More than a thousand excited and boisterous attendees dressed in colorful T-shirts gathered at the Sydney Opera House to kick off next year’s WorldPride.
A global festival celebrating sexual diversity held in various cities since 2000, WorldPride chose Sydney as the host for 2023 to mark 45 years since the city held Australia’s first Mardi Gras march on June 12, 1978.
Surrounded by flamboyant drag queens hoisting flags, feathers and fans, the launch paid tribute to the sacrifices made by former activists.
Dianne Minnis, a participant in the first Mardi Gras which ended in the arrest of 53 people by police, remembered on Friday her generation of activists who paved the way for the widespread acceptance of LGBTIQ+.
She told the crowd, “Who would have thought we’d still be here 44 years later?”
“Let us remember the huge surge of activism that followed the first Mardi Gras,” she said, referring to the repeal of NSW laws criminalizing homosexuality in 1984.
Attendees dressed in the vibrant colors of the LGBTIQ+ flag on the steps of the Sydney Opera House on Friday. Source: AAP / BIANCA DE MARCHI
Taking place in February, Sydney WorldPride will run for three weeks with 300 events scheduled. NSW Arts Minister Ben Franklin said the festival is expected to generate millions for the economy.
“With the budget announced this week, we are putting three and a half million [dollars] in Pride Village, which will be the beating heart of WorldPride,” he said.
Mr Franklin said that beyond its financial benefits, the event is also important for younger generations coming to terms with their sexuality.
“You’re up and you’re going to be seen,” he said.
For Naomi Palmer, a 53-year-old organizer of Dykes on Bikes, celebrating Sydney as a gay-friendly city is important.
“It all depends on who you are and where you’re from,” she said.
Dykes on Bikes Sydney is Australia’s oldest women’s biker club and started by helping gay men in Sydney’s Oxford Street who were badly beaten decades ago.
“We fought a lot in the 80s and 90s and the fact that we can actually stand on the steps of the Opera with our proud colors and be who we are is huge,” she said.
“We’re here, we’re queers, get used to it.”