Though much of the Mardi Gras furor has died down in the press, many are still engaged in our community’s debate about naming, branding, renaming, rebranding and all that jazz. We wanted to share with you another of the responses by one of our artists, Anna Martin, of Lady Sings it Better. Here’s what she had to say…
I guess I’m what you would call ‘a queer-friendly straighty-180’. Aren’t labels wonderful?! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my involvement over the years with Mardi Gras, thanks to the contagious passion and inclusive (there’s that dang word again) spirit of close friends who are bonafide members of the queer community. At 15, gawky and over-enthusiastic, I teetered on milk crates alongside Hyde Park to watch the floats roll past, wearing every rainbow item I could find in my wardrobe; I marched in the parade in 2000 with schoolmates from Sydney Girls High; I’ve lapped up the sunshine at many a Mardi Gras Fair Day and last year I had the privilege of performing in association with the Festival, as us Lady Sings it Better girls will get to do again in 2012.
I’ve always felt the right amount of welcome at these events. I didn’t need to be ‘reached out to’ and ‘made to feel included’ as one of those mainstream-types – and certainly not via the removal of labels that didn’t encompass me in the event title. I was always aware that the activist values and message of the Mardi Gras parade and festival were unique to the queer community – it wasn’t ‘my’ fight, or ‘my’ festival – but that at the same time I was welcome to be there and show my support for it, to celebrate my friends (and all LGBTQI folks) who still have to deal with bigotry and ignorance around their identity, sexuality and politics in 20-and-fucking-11.
Of course there is merit to the argument that we should create a festival embracing ‘all love’ and a tearing down of barriers – but to turn Mardi Gras into this festival to me seems to be a wrong move with too great a cost in terms of visibility of the LGBTQI community and issues at its heart.
There have been a lot of justifications for the rebrand bandied about and the one about symbolically ‘opening the doors’ to heterosexuals like me to share in the festival is the one that I feel I’m most entitled to respond to. It makes me want to say, on behalf of the straighty-180s out there: please don’t go rebranding on our account. Ok, you don’t want ‘Gay and Lesbian’ in the title – fair enough, a wider umbrella is more fitting now – call it queer… or give it the most ridiculously long acronym you like… but don’t remove altogether the words/labels/titles that are significant to the festival’s most important participants and audience. They should always be your prime consideration and from what I’ve heard and read, the rebrand happened with a surprising lack of consultation with them. (Well, guess that consultation’s happening now!)
I agree with the desire and need to expand and evolve Mardi Gras and I sincerely hope that more and more people from all ‘persuasions’ – as my grandmother would say – will come to the party and celebrate too as the years go by. If that is the aim then I believe in the ‘build it and they will come’ approach. Stay true to the message, and keep building. A new lick of paint every now and then can’t hurt, sure – and the debates that have been going on about the definitions and symbols at stake in all of this will no doubt be valuable in shaping the next phase of the Festival – but it would seem silly to me to do away with the foundations.
That’s my two cents, anyway. Thanks for asking me for them, blackcat, I feel very included 😉