"These events have the ability to connect people with a like-minded community that could potentially save our lives. They help embolden the queer community to be a powerful force to be reckoned with. They help us find our voice, find our friends and find ourselves," writes Dani Leever.
By
Dani Leever

22 Feb 2017 - 1:22 PM  UPDATED 22 Feb 2017 - 1:24 PM

I ran downstairs in a bra embellished with sequins and glitter, a holographic silver skirt and an electric blue wig.

“I’M HERE, I’M QUEER, GET USED TO IT MUM!” I shouted as I slid into the kitchen, hands flamboyantly splayed above my head.

Oh fuck, I thought to myself. I forgot, I haven’t come out to mum yet.

Looking up from the boiling water she was pouring into a porcelain mug to a vision of me standing next to my friend Steppen, donning an identical wig with a shredded version of our old purple high school uniform.

“You two look… extravagant,” she said with a confused but warm grin. “Let’s go to the backyard. I need photographic evidence of this.”

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It was the morning of Pride march. Although I had been umm-ing and ahh-ing over my sexuality for years, Pride in 2016 was just two months after I had, for the first time, found myself in a supportive queer community and begun telling certain people that I identified as queer—a time that I affectionately call Gay January 2k16. Countless Midsumma events and bar-hopping with my newfound queer family, it was truly my queerest month ever.

Steppen and I stood among the sea of people, watching on as rainbow floats full of energetic characters cheered, danced, yelled and were unashamedly themselves. I felt overcome with pride and emotion. An unrecognised sense of community and attachment to the people I was surrounded by washed over me.

Holding my best friend’s hand, I thought: this is it. I’ve found what I’ve been missing.

The afternoon was spent at Catani Gardens, painting glitter on our friends’ faces, discussing queer politics, eating mushroom burgers and proudly wearing rainbow necklaces made by our friend. I uploaded a photo to Instagram with a caption full of rainbow emojis and, of course, the hashtag #Pride.

Oh fuck, I thought to myself. I forgot, I haven’t come out to the world yet.

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The vibrant and supportive environment I was in had temporarily made me forget that I was still in the closet to many people. I was still figuring out who I was and the best way to express that to the world. 

Being around so many other queer people, seeing diverse bodies and discussing intersectionality with a new group of accepting friends gave me a sense of belonging I had never experienced before. Coming from a heteronormative-at-best, homophobic-at-worst high school and upbringing, it was a refreshing remedy.

Waiting in line for the bathrooms, I got into a conversation with a middle aged trans woman donning a T-Shirt that read “Not gay as in happy, but queer as in fuck you.” As all bathroom line conversations go, I told her about my anxiety around not being ‘queer enough’ for certain circles, seeing as I was attracted to all genders.

“The gay-triarchy and bi-erasure sucks,” she replied. “We don’t have time for it in our community. Be yourself, be your fabulous self and don’t listen to the bitches that don’t understand or support you and – oh I’m next! Seeya!”

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The last time I was at Catani Gardens I was attending a music festival. I vividly remember a stranger grabbing my shoulder as I ordered a drink, asking me with a stale, drunken voice if I had a boyfriend. He was 'just curious, because I was really sexy.’ I didn’t reply, and he called me a slut. Comparing these two interactions gave me a pretty good indication of how important safe LGBTIQA+ events are.

When I attended the events of Gay January 2k16, I found groups of friends who have since completely changed my life. The support, love, solidarity and energy that exists within these circles is unparalleled. It’s with the strength of these people that I did come out; to my mum, to my friends and eventually, really publicly. To the point that a friend recently told me that all I posted about on Facebook was “gay stuff and dogs.”

My second Pride will be this year. This time, I’ll be marching at the front with my work, PROJECT ROCKIT, and numerous queer youth organisations. It’s been a huge year.

These events have the ability to connect people with a like-minded community that could potentially save our lives. They help embolden the queer community to be a powerful force to be reckoned with. They help us find our voice, find our friends and find ourselves.

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In a cisnormative and heteronormative world, the queer community deserves to take up space with these events. We deserve to stand on top of a giant paper mäché rainbow and scream at the top of our lungs that our queer bodies are valuable and worthy of respect.

We deserve events that have information tents about where to find queer-friendly mental health services, lesbian book clubs and trans support groups. We deserve to hear our passionate activist siblings roar about equality and solidarity.

While local queer DJs and the occasional Kylie song blast through speakers, we deserve mojitos served in rainbow plastic cups.

SBS will be streaming the 2017 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade live on Saturday, March 4 on SBS On Demand, and will then air our Mardi Gras special event - with commentary from our hosts, behind-the-scenes action and exclusive interviews - on Sunday March 5. In the meantime, you can keep up with all our Mardi Gras content here.