Fahad Ali discusses the Significance of Mardi Gras

In 1978, gay and lesbian activists came together here, on this campus, to organise a protest against violent persecution and discrimination that would become the first Mardi Gras. A group of 500 courageous men and women marched down Oxford Street, burgeoning in size as revellers responded to the call: “out of the bars and into the streets!”

In 2013, we celebrated the 35th Sydney Mardi Gras. The queer rights movement has come so far in the years since those brave activists gathered together to fight against the cruel injustices that they faced. This year we marched together for the first time as a united Sydney University community in a float put together by the Queer Action Collective, SHADES, Queer Revue, and the USU’s Queer Coordinators. The float was a triumphant celebration of what we can achieve when we work together. On behalf of the Students’ Representative Council, myself, and my co-organizer Eleonora Kazantzis, I would like to thank everyone who volunteered or participated in the float. We are a community of passion, pride, and power, and we must never forget that.

Though much has changed for the queer community, it is shameful that we still have to stand up against queerphobia from those institutions that are sworn to protect and serve. In ’78, our community chanted: “stop police attacks on gays, women, and blacks!” This message is chillingly relevant to us today. Sexism persists both in the military and the police force. Indigenous Australians suffer police brutality every single day. And the countless cases of targeted police violence and unwarranted strip searches throughout and after the Mardi Gras is a clear indication that there is a systematic queerphobia ingrained within the police force.

I commend Cat Rose, Karl Hand, and Community Action Against Homophobia for organising the rally against police violence that was held last Friday. I would also like to extend my thanks to queer and allied students from Sydney University who attended the rally, marching behind the Queer Action Collective banner. There have been attempts to vilify and discredit the organisers. This is not a new phenomenon—every single liberation effort in history, including women’s, Aboriginal, queer, and black liberation, has been attacked in precisely the same way. We will not back down. We will not be intimidated. We will continue the struggle until we have achieved a world in which all can live in safety and freedom.

If you are interested in joining the fight for a better world, get in touch with me at queer.officers@src.usyd.edu.au. Remember, there is a diverse and exciting community at Sydney for you to explore, including the active and social Queer Action Collective, the theatrical and fun Queer Revue, and the up-beat and high-energy party group SHADES. Feel free to send me a message if you’d like any information on any of the queer groups on campus.

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