Sunday , April 2 2023

Australia’s PM first to march at gay rights parade


Bureau Report

SYDNEY: Amid the rainbow tulle, sequins and sparkles of Sydney’s 45th Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade emerged the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, in a simple open-necked shirt and jeans.

Albanese is the first sitting prime minister to join the parade, which celebrates and continues to push for equality for the LGBTQIA+ community.

The parade, under the theme “Gather, dream, amplify”, kicked off on Saturday with hundreds of thousands of people watching the 12,500 participants dance their way up Oxford Street.

As is tradition, the parade started with the Dykes on Bikes and was followed by the 78ers activists who were part of a protest in 1978 that started the tradition of the Mardi Gras parade. Next up was the First Nations float, which featured a 20-metre rainbow serpent.

Mardi Gras has returned to its spiritual home on Oxford Street for the first time in three years after it was moved to Sydney Cricket Ground in 2021 and 2022 due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Albanese marched alongside senior Labor figures including the New South Wales opposition leader, Chris Minns, and the federal MP for Sydney, Tanya Plibersek to huge cheers and claps from the crowd.

“People want to see that their government is inclusive and represents everyone, no matter who they love, no matter what their identity, no matter where they live,” he said. “We need to continue to argue for equality.”

This is a huge milestone for the LBTGQI+ community, said Micah Scott, the Chief Executive of Minus 18, a charity that supports queer youth.

“It sends a message to the rest of the country that our community is valid and that our community matters to the government,” said Scott. “It’s especially important for our young people watching on.”

This year’s parade was tipped to be the biggest yet, with a strong international presence thanks to Sydney being the first city in the southern hemisphere to host WorldPride.

A float representing the LGBTQIA+ community in China held posters that said “Chinese queers will not be censored.”

Tushar Kanti Baidya travelled all the way from Bangladesh, where homosexuality is criminalized, to march for the first time.

Wearing a traditional kurta and waving the Bangladeshi flag, he said being in Sydney for WorldPride had allowed him to feel pride and celebrate his identity without fear.

“I’ve never seen people be so open with their identity as they are in Sydney, everywhere you go there is a rainbow telling us we are welcome.”

Saturday’s parade was a first for many. Fifteen-year-old Thalia Wilson marched for the first time, joining the float of the youth organization Wear it Purple.

“I’m terrified I’m going to accidentally fall over in front of everyone and get stomped on by a Doc Marten,” Wilson said with a big smile framed by eyebrows colored green.

“I actually can’t believe I’m here, it feels like a dream … I feel very safe here.”

Thirty-two members of Tamworth Pride travelled more than 250 miles (400km) from the small city north of Sydney to ride in their first dedicated float down Oxford Street.

“This is a really big moment for our rural community,” said William Weller.

As much as the march is a celebration of queer identity, participants say it is still a protest movement.

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