• Sydney Mardi Gras' Queer Thinking panel hopes to encourage community discussion. (Mardi Gras)Source: Mardi Gras
This year's Queer Thinking program offers a platform to discuss issues including colonisation, class, prohibitive medical costs and the impact of Sydney's lockout laws on queer nightlife.
Samuel Leighton-Dore

23 Feb 2019 - 3:43 PM  UPDATED 13 Mar 2019 - 9:20 AM

Look, there's nothing like a good party. But as this year's program for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras suggests, there can be just as much value in a constructive community-lead conversation.

This is precisely what the Queer Thinking lineup of panel discussions aims to facilitate.

For writer, producer and performer Maeve Marsden, the chance to curate the second half of the two-day program was a no-brainer (the first day, Young and Fearless, was curated by Charlie Murphy). According to Marsden, the event offers an opportunity to address and reflect on a range of topics impacting all corners of the LGBTIQ+ community.

"I wanted to look for issues and ideas that would relate to the entire community, even if it was in different ways," Marsden tells SBS Sexuality.

Touching on colonisation, class, prohibitive medical costs and the impact of Sydney's lockout laws on queer nightlife, the discussions are an opportunity, Marsden says, to refocus as a community following the decades-long push for same-sex marriage reform.

"I wanted to tackle problems that were for everyone. We've had a decade that was so focused on marriage, and there's been lots of discussion on what's next."

She added: "Rather than siloing by identity, I wanted to find issues that could be our next fight as a community; looking at something like the medical system, which each subset of the community has different issues with."

While so much conversation regarding the LGBTIQ+ community takes place online, Marsden believes there's something special about coming together in real life and listening to people speak on topics they're passionate about.

"I mean, maybe this is just me, but I really like listening to an intelligent conversation," Marsden laughs. "Taking it offline and putting it on a stage and saying 'no, this is worth more than a Facebook comment'. I think that's really important. I also think we engage in more meaningful way [in real life], in a space where people are respectful but can also hash it out."

Why the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras still matters
Mardi Gras should be understood as a spirit and attitude that, hopefully, anyone can tap into and rework if they feel that they need it.

However, don't expect one long, feel-good kumbaya - Marsden has instructed speakers not to hold back.

"I've told them not be too polite or audience-facing," she tells SBS. "A number of the panelists will have disagreements and that's one of the things that i wanted to do — I wanted some dissent."

With its roots in activism, Marsden believes that the Sydney Mardi Gras is heading towards a rejuvenated connection to community activism - reiterating that the parade march isn't the be-all and end-all.

"There are other ways for our community to engage in politics," she says. "There are other ways to become a festival that in its entirety offers us all of these things: the party, the protest, the community involvement."

Queer Thinking takes place over Saturday 23rd Feb and Sunday 24th Feb. Click the links to find out more information on Queer Thinking Day 1 and Day 2.

You can watch OnDemand's Thinking Queer collection here, a collection of programs that explore all manner of social, political and cultural issues facing the LGBTIQ+ community.

A live stream of the parade will be available on SBS On Demand and the SBS Twitter account on Saturday 2 March. SBS Arabic 24 will report live from the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade to Arabic-speaking audiences around Australia.

You can watch the SBS parade coverage on Sunday March 3rd at 8.30pm.

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