So last week I was asked to give a speech at my university’s local Mardi Gras celebration. Here it is:
“So what can I say about today’s Mardi Gras event? Well, I spend a lot of my days thinking about questions of gender, sex and sexuality, and the way in which we take up those specific identifiers that say, “Yes! This is who I am in the world”. I think that Mardi Gras is both about the personal and the political- celebrating who you are out loud, and demanding to be seen and heard. Mardi Gras is about opening up a space to talk about identity and belonging, and to have a discussion about things that might otherwise go unsaid and unheard.
As some of you may know, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras changed its name to just “Mardi Gras” for this year’s festival. The organisers of the event said that they wished to promote greater inclusivity by dropping the “gay and lesbian”. And, as we celebrate our university Mardi Gras event today, we stand under a similar banner, designed to promote respect and equality for all people, no matter their sexual orientation.
While a central aspect of Mardi Gras might be inclusion, how do we make sure we don’t lose the alphabet soup along the way? I’m talking here about the ever growing acronym- LGBTIQAP, Lesbian Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Asexual, Pansexual… I could add more. How do we maintain our pride for who we are, without getting lost in the milieu of inclusion? While I agree that we are all equal despite questions of gender or sexuality, issues of visibility are ever-present. Being recognised, acknowledged, and respected for the person that you are, is a big deal.
Well, my thoughts on this are: say it out loud. For example, I am proud to say that I am a bisexual, queer, femme.
But this isn’t about labelling or having to “fit” into specific categories- it’s about naming our diversity and opening up new areas of discussion about identity.
So let’s take this opportunity today to remember the alphabet soup, and in doing so, welcome everyone and anyone, under the ever expanding rainbow.
Happy Mardi Gras!”