A healthy society is one that values its own diversity and
treats all of its citizens with equal respect
It's baaaack. This weekend, Sydney's world-famous Mardi Gras parade
will once again snake its glittering way up Oxford and Flinders
Streets, no doubt cheered on by thousands of well-wishers.
The Mardi Gras parade has become a Sydney cultural icon, a touchstone
of pure fabulousness. It's a genuine homegrown event that people from
all over the world flock to Sydney to experience. But for all the
thousands of participants and visitors, for the multitude of feathers
and sequins involved, all that leather, lycra and lace, the parade's
overarching message remains surprisingly simple - just be you.
You don't have to be gay or lesbian to appreciate this sentiment –
it's something that can resonate with everyone. We spend a lot of time
and energy playing different roles, being someone (or
something) that we're not. We've become so used to
experiencing the world from behind the same couple of masks, that in
some cases we barely know who we really are anymore. And all of this
is mostly just to please others and to meet the expectations of polite
society. To fit in.
So an event that encourages us to throw the masks aside, even just
for one night, and celebrate our true inner selves, in all our colour
and weirdness, deserves to be embraced.
In the parade's 38-year history, this message of diversity and
inclusion hasn't changed. But much of society's attitudes towards
homosexuality have. It was a very different world back in 1978. Gays
and lesbians were mostly still pretty invisible. The first Mardi Gras
parade was organized to commemorate the 9th anniversary of
New York's infamous Stonewall riots, and itself ended with violence,
police brutality and 53 arrests.
Testament to how far we've come as a society since then, only last
month the NSW parliament finally issued an apology to the
"78ers", the men and women who bravely marched in that first
parade and were subjected to such brutal violence at the hands of the
The apology is an important step, but there are many areas in which
discrimination against gays and lesbians still exist. No doubt the
issue of same sex marriage will feature prominently in this weekend's
parade. It's these instances of discrimination that keep the parade
and associated festivities firmly anchored to their activist
beginnings and remind us all that there's still work to be done. A
healthy society is one that values its own diversity and treats all of
its citizens with equal respect. This is something that TAFE NSW has
always understood, and something that's reflected in its wonderfully
diverse student body.
In the meantime, there's still plenty of fun to be had, by anyone who
wants to indulge. Check out the ad on SBS for
their broadcast of the parade, which shows ordinary passersby
seeing the invisible sides of their personalities coming to fabulous
life in the reflection of a shop window. Now there's a perfect
embodiment of Mardi Gras' message. You really can be whoever you want