Mardi Gras

10 February - 2 March 2013. Filed under category Travel.

There are a few pink milestones in every gay man’s life: coming out, first time in drag, first bottle being thrown at you for holding another man’s hand and marching in a gay pride parade.

Today’s post is about the most famous such parade: the Sydney Mardi Gras.


Mardi Gras began 1978 as a gay rights march down Oxford Street, still the main gay street in Sydney and 17,000km from Oxford, UK. The police disregarded the permit of the demonstration and disbanded the march as well as arresting 57 of the demonstrators. The police later dropped the charges, but it was too late. The media ‘justice’ had fallen as the Sydney Morning Herald published the name of the arrested individuals, outing them and causing many of them to lose their jobs.

These injustices only served to galvanize the gay community and they returned, year after year, demanding an end to discrimination and equal rights regardles of whom you love.

Today, the Sydney Mardi Gras has grown to a three-week long festival and is one of Australia’s largest tourism ‘attractions’, annually earning the state of New South Wales about 30 million Australian dollars. (See how much nicer it is to work with us than against us?)

Fair Day

Sodomy - you either love it or hate it.

Sodomy – you either love it or hate it.

The Mardi Gras season kicks of three weeks before the parade with Fair Day. Seventy-thousand LGBTQI individuals + pets descend on Victoria Park for a day of revelry. Every organization with a hint of pink put up stalls to promote themselves. My favourite was Google, an official sponsor of Mardi Gras, that gave out tattoos and pins of a cute Android bot waving the rainbow flag. (No show for Apple…) A close second was the sexy gay Rugby club, the Sydney Convicts, for obvious carnal reasons.

There is some entertainment organized such as the main stage with various acts, a few carousels and an outdoor dance area. But personally, I liked the simple pleasure of slowly getting drunk in a park and people watch.

If you are new to Sydney and Mardi Gras, Fair Day is a great place to find out what is going on during the Mardi Gras season, including the many commendable charity events.

The Little Black Dress Run (and other charity events)

Little Black Dress Run

Little Black Dress Run

Not everything in the gay community is sunshine and rainbows. There are social issues that require work, ranging from political lobbying for equal rights to someone lending an understanding ear to a teenager afraid of coming out of the closet.

Most of this social good is funded through charities and the amazing volunteers that make them possible. Mardi Gras is like a great wave of attention and money washing over Sydney, and the charities ride it like a skilled surfer. These events are not just important for the community but also a lot of fun. There is something for everyone, from Gay Bingo to Slave Auctions.

The most fun event I participated in was the Little Black Dress Run. Men and women alike dress in their finest little black dress and go for a mass run. We were heavily rained on, but who cares? It was still a fun morning and the event raised a whopping 46,000 Ozzy dollars for children born with HIV.

The Harbour Party (and other parties)

The Sydney gay life is generous with parties and sexy men even at the worst of times. During Mardi Gras, the city cranks up the heat to hot hot hot! The city is teeming with sexy guys, many having travelled from all over the world. (Charmingly referred to as ‘the imports’ by the locals.) There are a host of parties to service the crowds, but they are sadly extraordinarily expensive. If you are a fellow money-light travel-heavy nomad, expect to sigh and say no a lot when people ask which parties you’re going to.

But I had to go to at least one party to have something to write about. (How I suffer for you, my dear reader.) There are two main parties during Mardi Gras. The biggest one is the one right after the parade. From hearsay, I understand that its main selling point is the size, but size alone does not impress me (insert obvious joke here) and so I went with the second big event, the Harbour Party.

The Harbour Party is an outdoor afternoon-evening party located in the Botanical Gardens with a stellar view of the harbour, the opera house and the bridge. I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun at a party. The music was great, the energy positive, the mood flirtatious, the boys sexy and the venue amazing. A light rain joined the party but instead of ruining the mood, it improved it as all those semi-naked bodies now glistened wet and cool!

Reading about someone else’s party is about as much fun as hearing about a stranger’s million dollar lottery winnings, so I’ll stop here.

The Mardi Gras Parade

The parade begins!

The parade begins!

The climax of Mardi Gras is of course the parade, drawing about 9,000 participants and 300,000 spectators! It is an opportunity for the disparate groups of the LGBTQI community to celebrate their existence. Non-LGBTQI groups are also there to show their support for our cause. And of course, it is a whole lot of fun!

There are two ways to experience the parade. The first is to camp out with the rest of the world by the side of the street, playing yahtzee and making friends during the long hours wait for the parade. Don’t expect to get a good view if you are not out early, or so I’m told. I chose to experience the parade by being in it!

You can’t just rock up and join the parade. You must join one of the organizations marching in the parade. If you arrive in the city a few weeks ahead and ask around, this shouldn’t be so hard to achieve. Fair Day is the perfect place to do this. I got two offers and joined the Leather Pride group. (Any excuse for wearing my leather!)

Me, walking proud!

Me, walking proud!

Joining the parade is a whole lot of fun. You get to prepare for the march with the rest of the participants in the gated preparation area. This is one big party in itself, and you get to get up and close (and intimate!) with the participants in their gorgeous costumes.

