Whether it be politics, religion or just an excuse to party, Lachlan Bennett has discovered that students from UTS get involved in the Mardi Gras parade for many different reasons.

[hr]In 1978, in a world where homosexuality was illegal, a group of marchers gathered on Sydney’s Oxford Street to demand an end to social and legal discrimination of the queer community. The police met the small but loud group of protesters and performed dozens of violent arrests. But far from being suppressed, the protest became an annual event and over the next 35 years developed into one of the largest queer-pride festivals in the world, the Sydney Mardi Gras.

The annual highpoint of the festival is the extravagant Mardi Gras parade— a march down Oxford Street that celebrates the diversity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community.

Although the parade has political origins, the vast expansion of Mardi Gras means it has come to mean many different things for different people, depending on a range of factors including their sexuality, political views, religion, interests, occupation and ethnicity.

This year, students from UTS, UNSW and Macquarie Uni have teamed up to enter a cross-campus float in the parade. But not every UTS student participating in the parade is marching with this group, with many choosing to support other causes and floats instead.

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Vertigo spoke to four UTS students participating in the parade this year to find out exactly why they are marching and what Mardi Gras in 2013 means to them.

Name: James Wilson

Degree: Combined BA in Communication (Journalism) and BA in International Studies

Float: University of Wollongong— “We Are Not Just Queer, My Sexuality Doesn’t Define Me.”

Why are you involved?

This will be the 10th parade I’ve marched in. For me, it’s about catching up with friends, seeing all the different floats and of course, checking people out. I do it to celebrate the freedoms I enjoy as a queer person in Australia, and to have fun. If I wanted to make a political statement (aside from being queer), I would join a political party or attend a rally. Mardi Gras ceased to be about politics a long time ago. It’s about celebration, diversity and fun.

[hr]Name: Madelyn Line

Degree: Combined BA in Communication (Writing and Cultural Studies) and BA in International Studies

Float: University Cross-Campus Float (hosted by UTS, UNSW and Macquarie Uni)

Why are you involved?

“I’ve forever been a supporter of the LGBTQI community, but this year is the first time I’ve ever attended and marched in the parade. I’ve also recently begun my first same-sex relationship, giving me even more of an incentive to celebrate. Mardi Gras is about diversity, equality and uninhibited self-expression and members of the Queer Collectives of each university share an appreciation for all of these things. 
Marching with the cross-campus float this year is about being true to yourself. It’s also about embracing this value with others who share it. It’s the happy medium between individuality and collectivity. Put simply, it’s about sharing the love. After all, love is worth sharing, no matter what shape or form it comes in.”

[hr] Name: Alison Whittaker

Faculty: Combined Bachelor of Laws and BA in Communication (Writing and Cultural Studies)

Float: The First Nations Float

Why are you involved?

“I am marching with the First Nations float to recognise that queerness has existed on this land and in cultja (culture) for endless years and that when settlement occurred, it had a heavy impact our people including our sistagirls and brothaboys (trans* persons). I suppose part of it is recognising that queer and trans* Indigenous people do exist, and that they are proud, and that they love in really tender and amazing ways that are traditional and sacred and recognised and equal.”

 [hr]Name: Kate Alway

Degree:  Education Masters

Float: Sydney Queer Atheists— Higgs Boson: The Godless Particle

Why are you involved?

“I’ve marched with the atheists for the last five years because I run their floats. I think it’s important for atheists to be acknowledged as part of queer communities. There are so many queer people in the world, but many of us keep censoring ourselves because we think that coming out will upset religious folk. This is bad enough in the wider world, but in queer communities we should know better!

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This year’s Mardi Gras parade is on Saturday March 2.