Second ban prompts group to speak out against Mardi Gras
A group prevented from taking part in the Mardi Gras Parade have spoken out against Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (SGLMG), questioning whether the current event carries the “integrity” and “purpose” of the original march.
Artist and activist Luke Roberts, the spokesperson for ARAMIS (the Raëlian Association of Sexual Minorities), has this week written an open letter, seen by SX, to the board of SGLMG after the Raëlian movement had their parade float entry rejected for the second year in a row.
The float included a banner with the words ‘HOMOPHOBIA is criminal Bible bullshit’ and featured several symbols of major Abrahamic faiths including a cross, the Star of David and a crescent, representing Christianity, Judaism and Islam respectively.
It was rejected by SGLMG last year over concerns of the “expression of their message, not their message”, in particular the placement of mainstream religious symbols within the banner.
At the time SGLMG co-chair Peter Urmson rejected claims of increasing censorship of the event which began as a protest for gay and lesbian rights.
Roberts, a participant in the original Mardi Gras in 1978 and who is also well known as his alter-ego Pope Alice, told SX that unlike last year’s controversy, however, SGLMG were not even willing to enter into a dialogue about entering an alternate float this year.
“Admittedly the proposed slogan was also rejected last year, but the Raëlian Movement had positively hoped that enough changes had taken place both inside Mardi Gras itself and the socio-political scene in Australia and internationally to highlight the salient need for free expression of GLBTQ communities’ concerns about religious homophobia,” he said.
Roberts said that in just the past 12 months, the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict had on numerous occasions claimed homosexuality was destroying the very “essence of the human creature” while in Australia church leaders were still trying to maintain their right to indiscriminately discriminate against LGBTI people.
“By questioning the integrity and purpose of the Raelian Movement in relation to the core values of the Parade, Mardi Gras begs the question of its own integrity and its current purpose,” he said.
“The original spirit of Mardi Gras is being lost and the revolutionary energy for much-needed change appears to have been hijacked by corporate funding and government interests.”
SGLMG failed to respond to SX’s requests for comment.
Until last year, ARAMIS had taken part in 12 consecutive Mardi Gras parades.
The Raëlian movement teaches that life on Earth was scientifically created by a species of extraterrestrials, called the Elohim, who in ancient religious texts have been mistaken for angels or gods. It was started by French motor sports journalist Claude Vorilhon, who changed his name to Raël ( meaning ‘messenger of the Elohim’), after he experienced what he has said was an extraterrestrial encounter in December 1973.
The group also believe in sexual self-determination, encourage adult homosexual, bisexual, transgender and heterosexual relationships and believe that society should recognise them legally.
Last week, Mardi Gras faced criticism from Oxford Street gay venues, who expressed disappointment at being excluded from this year’s Mardi Gras visitors’ booklet, as well as from Mardi Gras members over the dropping of the words ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ from the title of the festival and parade.
AN EDITED EXTRACT OF THE OPEN LETTER SENT TO SGLMG:
Dear Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras,
Thank you for your recent letter outlining the specific “What Mardi Gras won't do” and “What Mardi Gras will do” clauses, which are the reasons for rejecting the ARAMIS (Raëlian Association of Religious Minorities) Expression of Interest in the Parade.
Whilst many people see the Pope of Rome as a joke these days he still has an unfortunate and powerful influence on opinion and decision-making. Ironically his supporters also seem to influence Mardi Gras, despite the pope’s slanderous, discriminating edicts against homosexuals and transgender peoples and the formation of a Royal Commission to investigate pedophilia within the Church.
According to the head of the Christian Lobby, the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard recently assured religious groups they would have the ''freedom'' under a new rights bill to discriminate against homosexuals and others they deem sinners. The federal government is also proposing anti-discrimination laws that would leave transgender people vulnerable to discrimination.
“Homophobia is criminal Bible bullsh*t” doesn’t imply that the Bible is all “bullsh*t”, it simply highlights that there are at least some parts which are obvious lies and deliberately misleading. The word bullshit is understood by most people to refer to a blatant lie, a flagrant untruth, an obvious fallacy, nonsense or exaggeration etc.
The Raëlian religion also relies on key sections of the Bible, as well as sections of the Koran and many other religious scriptures in its philosophy. However we denounce homophobia in any form and particularly religious homophobia, which is so virulent, so blatant and based on misinterpretations and fear-mongering.
By combining the opposite values of love and homophobia, homophobic religions create toxic messages and mental conflict in impressionable minds. “Criminal Bible bullsh*t” is hardly an adequate term for the horrors homophobic religions inflict on the vulnerable to this day.
By questioning the integrity and purpose of the Raëlian Movement in relation to the core values of the Parade, Mardi Gras begs the question of its own integrity and its current purpose. The original spirit of Mardi Gras is being lost and the revolutionary energy for much-needed change appears to have been hijacked by corporate funding and government interests. It seems Mardi Gras is losing sight of the core reasons, which had made the formation of the Mardi Gras protest and consequent Parade necessary in the first place.
In its 35th year it’s time to review not only the proposed name change, but also Mardi Gras itself. Is Mardi Gras still a full expression of Gay and Lesbian core values and concerns? Does it still have integrity and purpose in relation to the objectives of the original Parade? Is it censoring the expression of some serious GLBTQ concerns? Is it a national GLBTQ event celebrated by GLBTQ communities across the country, or is it to be simply a Sydney Mardi Gras event in a country where GLBTQ peoples remain freely targeted by religious bigotry and where same-sex marriage is outlawed?
Australia professes to treat its citizens equally, but equality doesn’t exist here for gay, lesbian and transgender peoples. We feel Mardi Gras is muzzling our outcry to be free of religious persecution and discrimination and to have equal rights.
Mardi Gras was created for the sexual liberation of humanity. Lets keep it this way. Or rather make it a more efficient and a more powerful tool for change. It is the mission we, as GLBTQ communities, have entrusted to the Mardi Gras Board and we still have a long way to go to achieve true equality.
Luke Roberts (aka Pope Alice)