No gays, no lesbians? MardiGras rebrand sparks anger
Fri 18th Nov, 2011 in Local News
Some of Mardi Gras' biggest long-time supporters are incensed that Sydney Mardi Gras' new name and look doesn't include the words 'Gay and Lesbian'.
The annual event's new logo and plans for the 2012 season were unveiled yesterday, and while many welcomed the new logo and guest act announcements, many others were concerned over dropping the event's traditional title 'Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras' down to 'Sydney Mardi Gras'.
Former Mardi Gras President Richard Cobden has been particularly vocal. “This morning’s Sydney Morning Herald front page sums it up: Mardi Gras goes straight," he tells Same Same.
“Neither the organisation, and especially not this Board or staff, had any permission or mandate to make Mardi Gras straight. [Mardi Gras Chair] Peter Urmson says 'this is our gift to the city'. It was not his to give."
The most immediate and visible result of what they have done will be to remove the most frequent, favourable, beneficial and powerful uses of the words 'gay and lesbian', Cobden adds. “For 20-plus years we have been able to force the mainstream media to call it the GAY AND LESBIAN MARDI GRAS. They had to say the words. For a long time they did not want to but we made them. That has been thrown away."
For years it has been a condition of non-GLBTIQ organisations and businesses that, if allowed in at all, they must give an explicit message of support to the gay and lesbian community, he points out. “Even major sponsors had to do that. How can the organisation possibly ask for that now when they themselves have dropped an explicit gay and lesbian message?
“Finally, sponsors had to use the words 'gay and lesbian' when associating themselves with Mardi Gras. Making them do so was a powerful force for liberation. Now they don’t have to use those words. Easier for marketing people to get sponsorship dollars and keep their jobs; a big step backwards for gay and lesbian rights."
Cobden concludes: “Had they properly consulted all of these appalling ramifications might have occurred to them. This decision has to be reversed immediately."
Several comments here on Same Same also highlight how many potential festival-goers are disgruntled with Mardi Gras' new name. “What's the point of all this if we exclude the two words that mean the most to the purpose or reason for the organisation's existence?" typed one. “It erases the gay and lesbian protest history of how this amazing event founded itself and who it celebrates," summed up another.
“To me it seems like they are saying 'it's ok to be gay and lesbian behind the scenes, but not in public'. Who would have thought that Mardi Gras would go back in the closet?"
Next page: Mardi Gras responds to the community's concerns…