Gay and Lesbian Month
The words ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ may be missing from the title, but that’s not enough to take away the essence and point of Sydney Mardi Gras.
Gay plays are opening, SX is fattening up, gyms are spewing out hot men and toned women, it looks like rain... yep, it’s February, and Mardi Gras is upon us.
As usual, there is controversy. No Mardi Gras would be complete without it. This year a number of surveys indicate that members would overwhelmingly like to see the words ‘Gay’ and ‘Lesbian’ returned to the title of the event. I can understand why MG thought the simple ‘Sydney Mardi Gras’ would be more inclusive of other sexual minorities and our straight friends and supporters, but instead of being all-inclusive it turned out to be too generalised. People actually felt excluded (except Young People, who were kind of distracted by this amazing thing on YouTube while they were being surveyed and were like… ‘Say what?’). One good thing about the title Sydney Mardi Gras: it reminded you where Mardi Gras actually was so you didn’t go looking for the parade in Dubbo by mistake.
Inclusion as a principle is fine, but you always have to ask the question: what are we celebrating? We are not celebrating sexual practices – they just need to be practiced. Nor is it an open door for anyone who has a cause, no matter how worthwhile that cause may be. Nor, I think (and so does MG) is it about including people who believe extraterrestrial aliens programmed us to have sex with anything that moves faster than a turtle. That’s just not true! I have a direct line to those aliens. They frequently offer me career advice. I can tell you for a fact, extraterrestrials arepuzzled by human sexuality. They don’t understand it because they reproduce another way, which I can’t go into right now because it is too complicated. (It involves four-dimensional scrabble.)
So what does Mardi Gras celebrate? I would argue that it celebrates identity. There is no getting away from the fact that many males identify as gay and many females as lesbian. February is the month when we can take our identity out of mothballs, give it a good shake, expose it to the sunlight and get enjoyment out of it. Young people may shy away from the terms gay and lesbian... but when they settle into a long-term same-sex relationship, as many will, that’ll change. You’ve got to call yourself something! If you don’t, you end up explaining your unique nature in tedious, repetitive detail and risk becoming pretentious.
Mardi Gras also celebrates itself, and that is a very positive thing. In 1978 the early gay activists and revolutionaries had no tradition. They invented one in a protest march where they manned the barricades and actually sang live. Now we have 35 years of an evolving affirmation: 35 years of triumphs and setbacks, legislative breakthroughs and decimating plague, friendship and heartbreak and memories of unforgettable nights where we met the one true love of our life, where the most beautiful person we’d ever seen somehow slipped through our fingers, where the diva we had worshipped since childhood sang just for us. How did this happen? Because gays and lesbians demanded their space, decided to be proud of their sexual identity and did a shitload of hard work to prove it. We still do. By all means watch our parade. Join us at our party. We are inclusive to a great extent but don’t forget: this is ours.