Why Some People Will Be Dressing Up Rather Than Down At Mardi Gras 2020
While thousands gear up for the biggest LGBTIQ+ celebration of the year, Sydney Gaymers say Mardi Gras' message is about much more than drinking and glitter.
Mardi Gras is infamous for its Carnivale-esque festivities and its risque outfits, but the celebration also marks a chance for the LGBTIQ+ community to make their broader interests known.
"The LGBTIQ community is more than just than, you know, the glitter, the nudity, the kind of connotations that come from people's idea of Mardi Gras," Sydney Gaymer Organiser Todd Backhouse told 10 daily.
This year, Backhouse will attend Mardi Gras dressed as a Necromancer Wizard -- a character inspired by Dungeons and Dragons -- and says young LGBTIQ+ people often turn to gaming as a form of escapism.
"I grew up in country, rural NSW. Homophobia was a really horrible thing and quite often part of gaming is having the power to influence things," Backhouse said.
"Dressing up as a wizard might seem really geeky and a bit of a joke, but to me it's like a little bit of reliving that spirit of escapism and fun and magic."
After moving to Sydney from Orange, NSW, it took Backhouse some time to find his crowd.
He says his first Mardi Gras was such a bad experience that he left after just an hour.
"I had just turned 18 and I made some friends the month before and we decided to go to Mardi Gras together. I dressed up as a devil with much coaxing because I wasn't a very confident person," Backhouse said.
"Unfortunately we didn't prepare as well as we should have. So I found myself on one side of the street and my friends were on the other."
"These older, maybe inebriated, LGBTI people harassed me and I wasn't prepared for it. I remember leaving and thinking everyone is obsessed with getting drunk and having sex."
Backhouse later volunteered at the parade before joining the Sydney Gaymers and being gifted with a new appreciation for Mardi Gras.
"It means so much to me. You can see some of the people's floats and what they're doing. There is a float near us that's 'Witches, Warlocks and Whatsoever Against The Religious Discrimination Bill'."
"It's like, we could choose to come here and dance but we also choose to have a message and find ways for people to connect with real people who are going to be affected by the bill."
For Backhouse, one of the greatest aspects of Mardi Gras is that it gives LGBTIQ+ people a platform for expression and creativity.
"There's a resistance to flamboyance, a resistance to imagination. Think about it -- when we're kids we all put a towel around our shoulders and suddenly we're a superhero."
"But the older you get it's like, that's immature, that's stupid, that's too camp. It's like 'babe, that's in every one of us whether we'd like to acknowledge it or not'."
Sydney Gaymers can be reached via their Facebook page.
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