It was an early rise for Sunday morning, especially after working long hours the day before. However it was well worth the effort to be able to participate in a major civic event on the final official day of World Pride Sydney 2023. I met my two friends Ann Maree and Michele at Central Station, to join 50,000 of our closest friends, to walk across the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge to the Domain.
This was the first time in 23 years that the Harbour Bridge had been closed to traffic. Participants marched in solidarity for the LGBTQA+ community, in honour of past, present and continuing struggles both here and internationally, particularly in places where the rights of members of our community fall far behind the respect given in Australia (you know who you are!)
It was an exhilarating experience to be in unison with so many. The crowd was colourful and joyful. The weather was superb and the walk was the perfect bit of exercise for a Sunday morning.
As I walked, I thought about those people in other parts of the world who do not experience the freedoms that we enjoy here in this country. I then thought about all those in Australia who weren’t as lucky as us right now, being able to congregate under the banner of LGBTQA+ and march together, but instead have had to lead a life of non-acceptance and vilification. I thought about those who have had to endure social exclusion and even violent attacks, those who lost their lives, or the many hardships and painful journeys. It’s good to be able to clock just how far we have come, to act as a reminder to be vigilant in our protection of our hard fought freedoms.
More than 300 people came together at the Ivy Ballroom in Sydney on 17 August to celebrate LGBTQ community members whose work has made a difference to the lives of sexually and gender diverse people in NSW.
The Sydney Star Observer printed my portrait of Laura Hart, winner of the Arts & Entertainment Award, on the cover of the September issue of the magazine. Laura was acknowledged for her contribution to nurturing and developing “drag king” culture in NSW. After the ACON award presentations, I photographed Laura and several other winners in a make-shift studio I set up in the foyer area of the Ivy.
Prior to Saturday’s official Mardi Gras Parade at the Sydney Cricket Ground, a grass roots protest march made its way along the traditional route down Oxford Street.
In 1978 the first Mardi Gras was primarily a protest for gay and lesbian rights with the involvement of the transgender and Aboriginal communities. Yesterday’s protest shows that there is still more work to be done in respect to homophobia, transphobia, mandatory detention of refugees, indigenous rights, decriminalisation of sex work and heavy handed treatment by police.
The spirit of protest, vigilance and social change is at the core of Mardi Gras but it is still a time for celebration and dressing up.
One of my favourite placards carried by a protester was: “The only good cop is a stripper in uniform”
Rather than photographing the parade, this year at Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, I photographed the spectators gathered at Taylors Square, the hub of the procession.
I embraced the importance of an event where people from all different walks of life come together to celebrate a sense of community with joy and pride. It’s more than political. It not only reinforces the idea we are all in this together it provides an opportunity to shed the hum-drum and throw your hands in the air without shame.
The following crowd images are a quick selection of some of my favorites….
In the wake of the gaffes at the 2017 Oscars, JONATHAN TURNER provides the commentary and presents the awards, maintaining his unofficial prerogative to announce the wrong winners.
Once again, Mardi Gras has come and gone. And once again, an international crew attended our annual Garry Scale Memorial Fruit Stand on Flinders Street. With impeccable tardiness, Garry Scale arrived late. This year, the viewing stand was further protected from the elements and riff-raff thanks to Lachlan’s excellent Do-It-Yourself capabilities, and a shocking pink marquee. Lachlan said he liked the scene at pre-Parade Bunnings on Saturday morning, with squadrons of poofs assembling floats on utes, working in the parking lane normal reserved for legit carpenters and plumbers.
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Live from the Parade
2017 was a parade in celebration of gay Tradies, furbies, nurses with over-sized pills, pin-ups, twinks, Ricky Martin, Wonder Woman, mirror balls, gaybies, transgender school-kids, Andy Warhol, otters, unicorns, corporate bankers, balloons, Xena the Warrior Princess, that cute Tarzan guy carrying the ACON flag on his dick, firemen and other strippers.
Different floats were flamboyantly dedicated to different countries – Brazil, Canada, Indonesia, Israel, Slovenia, a floating island of Polynesians, the Tiwi Island Sistagirls in ceremonial garb, Ireland, Finland, Scotland, Thailand and The Netherlands as our orange-clad ambassadors to the free world.
