With just over a week to go before the 30th Anniversary Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade makes it’s way up Oxford Street I thought I’d share this brief history of the parade from Wikipedia with you.
Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras is an annual gay pride parade and festival for the LGBT community in Sydney, Australia, and is one of the largest such events in the world. Despite its name, it is not held on Mardi Gras (Shrove Tuesday) or indeed, on a Tuesday at all. It began on June 24, 1978 as a protest march and commemoration of the Stonewall Riots. Although the organisers had obtained permission, this was revoked, and the march was broken up by the police. Many of the marchers were arrested. Although most charges were eventually dropped, the Sydney Morning Herald published the names of those arrested in full, leading to many people being outed to their friends and places of employment, and many of those arrested lost their jobs as homosexuality was a crime in New South Wales until 1984.
The event was held again in 1979, with the name changed to the “Sydney Gay Mardi Gras”. In 1980 the first post-parade dance party was introduced, and in 1981 the parade was shifted to February. An increasingly large number of people not only participated in the event, but larger numbers of the wider community turned out to watch the parade. In 1988 the parade was renamed the “Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras”.
The parade, whilst featuring many in the gay community with a penchant for exotic costumes and dance music, has always retained a political edge, with often witty visual commentary on their political opponents featuring in the floats. As homosexuality became more and more accepted in the wider community, more gay representatives of community groups and organisations have taken part in the parade, including the police force. The parade features a number of costumed characters that return for many successive years. Dykes on Bikes and Miss New Zealand are perfect examples of regular crowd favourites.