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by Andrew Isaacson
posted 28/02/2023

WorldPride comes to Sydney for 17-day extravaganza

Photo: Andrew Isaacson/Eastside FM

For the last 45 years, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has been one of the most prominent events in the city along with Gay Pride Week for 50 years.

Sydney is already known for diversity, inclusivity and a proud LGBTQIA+ population.

But this year, it’s gone to another level.

The city was selected to host the eighth WorldPride festival, combining it with Mardi Gras. It’s the first time ever the worldwide pride celebration is taking place in the Southern Hemisphere.

From Feb. 17 to March 5 the city is hosting over 300 events and it’s the largest LGBTQIA+ event in the entire world.

Time Out Magazine recently rated the 17-day extravaganza as the seventh best thing to do in the world in 2023.

The Mardi Gras parade returned to the streets for the first time in two years, after COVID-19 pandemic restrictions moved the event to the Sydney Cricket Ground. The event saw tens of thousands of people from Sydney and around the world attend along with numerous floats and marchers going down Oxford Street.

Photo: Andrew Isaacson/Eastside FM

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese made history by becoming the first sitting prime minister to march in the Mardi Gras parade.

“We’re really excited to see all of the new faces coming into the city,” said Johnny Smith, venue manager at Universal Sydney. “It’s been really exciting. The biggest thing is getting to showcase Sydney, the Sydney queer scene, Sydney drag and the parties on an international stage.”

Smith said he is excited to see so many people visiting the city during this 17-day period. It’s easily accessible for individuals from counties that would typically have to travel further to places like New York or London for the occasion, he said.

Smith said Universal has events going on everyday for WorldPride including Miss Universal on March 1 and a Champagnes Pride Jubilee on March 4.

Amy Hill, body piercer and retail assistant at Off Ya Tree, said she is excited to see everyone freely expressing themselves with no shame and apologies.

She said she’s always enjoyed attending the march and seeing people of all ages, backgrounds and cultures coming together.

“It’s just awesome,” Hill said. “The vibes (are) always so good. It’s always super fun.”

Monique Porter, manager of Off Ya Tree, said WorldPride combined with Mardi Gras is more extravagant and is driving a lot of traffic from overseas.

She said she’s excited to see members of the gay and lesbian community coming to share their pride with Sydney and the rest of Australia.

“I can definitely say during Pride, we’ve seen everyone come out in full force,” Porter said. “It’s really good to see everyone coming back to Oxford Street, where it all began and hopefully where it’s going to be forever.”

Photo: Cameron MacDonald/Eastside FM

Trent, who didn’t reveal his last name, volunteered for the Pride Village on Crown & Riley Street along with the parade and First Nations Gathering Space on Feb. 26. He came up from Melbourne for WorldPride.

“I thought it was a good way to immerse myself in the spirit of the whole thing and also help people out and meet people,” he said.

While Sydney is hosting WorldPride and Australia legalized gay marriage in 2017, there is still a lot of homophobia and discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community. 

The Equality Project, said 47% of Australians who identify as gay or lesbian have experienced workplace sexual harassment in the last five years. They also said 60% of LGBTQIA+ citizens between 14 and 21 felt unsafe at secondary school. About 42% of the community hide their sexuality or gender identity at social and community events. 

Trent said just because gays and lesbians can legally get married doesn’t mean that’s it and they’re integrated. 

He said there’s still a lot of division, racism and prejudice against transgender and queer people with disabilities.

Porter said the whole world is very far behind on “seeing people differently” and people are still being punished for their sexual orientation. She said even though a lot of countries are legalizing gay marriage, we need to keep working.

“The more we discuss these things and the harder we push to be prideful and fight for the rights as humans, no matter their orientation, it’s something that can progress if we all actually fight for it,” she said.

Smith said while there’s always more room for improvement and there’s a lot further to go, he’s excited about where the LGBTQIA+. 

He also said it’s essential to uplift the POC and indigenous members of the community while pride is being celebrated.

Porter said Sydney hosting WorldPride will help make a massive difference to the Australian LGBTQIA+ community.

“I feel like with the event of WorldPride, bringing everyone back here, bringing back awareness to the area, it’s really going to help,” she said. “I think WorldPride being a worldwide thing, whether you’re in Australia for WorldPride, you’re still going to feel the love that we have for the whole community across the world.”

WorldPride will conclude on March 5 with a Closing Concert featuring Ava Max, Kim Petras, MUNA and more.