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21 Nov 2011

Sydney Mardi Gras drops 'gay' and 'lesbian' from festival name

The decision to rebrand the iconic gay parade as the 'Sydney Mardi Gras' as part of the festival’s new strategy to attract broader local, national and international audiences has got Sydneysiders debating the removal of the two words.

The world famous “Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras” will now be known as “Sydney Mardi Gras”.

In a statement announcing its new brand name and logo, the organisation behind the event also said that it will change its company name from New Mardi Gras back to its old moniker of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras “in recognition that the event and brand remains owned by the city’s gay & lesbian community, even as it embraces involvement from the wider community.”

The 2012 season will run from Feb 12 to Mar 4 with the parade on Mar 3.

The parade’s new logo is a symbol of two hearts, on their sides, attached at the points while the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras company retains the Sydney Opera House logo, paying respect to the heritage of the organisation.

The organisation operated for nearly a decade as the New Mardi Gras after it bought the assets of the previous organisation which collapsed with debts of A$700,000 in 2002.

Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Chair Pete Urmson said in a statement released last week: “The Sydney Mardi Gras will always have its thumping gay heart that celebrates the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer communities, but Mardi Gras is now inviting everyone who has a positive message to share about the power and beauty of diversity to be part of our celebration.

“We would love to see people who share our values, but who never thought they would be in the Parade to approach us and share their ideas. There will always be room for a great float which will both entertain and bring peopletogether.”

“Our hope with this change is to turn Sydney Mardi Gras into an even bigger civic event – right up there with Rio and the world’s other great carnivals – to be enjoyed by everyone, but always remembered as being a gift to the city from its gay & lesbian community and a demonstration of our pride.”

Greg Logan, Executive Creative Director of Moon Communications Group which co-developed the logo, said: “The logo is a universal symbol that connects with everyone in a different way,” he said. 

“It symbolises all types of genders coming together and does not discriminate. Its symmetry indicates equality and people coming together to celebrate love.” 

As expected, changes to the logo and name of the iconic annual gay and lesbian festival has been met by a mixed reaction.

Australian gay news site Samesame.com.au reported that some of long-time supporters are incensed that the words ‘gay and lesbian’ have been dropped. It quoted former Mardi Gras President Richard Cobden as saying: “This morning’s Sydney Morning Herald front page sums it up: Mardi Gras goes straight.”

“Neither the organisation, and especially not this Board or staff, had any permission or mandate to make Mardi Gras straight. [Mardi Gras Chair] Peter Urmson says ‘this is our gift to the city’. It was not his to give.

“For 20-plus years we have been able to force the mainstream media to call it the GAY AND LESBIAN MARDI GRAS. They had to say the words. For a long time they did not want to but we made them. That has been thrown away.” 

Demanding the decision to be reversed immediately, he added that for years non-GLBTIQ organisations and businesses who wanted to advertise had to give an explicit message of support to the gay and lesbian community. “How can the organisation possibly ask for that now when they themselves have dropped an explicit gay and lesbian message?”

A commenter on the site also asked: “What’s the point of all this if we exclude the two words that mean the most to the purpose or reason for the organisation’s existence?” 

Meanwhile Mardi Gras’ Head of Marketing & Communications Damien Eames was quoted by Samesame as saying that the organisation “represents a wider range of interests than just gay and lesbian”, and recognises that “many, particularly younger people are much less likely to want to be labeled.” 

“Third, we have set out a vision that is all about diversity and inclusion, but with at its core a LGBTQI pride event. We are inviting everyone who shares our values – like PFLAG or the Fag Hags – to feel they belong one hundred per cent to the Mardi Gras family.”

“We think it’s a beautiful purpose that we can all work towards. It doesn’t change that our gay and lesbian, and our transgender, bisexual, queer and intersex identity is part of our DNA.” 

The first Mardi Gras was held on 24 June 1978 and in the nineties became the largest event in Australia and one of the largest such festivals in the world attracting crowds of more than 500,000 spectators from around Australia and overseas. The 2012 season will run from Feb 12 to Mar 4 with the parade on Mar 3.


