Arts & Culture

A Bega Valley perspective on Mardi Gras 2017 – “Tiers and tiers of people encouraging and celebrating all those marching for just being themselves.”

Contributor 11 March 2017
Claire and Neroli - love makes a family

Neroli and Claire, who have shared their Mardi Gras with About Regional

Mardi Gras in Sydney is the biggest celebration of diversity for everyone who identifies as part of the LGBQTI community, so that’s not just people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, questioning, transgender or intersex but for families,  friends, children, faith groups, banks, surf life-saving clubs, mental health groups etc. etc.   

Regional groups were strongly represented, we marched alongside a strong contingent from the Bega Valley, Eurobodalla and Shoalhaven among others. We should have a Bega Valley float next year!

We are a pretty normal family, juggle work/home life, evenings full of angst about screen time, we are not activists, only parents who felt galvanised into action when ‘the plebiscite’ seemed likely to become part of Australian’s history around same-sex marriage. 

It occurred to us that if the plebiscite was to go ahead a whole new accepted level of bullying and name calling would be legitimised by the plebiscite process.  So, when Rainbow Families asked for representation in Canberra we went and our son bravely stood up on national TV to ask why all Australians should get to vote on what his family can and cannot do.

Rainbow Families take to Oxford Street

Rainbow Families take to Oxford Street

We went to Mardi Gras last weekend to celebrate our family with other families – gay and heterosexual, young and old, across all cultures and backgrounds, and to give our son the opportunity to see diversity in action and experience being part of that high velocity/full on celebration.

It’s incredibly affirming to see tiers and tiers of people encouraging and celebrating all those marching for just being themselves. 

It was humbling to hear the stories of those who marched in the early years and risked imprisonment and violence to pave the way for what is now much more of an open genuine public celebration. 

It should be noted though that there were still people marching in disguise, they were concerned for their family relationships and careers if they were ‘found out’. 

The Rainbow Families float had two groups, nearly 200 adults with their children, front and back of an enormous heart with ‘Love Makes a Family’  in huge white letters. 

It was great to see the excitement and hear the cheers of the crowd when the kids high-fived and danced the whole route from Hyde Park to the Entertainment Quarter.  Members in our float had travelled from outside Sydney to be part of it just like us, another family from the Bega Valley was there in the Marriage Equality float, regional and rural Australians were represented widely (sometimes covertly).    

Colourful tutus with a clear message

Colourful tutus with a clear message

Thank you, Rainbow Families for being such great advocates and providers of support to us and other families in NSW. 

It was a festival of delight, joy, and of course some wild and wonderful outfits, but the message was the same from all those marching and the crowds watching – difference should not mean inequality, we might not look the same or have the same family structure as our neighbours but we should be equal in each other’s eyes.

Words and pictures by Claire and Neroli, Tathra NSW.

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