There has been a whole lot of kerfuffle about Sydney Mardi Gras name change and rebranding yesterday. New Mardi Gras has reverted it’s name back to “Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras”, has changed their logo, and is attempting to be more inclusive.
The name change, although not inclusive of the diversity of Mardi Gras, is more relevant than “New Mardi Gras”, the name Mardi Gras had been operating under for almost ten years (after the original Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras nearly collapsed). Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has stated that they feel “GLBTIQ” or similar acronyms were not inclusive enough, and excluded those who did not wish to be labelled.
New Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Logo
The logo is an infinity symbol made from two hearts, which is far more poignant, relevant, and aesthetically pleasing, than the previous representation of the Sydney Opera house.
The inclusivity is where the controversy comes in. Mardi Gras stated aim is to encourage those who share their beliefs to participate; whether they be straight people with respect for diversity, or people who do not fall into a neat category under GLBTIQ. This is a noble goal – gender and sexual diversity should be celebrated, and we shouldn’t have to be segregated to do so.
However, practically, this is likely to lead to a commercial, soulless, parade. Already the likes of banks, and flat-pack furniture stores, are guided into the parade for their financial contribution on the flimsy premise of being a pro-LGBTIQ company, whilst smaller groups are turned away for reasons that often amount to ‘being too radical’. Well, flimsy premise no longer required! Gather around as a stream of soulless commercial logos drive past – it’s live advertising in 3D!
There are numerous people outraged about being ‘sold out’ by Mardi Gras in this manner, and whilst for some people I think this is a valid outcry; activists whose entries were turned away as too radical, people who had been marching for years with small community groups, not-for-profits, and NGOs, for others who had turned their backs on Mardi Gras years ago, I don’t understand the sense of betrayal. If your activism goes no further than patronising the most popular inner city queer bars, then the difference in parade probably wont make any difference to you. If you’re involved in a local inner west ground roots organisation that rejected Mardi Gras participation as too commercial, well, then you’re exactly where you were before; your focus is on your local community, you only promote yourselves locally, and this changes nothing.
I have been participating in Mardi Gras for the last 8 years because as a child out in a semi-rural area, I wasn’t exactly surrounded by warm and fuzzy opinions of queerness. I didn’t know anyone who openly identified as anything other than a heterosexual cis-person, and there certainly wasn’t a gay bar in town – there wasn’t even one in the next major city. But on Mardi Gras night I got to sit in front of the television, despite my homophobic and transphobic father, and watch real live gay people out in the streets. Existing! Openly! Dancing around and being happy, and existing. This is what I worry we we lose. We will lose that kid in the country who knows their the opinions around them are wrong, that the way people are living around them isn’t the only way, but doesn’t think this will ever be fixed, or that there’s any place where things are different.
There are a number of ways a commercial non-queer focussed parade can be combated:
- An active protest at the parade, which will work if there are sufficient numbers (difficult, to say the least), but will lead to arrests.
- Actively lobbying New Mardi Gras to adhere to clearer, inclusive, non-capital driven guidelines. Volunteering to help make these happen, if necessary.
- Flooding the parade with the type of entries you would like to see. Joining your local organisation, painting some signs, or printing some t-shirts – getting the messages out there you think need to be heard.
- Organising an alternative event embodying the radical attitude of the original Mardi Gras parade.