We screamed at our glamorous Mardi Gras Ambassadors Cindy Pastel, Trevor Ashley and cheesy Bob Downe riding in their rainbow-painted drop-top Holdens. Proud American country-singer Steve Grand also drove past. He has recently been complaining that people don’t take him seriously as a singer, and we only want to see his six-pack abs. Well Steve darling, if you don’t want to be objectified, then maybe you shouldn’t take your shirt off in front of 300,000 screaming people, rub oil on your torso, and then post all the photos on social media.
Mardi Gras Ambassador – Courtney Act
Officially and unofficially, at Mardi Gras there were lots of cops, thankfully not all of them with sniffer dogs. There were several marching police groups, and the George Michael Freedom float featured a large contingent impersonating George as the L.A. cop in his brilliantly controversial Outside music video. But definitely the gayest vehicle in the entire 2017 Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade was the hunky silver NSW Police Audi coupe’, complete with fluorescent checkerboard signage, driven by two grinning uniformed officers who had recently had their teeth whitened.
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There were lots of sporty bits.
Heaps of Olivia Newton-John inspired “Let’s Get Physical” aerobics outfits.
Two Olympic gold-medal divers Greg Louganis AND Matthew Mitcham attended the Garry Scale Memorial Fruit Stand.
Various water polo and footie teams marched past. And Ian Roberts ruled the NRL float, a man who deserves our eternal respect as being the first man to unabashedly come out in any of the international football leagues while still at the top of his game. More than two decades ago, like a Titan, he smashed down the closet door. Roberts remains humble, honest and, for a former Manly front row player, erudite. He ain’t no saint, but he might as well be. After all, our only official Aussie saint is dull old Mary McKillop, who was just a jumped-up school teacher who liked kangaroos.
All the red-and-yellow lifesavers dancing around their “Kiss of Life” float were performing the same hand-signals as the cabin crew on the Qantas float with Troye Sivan. Sivan is our home-grown singer, song-writer, teenaged Wolverine and YouTube wunderkind. Were the Qantas hostesses and Bondi lifesavers all signalling to indicate the nearest 747 exit, or telling us to bring in the buoys?
Icons – Ricky Martin (wax), Wonder Woman, George Michael & Andy Warhol
Disney Icons – Genie, Robin Hood, Maleficent & Aladdin and/or Ali Baba
So here are the unofficial awards for the 2017 Mardi Gras Parade.
Best dress – Verushka Darling on the back of the Air bnb cottage, floating like an angel in a white cascade of domestic light-bulbs.
Best Costume – the metallic blue and silver entrant with ice-coloured contact lenses, built-in neon lighting and his trio of black canine bodyguards
Best Group T-shirts – the Aussie Lamb float, with a motif of a couple of prime rainbow cutlets printed on a mint-green background.
Best Dyke on a Bike – the dyke on the yellow Ducati.
Most Necessary Politics – Keep Sydney Open, a float lambasting the ridiculous lock-out laws, with signs in favour of the Oxford Street clubs, and quashing the notion that “Dancing is Dangerous”.
A Twisted Sister, plus Not the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, but perennial favorite Kabi / Kevin / Ethel Yarwood in a mask.
Best Policeman – He knows who he is, the cheeky bugger.
Best Bagpipes Player (I never thought I would write that phrase) – One of the Scotzboys, and he also knows who he is.
Best Choreography – the SBS “Equality is our Chemistry” float, when the dancers joined together to turn their glittery half-hearts into full hearts. How sweet. Plus the red and white Medicare float with the Kiss-Cam. Smooch.
Even Better Choreography – the ANZ guy who couldn’t clap and scream in time with all his colleagues, who could be seen counting the steps on his lips, and who blithely span and marched in the opposite direction. Brilliant!
Best Float – Poof Doof. Harking back to the glory days of the Albury floats, this entry understood the impact of a powerful sound system, happy couples in black leather speedos shooting smoke cannons and a strict black-and-white chessboard theme with unicorns, bishop hats, dog-masks and witches. Slave to the rhythm.
Remember, beauty fades but dumb is forever.
Mardi Gras – It’s just like Christmas, only happy.