For AJ Brown, President of Trans Pride Australia, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras represents more than just a party - it's an opportunity to celebrate and elevate members of the Trans and Gender Diverse (TGP) community in front of the entire country.
"Mardi Gras has meant many things to me throughout my life," Brown tells SBS Pride. "It was a place to party with friends in the 90’s and now it's a place I can see my community thrive."
Brown's experience with Mardi Gras reached an "incredible" crescendo last year, when Mardi Gras produced the Trans Pride Australia float, making the Trans and Gender Diverse marchers "feel like champions".
"They set the bar really high but also gave us the courage to rise to the challenge and produce an amazing big float this year," they explain. "A whole group of talented and passionate TGD people have been working together over the last 5 weeks to construct it."
While the finishing touches are put on this year's float, Brown said it's important to remember that TGD Australians still face huge inequality in their day-to-day lives.
"There’s still long road to travel to reach equality for trans and gender diverse people, we’re a good twenty years behind the other letters under the rainbow," they tell SBS Pride.
"From the big ones such as health care, change of identity documents, family acceptance and employment barriers to the micro aggressions TGD people face on a daily basis such as the double take as you’re walking down the street, being misgendered in public, not being able find a safe bathroom to pee."
They add: "Everything we do at Trans Pride Australia aims to create a world that allows TGD people to live a life free of discrimination and reach our full potential."
Brown points out that there's an enormous diversity within the TGD community.
"It’s essential we represent the whole spectrum of our people, young and old, binary and non-binary, out and stealth, so others can see a reflection of themselves and know they’re not alone, know their gender is valid."
They add: "It’s essential we take up space and be visible in the LGBTQ+ environment. Up until the more recent past the 'T' has supported the struggles and challenges of the community as a whole, while remaining marginalised. Today it’s essential we’re visible and make it known there’s still so much more to do. We’re coming out of the shadows and into the mainstream."
This year's float
While remaining tight-lipped on some of the finer details, Brown tells SBS Pride that this year's Trans Pride Australia float is themed 'VIP' - a "playful and powerful" take on the necessity of prioritising the rights of TGD Australians.
"We're subverting the standard trans and gender diverse narrative - that of being discriminated against and marginalised - and instead we have all our participants step into the role of Very Important People for the night," Brown explains.
"They will dance and march with visibility, a sense of inclusion and great pride. The VIP theme will visually present as a contemporary twist on the roaring twenties in colours of the trans flag – pink, blue and white.
"Our music, Taco’s 'Puttin' On The Ritz 2017 remix', sets the tone perfectly for this fun and fabulous world. Think Baz Lurman and Catherine Martin’s Gatsby meets Berlin’s Weimer Cabaret. Political, subversive, gender queer and fabulous."
How to be a better trans ally
For other members of the LGBTIQ+ community and their allies, it's important to celebrate TGD Australians every day of the year - not just during Mardi Gras season.
"Get informed and know the basics so you don’t lean on TGD people to educate you," Brown advises.
"Understand the barriers we face and stand up for us in places we can’t stand up for ourselves; when a colleague makes a joke about a trans person, call them out, talk to your employees about having all gender bathrooms, wear and pronoun badge and introduce yourselves with your pronouns at meetings."
Brown continues, explaining the importance of amplifying TGD voices in the workplace and during panel discussions.
"Put trans and gender diverse people on your Board, on your committees, in your groups, on your diversity panels so they have an opportunity to make decisions and speak for themselves," they tell SBS Pride.
"Like our page and join our allies group to keep across news and developments about our community."
The Sydney Gay And Lesbian Mardi Gras 2020: Live Stream will be available to watch here from Saturday, 29th February 2020 at 07:30 PM.