Tuesday, 10 March 2015

News Australia: Mardi Gras 2015: ‘I’m not proud to be gay’

MARCH 07, 2015 5:33PM

Gavin Fernando says he doesn’t understand the significance of the Mardi Gras parade. Source: Twitter

OPINION: I’m not proud to be gay.

Out of the closet since grade seven. An unabashed Madonna enthusiast. Currently residing on the corner of Judy Garland Road and Smoulderingly Fierce Beyoncé Gif Lane.

Believe me, I’m not ashamed either. I just don’t understand Mardi Gras — the almighty gay pride parade.

I don’t understand the abundance of glitter. I don’t understand the hairy near-naked blokes grinding and wrestling in crotch-tight spandex at Fair Day, or swinging on float poles. I don’t understand the undeniable fact that sex — glorious as it is — is everywhere you look, walk and breathe. I mainly don’t understand the implication that I’m automatically connected to this display by means of my sexual orientation.

There is nothing wrong with flamboyance or sexual expression. But it’s discomforting being associated with an international event through such a shallow commonality. It’s like being signed up to a club you don’t actually want to be a part of, with no say in the matter.

I’m not a Friend Of Dorothy’s. Dorothy is more like that nagging acquaintance I stumble into on the street and promise I’ll meet for a drink soon, but never do.

Why should I feel ‘proud’ to be gay? The concept is as ludicrous as feeling ashamed to be gay. We’re proud of our achievements and goals; we don’t congratulate ourselves over things we didn’t control. I’m not proud to have black hair or relentlessly ethnic eyebrows. I just do.

At some point twenty-two years ago, I popped out of a uterus with both a penis and a penchant for penis. Don’t look at me, I had nothing to do with it. I was a sack of unsightly goo floating around in a womb, just minding my own business. No one’s fault — except nature’s. And maybe God’s. That’s right, Fred Nile — your mate.

Mike Sinclair and Steven Capp make their way down Oxford St in Sydney in preparation for the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade. Photo: John Appleyard. Source: News Corp Australia

Growing up, all I knew about the gay community was what I saw in Mardi Gras: sex, skin, booze, revealing outfits and perfect bodies combined with that bitchy face RuPaul makes when he bids the week’s runway loser farewell.

As a teenager my biggest concern — as opposed to coming out or learning what goes where — was that I’d one day feel obligated to be a part of it.

My observations at last year’s parade didn’t exactly include a conversation around gay rights. One fellow asked me for MDMA. Another bloke generously offered me MDMA. One particularly lovely young gentleman asked if I would like to insert something of mine into his mouth in the toilet cubicle. It was more or less a sweaty orgy of glitter-coated body parts.

My experience with the parade is not to suggest gay rights aren’t relevant in Australia.

They absolutely are, without a doubt.

With higher recorded rates of mental health disorders, substance abuse and ongoing reports of marginalisation, being gay in itself is still a battle for many.

Beyond Blue found LGBTI people have the highest rates of suicidal tendencies of any Australian group — fourteen times higher than their heterosexual peers. The same report finds up to 80% will experience public insult.

On the flip side, there’s been some damn good progress. The number of same-sex couples recorded by census data has nearly quadrupled in the past twenty years, suggesting growing social acceptance. Public support for marriage equality is at an all-time high of 72 per cent — and growing.

Miss Ellaneous, David Dundee, Marzi Panne, Sianne Tate, Vogue Magazine, Danarose Dizon, who are all part of Darwin's first float in tomorrows Mardi Gras. Photo: Justin Lloyd. Source: News Corp Australia

Being gay is more normalised than ever: in fantastic Aussie icons like Ian Thorpe and Sia, who can come out without facing the same backlash they’d likely have experienced twenty years ago; in floats that support gay members of the armed forces, gay religious groups, gay parents and children; in slowly but surely moving away from discrimination.

But I fail to see this at the forefront of the Mardi Gras parade, when the main point of significance seems to be what you’re going to wear, how much skin you’re going to show and which diva tunes you’re going to blast while you’re grinding on a float.

I fail to see how sex and sexual orientation are interchangeable terms. I fail to see how leather-studded arse-cracks and sequined neon short-shorts should be construed as a political statement.

I’m sick of being asked what I’m going to wear, who I’m going to sleep with, or what drugs I plan on taking. I’m sick of the assumption that this is an annual holiday I need to celebrate.

I’m sick of the idea that you can “lump” a sizeable group together in a branded event, based on a commercialised, hypersexualised party. I’m sick of anybody automatically referring to me as ‘queer’.

Because I feel no different to my straight friends. Because my sexual orientation is so unremarkable — so batshit boring — that my idea of gay rights is holding hands with my boyfriend and walking down the street without anybody so much as raising an eyelid.

Because my sexual orientation is not a spectacle. Because being gay is not my most defining feature. It’s downright ordinary.

And that, right there, is equality.

Follow @GavinDFernando on Twitter.

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