Supporting LGBTI youth at Mardi Gras and beyond
Four weeks ago, I was travelling in Switzerland, and quite by accident, came across an annual festival full of music, costumes, floats and dancing that has its tradition in driving away the evil spirits that have settled over the town in the previous year. At least, that was how it was explained to me.
Its colour and noise reminded me vividly of my experiences of Mardi Gras – bright, colourful and full of energy, excitement and months of preparation from so many people, from so many walks of life, that rain or shine, it is always an event to be remembered. Mardi Gras celebrates so much within our communities – its diversity, its spirit and its strength, butalso, if we look out for it, can show us the lives of those people who are still not included within our communities; may not choose to be a part of our communities; or feel that they are unable to do so. Mardi Gras gives us all a chance to look at ourselves and our world and see where there is still work to be done.
Twenty10 has had a big lesson over the past couple of weeks in the work that still has to be done. It has been a long and slow process for our organisation to find its feet in Western Sydney. It has taken years of hard work and even more so, incredible bravery and strength from staff, volunteers and young people alike to carve out a place for themselves to feel safe, supported and not a long train trip away from home. What happened at the Parramatta River Festival threatened not only that hard work, but also the safety of the space that had been created – however tenuous – for people to start finding ways to be themselves within their local community. As an organisation, we now turn to finding a way to undo the messages that this will have sent to so many people, who will have read about this event and taken it in some way to heart.
And that is why I am looking forward to Mardi Gras this year. It is a bold, energetic and dazzling moment that celebrates diversity and provides something for people to look towards, if they have not yet found that place to be themselves in this world. I will be looking forward to our Glitter Ball on Friday, February 15, as the chance for young folk to celebrate in a way that is just for them; and I hope that amidst the celebrations, we also take a moment to stop and think about the people who we do not see, and that we find ways to have conversations with them about how we can collectively shape the world to make it a safer place for them to be themselves.