More than a thousand excited and boisterous participants clad in colourful T-shirts gathered at Sydney’s Opera House to launch next year’s WorldPride.
A global festival celebrating sexual diversity held in various cities since 2000, WorldPride has chosen Sydney as its 2023 host to mark 45 years since the city held Australia’s first Mardi Gras march on 12 June 1978.
Surrounded by flamboyant drag queens hoisting flags, feathers and fans, the launch paid tribute to sacrifices made by previous activists.
Dianne Minnis, a participant in the first Mardi Gras which ended with police arresting 53 people, on Friday remembered her generation of activists who paved the way for mainstream LGBTIQ+ acceptance.
She told the crowd: “Who would have thought we’d still be here 44 years later?”
“Let’s remember the huge upsurge of activism that followed the first Mardi Gras,” she said, referring to NSW repealing laws criminalising homosexuality in 1984.
Participants dressed in the vibrant colours of the LGBTIQ+ flag on the steps of the Sydney Opera House on Friday. Source: AAP / BIANCA DE MARCHI
Taking place in February, Sydney WorldPride will run for three weeks with 300 events scheduled. NSW Arts Minister Ben Franklin said the festival is expected to generate millions for the economy.
“With the budget announced this week, we’re putting three-and-a-half million [dollars] in Pride Village which is going to be the beating heart of WorldPride,” he said.
Mr Franklin said beyond its financial benefits, the event is also important to younger generations dealing with their sexuality.
“You’re standing up and you’re going to be seen,” he said.
For Naomi Palmer, a 53-year-old organiser with Dykes on Bikes, the celebration of Sydney as a queer-friendly city is important.
“It’s all about who you are and where you come from,” she said.
Dykes on Bikes Sydney is Australia’s longest-running female-identified motorcycle club and started off by helping gay men on Oxford Street in Sydney who were violently beaten decades ago.
“We fought a lot in the ’80s and ’90s and that we can actually stand on the steps of the Opera House in our proud colours and be who we are is huge,” she said.
“We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.”