Reader's Comments

1. 2011-11-21 20:46  
in dropping gay and lesbian from its name it has lost its reason to exist, we have been sold out to the breeders
2. 2011-11-21 21:34  
Like all significant organisational change, this will require time and consultation to "get it right". A brave move forward, risky and controversial, but brave - and it might just pay off.

The idea of embracing "diversity" is much more complex than
"gay and lesbian".
It really does open a Pandora's box.
If handled poorly it would become neither gay, lesbian or diverse,
just "confusing".
But if it is handled well, then it could be a very progressive move.

The gay community cannot assume that the Mardi Gras committee has the professional resources to work all of this out by themselves.
It is crucial that the committee is open to professional consultation and community feedback.

Congratulations to Sydney Mardi Gras for their brave move forward.
Here's hoping that the GLBTIQ community gives it's support and contributes, to make it work.
3. 2011-11-21 22:37  
SHAME ON THEM!! It's bad enough that the str8s have "invaded" Oxford Street on the weekends (even when there's many other clubbing venues in the city & Kings Cross area!), and now they wanna take this away from us?!? I mean, this is like a step "backwards" for the LGBT community! next minute u know, the entire Mardi Gras will be a "straight" parade!!! *gasp*
4. 2011-11-21 22:49  
Victim of its own success?
5. 2011-11-22 03:02  
The only reason that I went to Sydney was for the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, if I wanted to go to Mardi Gras; I could save the air fare and just go to New Orleans.
Comment edited on 2011-12-02 12:04:59
6. 2011-11-22 03:29  
"Hong Kong Pride Parade: Too sexy or not enough?"

"The decision to rebrand the iconic gay parade as the 'Sydney Mardi Gras' as part of the festival’s new strategy to attract broader local, national and international audiences has got Sydneysiders debating the removal of the two words."

This confirms the 'people' trend on Fridae.
Comment #7 was deleted by its author on 2011-11-26 10:05
8. 2011-11-22 12:30  
I'm in agreement that dropping the Gay and Lesbian will dilute Mardi Gras. The fact that Oxford Street is no longer the Golden Gay Mile of yesteryear is because people of Sydney need to get out and reclaim the area, it will be lost if not, action is needed now, there has been a lot of moaning and bitching for a few years, but gay and lesbians need to be strong, stand up for ourselves and fight for our rights and our village.
Sydney was known wordwide for it's fantastic gay and lesbian community and it's Mardi Gras Parade, which brings thousands of tourists to our shores each season, lately it's been heard on Oxford Street from tourist as "What Gay Street".
My Youtube Channel has taken the initiative and we have started a campaign to regain and take back Oxford Street as Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Capital, you can all help by watching the stories, getting involved and get out on the street to keep it as our gay village. If we do nothing, then we have only ourselves to blame.

9. 2011-11-22 13:23  
Sydney gay communities are full of racist. And so is Sydney Mardi Gras.
10. 2011-11-22 18:08  
When my friends headed north they went to Mardi Gras. When they came home they spoke about being at Mardi Gras. They didn't speak of it as the Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras. It was just Mardi Gras. So why the uproar? Some seem to think that we have to rub the straights noses in it to get our message across. I disagree. All that has happened is that it has been renamed to what our community has always called it.

If we want to remove the discrimination why do we need to try to hold ourselves apart from the mainstream? I don't know of any straight focused event calling itself the hetrosexual whatever whatever.

The need to shout out our sexuality has passed. It is now not only implicit in the shortened name, it is accepted by the mainstream. Time to move on and celebrate that we no longer need to fight for the right to be open with our lifestyle and be happy that acceptance is spreading faster and broader than ever before. The founders of this great event would be thrilled.
Comment edited on 2011-11-22 18:11:47
11. 2011-11-22 23:59  
i don't know if it's a right moves or not, but i think it's based on a positive attitude.

what they mean is that we separated ourself from the word by labeling us "different" cause we're "Gay and Lesbian". i know even straight people are different from each other, skin tone, race, etc.

But if we just let them entering our "culture" and blend into one maybe it will turned out to be positive, since all we do before is we all, gay and lesbian people, blending into straight culture.

just a thought :)
12. 2011-11-23 03:05  
I agree with Number 11 here except I would just say "mainstreaming" not straight culture. the idea is to "bend" straight culture and mainstream it and make it more inclusive.

