign from a suburban mum, in blown Homey Peds carrying a sign saying, ‘I love my son’, or he may see me holding up a sign reading ‘If Liza Minelli can marry two gay men, why can’t I marry just one?’, we can’t sprinkle woofle dust on people and make them smart and accepting, but we can trick some of them into thinking about some issues they may have chosen to ignore before.

    I understand your ‘Trail a gay day’, but around me that happens, once people find out I’m gay, I guess they do look at you a little more intently for a while, just to see what is so different, usually they’ve known me for a while, and when they find out, and that nothing about me is going to change, and if they accepted me as I was, then they seem to be able to accept me as I am, I think that’s what I meant when I used the tern ‘Normalization’, not ‘conform’, it’s fear of change, or fear of the unknown that unsettles a lot of people, when people work out it’s business as usual with there gay friends, or the ones they’ve just made, it won’t feel so ‘abnormal’ to them.

    I’m not sure about the word ‘acceptance’ it sounds like the larger community doing us a favor, I like the term ‘comfortable’ with us, or ‘Ease’ and that’s what I feel we still need to strive for, with that level of comfort will come a greater freedom for us, to be able to step outside the box if and when we want, to be more safe on the streets, to be more equal before the law.

    Our community has change so much in such a short space of time, it was only 1984 that Homosexuality was decriminalized in New South Wales, so there is a whole lot of history of hate, distrust and illigalty around us, it’s changing, but not enough to take our eye off the ball yet, and if it takes crackers, and tinsell, and shit drag, and guts bursting out of skin tight rubber suits to get people to look, laugh and be aware, then I’m okay with that, the fucking idiots looking on thinking that’s reality will probably never have there minds or hearts changed, they’ll be the (hopefully) smaller sub group still bashing and murdering in twenty years time.

    So sure, I don’t like the thought of some people on the sidelines looking at us shaking and dancing our asses up the street, thinking that is ‘really’ us and that’s ‘all’ we are, I like even less the fact that there are always going to be people out there so stupid, so emotionally unevolved that they won’t realize that what they’re watching is theatre, or a display of our Camp culture and all it’s humour, patho’s and ‘In your fucking face!!’. We could walk up Oxford St in beige Safari suits, with white slip on shoes, quietly begging the crowd to love us, but there would still be haters.

    Greg xoxo

  4. Melyssa. says:

    Woofle dust.

    That’s going in one of my essays this year for sure. Woofle dust. Lovelovelove :)

    I know what you’re saying, and I knew exactly what you meant from your original post… I just had to play a little lesbian-devils-advocate for the sake of a part of me being all “I’m the only gay in the village.”

    I mean shit, you’re talking to the non-biological mother of a boy who’s the first kid to have two mums on his birth certificate in NSW (Australia maybe? Or just NSW? Hmmm… must look into that!). I of all people understand the sheer power of giving equal rights. And to this day, when I have to show his birth certificate to someone for something, it still blows my mind that it even eventuated to this. As you said, only 27 years ago it wasn’t even legal to BE gay.

    I don’t know. I agree with many things, I want many things for us… but at the same time, I want to be acknowledged that we’re different and unique. It’s a hard smooshing of emotions.

    Also, I think it’s just easier in general for a dyke to be saying this. No one really gives a fuck if I hold my partner’s hand or we have a kid together. Sure, there’s the occasional “you’ll burn in hell” statement, but that’s a religious connotation that I don’t much care for let alone believe in. If they told me karma will get me because I’m gay, it might scare me a bit more than a hell I don’t believe in. You know?

    My point to that was- lesbians are seen as male fantasies in media and everyday life. Gay men are either flamboyant or too busy blowing each other to cope in society. Sad reality. It’s the only thing I believe men have it harder for. Maybe it makes up for the fact that equality still doesn’t even run through to wages and employment for women. We have to make up for it by being portrayed as fantasies.

    I want a baby, and no one will make it legal for me to go through IVF because I’m a lesbo… no worries. Advertise for sperm and go about your day.

    You want a baby, and no one will legalise so that you can adopt or advertise for a quick, easy and non-legally-binding surrogacy… tough shit. You can’t.

    I understand the ease with which lesbians can live. More so than guys.

    Sad. Heartbreaking.

    We all need a good woofle dusting.

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