During the parade itself, expect to be cheered along by hundreds of thousands people, all waving and snapping pictures. My arms almost fell off from hugging so many people all along the way, and I lost my voice long before I reached the end. Talk about a rush!

As mentioned above, I couldn’t afford to go to the post-parade party. But I didn’t exactly go home either. Dick Savvy (Mr Leather of Sydney) invited me to another party, Velvet Hammer, and gave me a leather straitjacket to wear along with a new set of leather pants! I’ve worn many weird and wonderful costumes in my days, bit this one didn’t just take the biscuit; it ran away with the whole damn cookie jar! I had a great night (try drinking tequila shots in a straitjacket) and I want to end this article with a sincere thank you to Dick for taking me under his wing and to the rest of the Sydney gay community for a fantastic Mardi Gras!


The initialism for what I call ‘the gay community’ is starting to resemble alphabet soup. It started with the lesbians and bisexuals not feeling like they were properly included under the term ‘gay’, and so the initialism LGB was formed. Soon thereafter, the transgender protested and said that there was no room for them (Is a cross-dressing man who likes women straight or gay? And what if he’s had a sex change?) So the ‘T’ was thrown in, forming LGBT, which is the currently the most common term.

Recently, the ‘Q’ for ‘Queer’ or ‘Questioning’ was added by people who couldn’t let things just be, and I had never seen the ‘I’ for ‘Intersex’ before I came to Sydney where LGBTQI seems to be the favoured version. (The local preference is the only reason I didn’t just use LGBT in this article.)

Due to this patchwork of letters,  I expect us to soon have QUILTBAG (Queer, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender, Bisexual, Ally or Gay).

Why Gay Pride?

I’m often asked why we have gay pride parades at all. The argument usually goes something like this. “I’m not proud to be straight, so why should you be proud to be gay? Do you think you are better than us?”

I make no apologies for being proud of my LGBTQI community. We have built an amazing and diverse subculture centred on our shared sexuality, and it is positive, strong, expressive, beautiful, fun-loving and daring. This shared culture as well as the long (and on-going) struggle for equal rights is what I am proud of and what I enjoy celebrating at gay pride parades throughout the world.

We demand equal rights, but we celebrate our unique culture.

Travel Updates

My host (Ian) has returned from his long holiday, so I am no longer living alone at the beach-side flat of his. A friend of his has also moved into the flat. I like the company though! Ian and I are slowly shooting our way through a cooperative game of Resistance: Fall of Man and he’s introduced me to Archer, a damn funny TV cartoon series.

My parents will join me in Sydney on 7March, my birthday is on 10 March, on 12 March we go to New Zealand (south island) and I’ll be back in Australia on 30 March. Much fun to look forward to! Stay tuned!


What is your favourite Mardi Gras/Pride memory?

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  1. Jono says:

    You missed out the A in LGBTQI…A. They added “Asexual” when you weren’t looking.

    Apparently amoeba’s felt excluded.

    “Archer” is classic. The first few episodes were a bit slow to get into but then it becomes essential. The same guy does the voice in Bob’s Burgers. Try that out afterwards.

    1. Jono says:

      BTW, the clown with the Higgs Boson sign (I will always notice that name whenever I see it!) spelled “atheist” incorrectly. He’s out of the club.

  2. brother Henrik says:

    Wow how do i do to gett a body like the four men on the picture ho hold you upp in theirs arm??? I mean theirs body are unnatural good imposibel to get.

    1. That depends on your definition of ‘get’. If you mean ‘how can I make my body look like that’, you are right. Bloody impossible. If you mean ‘how can I get a body like that next to me in bed’, then there are ways. (Rohypnol for example.)

  3. Crys Klier-Hoffman says:

    How incredibly fun to be a part of this and to have the opportunity to collectively stick out your tongues to give Sydney a giant raspberry. PHHHHTTTTT. That alone is such glorious irony.

    This looks like such a blast and knowing all the good it is doing, being highly visible, giving those who are still afraid to be themselves a safe mentoring atmosphere, the charity involvement, beautiful.

    But, I think you need to take a break from work and have some FUN.

  4. Eric White says:

    Cheers mate! Sounds like a riot… I’m not gay myself, but I ended up at a couple gay pride parties in San Diego last year and they were FUN.

  5. Phil Stevens says:

    That’s what I admire about you Gustav, you throw yourself whole-heartedly into everything you do, you didn’t just attend Mardi Gras, you got yourself involved in it! Love the little black dress BTW, cute 🙂
    Why gay pride? yeah, I’ve also heard this many times, usually from those tunnel-visioned straight people who are unable or more likely unwilling, to expand their mindset about gay people and their experience beyond base levels of comprehension. Just another form of veiled homophobia in my opinion.
    QUILTBAG! – Love it:)

  6. J. says:

    It is always better to participate then to spectate! Congratulations. In addition to Sydney, I also enjoyed and highly recommend marching in the Rio Carnivale Sambadrome. Add it to your bucket list if you can. (Now, where’s that Rohypnol…)

  7. brother Henrik says:

    Ofcours i ment how can i get my body look like that 🙂 ore did i?

What is your favourite Mardi Gras/Pride memory?

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