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Julia

May 1998

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

Because I only started considering myself gay at the beginning of this year, one thing I had never really paid any attention to was the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Although I had seen it on TV and talked about it with friends, it had never really meant anything to me, until this year. And yes, I was lucky enough to go. I went with a group of friends, who knew I was gay, although at this point I didn't know they knew, if that makes sense. Anyway, enough rambling, on with the good stuff.

We got into the city about an hour before the parade was due to start, and there were already thousands of people lining the streets. The atmosphere was electric. All sorts of people were there, old couples, parents with kids, teenagers,...... you get the idea. Even at this early hour there were people hanging out windows and climbing up trees just to get a better view of the spectacle that was about to come. Well, the time finally came for the parade to commence and to open it up came the one and only 'Dykes on Bikes'. The cheer from the crowd drowned out the roar of engines as they rode past, followed by countless floats and marching groups. There were so many that I've lost count of them all, but there were two groups in particular that caught my attention.

First was the Police marching group, it was so great to see them for the first time on the other side of the fence, participating in the parade. It was wonderful to see the pride in their faces and the joy of finally being recognized. You could actually sense the crowds encouragement and support. The second group has to be, of course, the marching Xenas! They were impossible to miss. Over one hundred Xenas, all leather, armor and muscle. They were quite a sight, believe me!

There wasn't a dull moment over the next couple of hours, it was one big party, with no distinction between anyone. For one night the whole of Sydney was united. I can't remember exactly everything that happened, but I do remember all the colors and sounds of music and cheering that were there throughout the parade. Every float was as exciting as the one before, offering a new insight into what it means to be gay. I know it certainly opened up my eyes to allot of things I hadn't thought about before. I remember one of the girls that went along, after meeting several gay people, saying, "I always thought gays were different, but they're not, they are exactly the same as us." Imagine how many other eyes it opened up.

You would think that there would be allot of protesters at the parade, but I think the exact figure was 16. That is 16 out of over a hundred thousand. Guess who wins? Anyway, I don't think any number of protesters could have dampened the spirit of everyone present. The amount of pride felt by everyone that night was immeasurable. It went a long way to restoring my faith in myself and my beliefs, and helped me become more accepted among my friends.

The great thing about the Mardi Gras is that it's not just gay people who go along and support it, so many straight people turn up, and it shows how accepted it is becoming. It is a great night to show the world that everyone is equal, as well as having a great time. I think I'm very lucky living in Australia, it has to be one of the most accepting country's of homosexuality in the world. On this one night I had never been more proud to be gay or to be an Australian. Well, that about wraps it up. If you do get the chance to go along to the biggest gay pride parade in the world, do so, it's an unforgettable experience.

Let me know if you have any comments or queries, or just want to chat. I'm always willing to meet new people, especially other gay teenagers.

Julia
jstevens@ozemail.com.au


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