There's the parade, yes. But before that, nearly a month of cultural and celebratory events of all stripes makes up the festival of Sydney Mardi Gras, and there's something for everybody, even Straighty McStraight-Straight. Who relates absolutely and 100 percent to the social expectations of their gender and sexuality? Nobody, probably. And that's something to love, savour, and take away from this most iconic of Sydney events.
This year, there's a push to establish a Mardi Gras Museum, starting off with a temporary exhibition of Sydney's queer history. Then there's family-friendly fair day, art, roller derby, and one of New York's premier cabaret artists, among all the parties between February 8 and March 3. With gay marriage rights so firmly on the agenda at the moment, 2013's Mardi Gras will definitely be one that's remembered.
Here's our pick of the ten best events.
1. Sydney Mardi Gras Museum
Could this be the most colourful museum in the world? In the 35 years since its inception, the Mardi Gras has been the site of not only liberation and artistic extravaganza but also fiery controversy. Take a wander through the spectacular events and extraordinary lives that have contributed to making Sydney’s proudest parade what it is today. From February 12-19, catch special evening talks featuring the likes of Julie McCrossin and C. Moore Hardy.
Preen your pooches and pack your picnic in preparation for Fair Day. Every year, tens of thousands of Sydneysiders and visitors come together at Victoria Park to celebrate the arrival of Mardi Gras season with international food, stalls, and carnival rides. Main Stage has the music pumping all day long; the Youth Hub keeps the young 'uns out of trouble, and Doggywood plays host to some of the most fabulous canines you could ever hope to lay eyes on. One little tip: you might want to secure yourself a front-row position for the late afternoon Tug-o-War.
Is there anything Mx Justin Vivian Bond can’t do? In a career spanning more than 20 years, the cabaret hero has played Huck Finn as a tranny prostitute; reinterpreted the likes of Radiohead, Kate Bush, and Tracy Chapman; and written an award-winning autobiography (Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels). Along the way, Bond has picked up an Obie Award (2001), a Bessie Award (2004), an Ethyl Eichelberger Award (2007) and a Tony nomination (2007). On a return visit to Australia in late February, Bond will present a new show: Justin Vivian Bond Is Mx America.
If all the partying starts to tire you out, you can always recharge your batteries by dipping into Mardi Gras' quieter side: the Film Festival. Some of the picks of this year's program include Joshua Tree 1951: A Portrait of James Dean, a stunning black-and-white re-creation of the Hollywood hero's life on the edge; the Australian premier of Kyle Henry's quirky, funny Fourplay; and Head On, the movie that set the benchmark for queer filmmaking in Australia.
What happens when you blend fashion, art, music, technology, and a fearless desire to transcend the outer limits of convention? Chicks on Speed, that's what. For 10 years now, Melissa Logan and Alex Murray-Leslie have been blowing boundaries out of the water with their artistic experimentations. As part of Queer Thinking, they'll be discussing and performing with their latest creations, 'Objekt Instruments'. Other thinkers on the day include Mx Justin Vivian Bond.
If Chicks on Speed aren't fast enough for you, don't despair. You're sure to be struggling to keep up when some of Australia's quickest, toughest roller girls battle it out on the Bent Track. This major roller derby festival is the brainchild of the Australian Vagine Regime, a queer association committed to raising cash for charity. Where do the country's fastest girls go after the country’s toughest race? The bar! The Standard, to be specific. DJ Sveta and Adele Moleta have teamed together to magic up an http://www.mardigras.org.au/events/battle-on-the-bent-track-official-after-party/">all-night party. Expect sexy, danceable beats, live cabaret, and some serious roller action. Guests include burlesque performers Lillian Star and Miss Kelly Anne Doll and DJs Sveta, Lady Bones, Ariane, Del Cat, and Mall St.
7. History Walk with the Order of Perpetual Indulgence
Don your walking shoes and your wildest imagination for a rollicking journey through the history of gay activism in Sydney. Sisters from The Order of Perpetual Indulgence, a group of locally based gay male nuns and lesbian monks, will meet you at Hyde Park Barracks at 10am. As you traverse the sites where significant events of protest have occurred, the Sisters will be letting you in on all the intimate details. Like the history of most fights against institutional discrimination, it's not all pretty, but the Sisters are sure to keep the mood high with their irreverent humour.
In 1977 in Belgrade, Marina Abramovic and Ulay created a video titled Breathing In, Breathing Out, in which the two kneel face to face, with their mouths locked together and their noses obstructed with cigarette filters. For twenty minutes, they depend upon one another entirely to breathe. The intimate physical interaction that results, as the two struggle to work together to survive, leads us to ask questions about human interdependence. Take My Breath Away is a remake of this seminal performance. This time, however, the breathing is channelled through a white balloon, giving rise to a whole lot of sucking and blowing and putting a postmodern spin on the concept.
Gavin Roach's one-man monologue makes its way back to Sydney after sell-out seasons at the Edinburgh Fringe 2012 and the Melbourne Fringe 2011. It's an expedition through the intimate emotional and physical world of Felix, who is about to go on a date for the first time in a year. Accustomed to interacting in cyberspace, Felix grows increasingly uncertain and frightened and starts to wonder why he ever wiped his Grindr app off his smartphone. According to Stage Whispers, Confessions of a Grindr Addict is one of those rare one-man shows that enables you to "forget that's what you're watching".
On June 24, 1978, a few hundred people gathered on Oxford Street to voice their opinions against anti-homosexual discrimination. Late in the evening, when the numbers rose to 2000, the police put an end to the march and arrested 53 of the protestors, many of whom lost their jobs as a result. Thirty-five years on, the Mardi Gras is the largest gay celebration on the planet, with about 10,000 participants and hundreds of thousands of spectators. It’s a glamorous, glitzy, outrageous, fun expression of every individual's right to love freely. Get there early if you want a view.