Beg, borrow or steal yourself a feather boa, stock up on glitter and apply your glossiest lippy
and that’s just the boys (bum-bum tsh). Mardi Gras is here.
On Saturday 7 March, Australia’s gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender and transsexual communities – not forgetting tens of thousands of heterosexuals – unite and glam up for the party of the year.
Festivities have been going on all month, but they culminate in the most famous bit – the parade. If you imagine that Sydney’s Mardi Gras is some sort of sequin-studded underground event that attracts a few hundred gawkers, think again. It’s huge.
If you’ve ever been to London’s Notting Hill Carnival you’ll have an idea of the toilet-queuing, rib-crushing, elbow-in-the-guts mayhem that ensues when thousands of people are all trying to get an eyeful of the same thing.
Last year the crowd was over 300,000, all trying to get a sneaky peak of the glitter-fest along Oxford Street.
But it’s worth it. From drag queens to dykes on bikes, the parade ranges from the outrageous to the… well, even more outrageous. The spirit of the occasion is infectious, joyous and unique and we defy even the most fascist homophobe not to crack a smile.
Indeed, beneath the camp whirl of glitter, lippy and rainbow flags, Mardi Gras is a deeply political event.
Back in 1978 Oxford Street hosted a march both celebrating International Gay Solidarity Day and commemorating the New York Stonewall riots (where gays barricaded police inside a New York bar to protest against their treatment). Protestors called for an end to discrimination, yet the march ended in near riot with 100 people arrested.
The Sydney Morning Herald promptly outed all 100. As homosexuality was a crime in New South Wales until 1982 (until 1997 in Tasmania) many lost their jobs. Undeterred, they marched again the following year. And every year since.
Even now opposition exists, mainly from conservative Christian sources. For example, Reverend Fred Nile, a politician and former minister of the Uniting Church in Australia, prays for rain to cancel the event every year.
The route begins at Hyde Park, goes up Oxford St and ends at Moore Park Road and the parade kicks off at 7.45pm.
Take up your position very early (two days before the event is fine), consider lessons in stilt-walking and start hoarding milk crates now.
People congregate along the route from the afternoon, hovering around barriers and being politely controlled by the ever-patient Mardi Gras stewards. Every man, woman and dog has a milk crate under their arm, to balance on for a better view.
So, if you’re bothered about actually seeing the parade be prepared to mark your territory early, or make friends with someone who has a balcony on the parade route.
In truth, seeing the whole glittery spectacle is not the only point of the evening. The atmosphere alone is worth the crush.
Exclamations of “Happy Mardi Gras!” and air kisses galore mark the night when everyone’s best-dressed, buffed and smiling. There’s a genuine sense of acceptance and a warm fuzzy feeling fills the air. You’re also encouraged to leave glass bottles at home.
The golden rule for the big night is: go with an open mind.
More info: Visit www.mardigras.org.au/