From what I see all over the world.........there are plenty plenty of "GLBT" exclusive events/venues/stuff to do already.

13. 2011-11-23 07:08  
'will become diluted and generic'?

sorry to break the news, but it's been that way for a number of years now.
14. 2011-11-23 12:00  
A rose by any other name will smell the same
15. 2011-11-24 08:36  
strong sense of 'gay fundie' creeping into this discussion. any change well negotiated with good core values will be positive dynamic change.

#13 @scaro haha.
16. 2011-11-25 00:26  
Poor decision.

It only hints to a problem of acceptance of the gay community. If we need to change our names to accept others what does it say about us?...
17. 2011-11-25 04:26  
To be accepted for being who you are... to be able to love and to be seen to be in love with the man or woman you love ... To walk hand in hand in the same places others can without being killed, beaten, spat at, sworn at or berrated... then it will not matter what it is called. not a judgement on the decision just an honest thought.

Our hugs to you all
18. 2011-11-25 06:01  
Well I think it's crap. Oxford Street use to have a great gay atmosphere. And the community was fantastic. Straight people have now come in and the bars have opened up for them - now, its really not a gay area any more. And Having Sydney Mardi Gras taking away Gay and Lesbian title is really sad. I know all this stuff about positive attitude, brave and all that, but get down to the facts, the Mardi Gras Parties were fantastic up until 2003. It all died when they opened the parties to str8 people and yeah I know some str8 people came before - but heaps more str8 people came, and turned into sort of like a full moon party. Its closure of the sex areas at the parties, and more gay and lesbians decided not to come.

Anyways it's a bad move and I honestly think that the str8 people have all their parties, all their bars and clubs, and where will be go in the future. Im not anti st8 but cmon, we need venues! Its 2011, were more accepted than before, but with only a handfull of bars on Oxford street, (look at the Columbian, its mixed, but seems way more str8 than mixed!), and now you dont know who you can pick up or not lol. Anyways bad move mans I think only a few years left of Mardi Gras. Would be sad, but ...
19. 2011-11-25 16:36  
the unstoppable right wing-conservatism wave in Australia. Forget about an utopic new land of the braves and free
20. 2011-11-26 02:11  
From personal experience the "community" in Sydney only seemed to exist for those who buy into the stereotype gay lifestyle wholesale. If you don't do the one night stands, drugs, booze; if you don't fit in to the limited range of desirable (body shape, age, ethnicity, sexual position, partnership role etc); then you are essentially invisible. I can appreciate both sides of the argument. But my gut feel says this will eventually become a generic apolitical "safe" event.
Comment #21 was deleted by its author on 2011-11-26 03:14
Comment #22 was deleted by its author on 2011-11-26 03:16
Comment #23 was deleted by its author on 2011-11-26 03:16
24. 2011-11-26 03:14  
In complete agreement with Post #18- which is why I , and nearly all my friends, avoided such events like the plague these days...the atmosphere is now full of horny heteros; there are very few if any genuine gays & lesbians left. :(((
25. 2011-11-28 15:50  
i think it happen in malaysia but in australia? so funny...
Comment #26 was deleted by its author on 2011-11-28 15:51
27. 2011-11-29 13:40  
@25- Not sure if you've noticed this-Australia in recent years has been experiencing an increased spike of immigration from people whose country-of-origin are less tolerant of or even downright hostile toward homosexuals. Many of these same immigrants are notoriously racist, too.
28. 2011-11-29 13:51  
There's no selling out here really. It's still predominantly gay and lesbian, but our straight friends have always taken part in in the pride parade. Why do so many gays feel so threatened? I've had straight friends in England and South Africa join in the parade, them not feeling their sexuality threatened at all.....
29. 2011-11-29 14:44  
#28: How can anyone with a semblance of intelligence NOT feel threatened by people who do not respect our existence?
30. 2012-01-21 15:57  
Droped G/L Mardi Gras to Sydney M/G is Meaningless, Lack of considerate. Unrespectable, Self-deception, Self-humiliation and shame.,
31. 2012-03-04 11:07  
Happy Mardi Gras!

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