One of Australia’s most anticipated events of 2020 took place Saturday — and it certainly did not disappoint.
The 42nd annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras was an evening of all-consuming delight centred around celebrating all sexual identities and queer culture. The globally recognised and televised event included a parade featuring 12,000 people in almost 200 floats, crowds of up to 300,000 and countless sold-out panels and parties.
This year’s theme was “What Matters,” prompting many to explore issues around inclusion, belonging and sustainability.
On the Mardi Gras website, the organisation explained this theme would highlight the importance of acknowledging Indigenous LGBTQ Australians, affirming transgender and gender diverse identities, respecting the “pioneers of the past,” inspiring the “leaders of the future” and highlighting the issues facing the LGBTQ community in the Asia-Pacific region.
Mardi Gras CEO Andrew Kruger said the event would also acknowledge key barriers inhibiting the progress of LGBTQ rights.
Kruger explained that consultations with the Australian LGBTQ community showed many believed Australia’s religious discrimination bill is presently one of the most substantial hurdles.
"What matters to me? We want to stand together and fight for social justice. There are a few things threatening this — one being the religious discrimination bill," Kruger said, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "It is something that is not only unfair to the LGBTI community but society in general."
The proposed bill allows people like health practitioners and aged care providers to object to providing care based on their faith. For example, a medical worker could tell a transgender patient they will not perform a sex reassigment surgery, and that gender is binary because they believe God made men and women in his image.
Hospitals and aged care homes would also be allowed to refuse to hire people based on their beliefs.
LGBTQ Australians have the highest rates of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts for any group in Australia.
New Zealand, Australia and Taiwan are the only countries in the Asia-Pacific that have legalised same-sex marriage. In many of the region’s traditionally conservative countries, like Brunei, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Pakistan, homosexual acts are still illegal.
For hundreds in the Mardi Gras parade, their floats were a way to protest against LGBTQ laws.
Other floats directly represented organisations, including Indigenous organisation ACON First Nations, Fire and Rescue New South Wales, People with Disability Australia, mental health organisation R U OK?, Gay Dads NSW, QANTAS, Parents for Trans Youth Equity, Australian Football Rules team the Sydney Swans, Rainbow Friendly Churches, Autistic Rainbow Community and the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Association.
Alongside the fabulous floats, the festival saw performances by special musical guests Sam Smith, Dua Lipa and Kesha.