Over 350 000 spectators watched a record 8 000 participants parade through Sydney on Saturday in one of the world’s most famed gay events. According to the organisers, people from 35 countries took part in this year’s Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras.
The parade was led by openly gay actor and writer Rupert Everett along with hundreds of men dressed as pop-singer Kylie Minogue.
While many floats were fun spoofs and tributes to other iconic celebrities, some made pointed statements against homophobia and specifically the Australian government. Although Sydney is considered one of the world’s gay-friendly capitals, the country – led by conservative Prime Minister John Howard – does not recognise gay unions.
“We’ve got people from over 35 countries attending this year’s Mardi Gras, but Howard cannot even bring himself to wish everyone a happy Mardi Gras,” said organiser Marcus Bourget before the event.
The threatened environment was also a concern for participants – a large float was dedicated to the cause. Other highlights included a Trojan horse and a team of gay lifeguards.
The mardi gras has its roots in a protest march for gay and lesbian rights that took place in 1978, but is now largely seen as an opportunity for revellers to party. Nevertheless, Bourget made the point that lesbian and gay rights remained a focus: “This iconic event which provides visibility and pride of gay and lesbian people throughout the world, is a beacon of love, acceptance, and tolerance,” he said.
The parade was capped by an after party featuring 80s pop star and deejay Boy George. Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras 2008 will celebrate the event’s 30th birthday.