In the aftermath of Mardi Gras I’m over come with a feeling of sadness. As the two weeks of celebration conclude and the flags start to be pulled down from our lampposts I can’t help but think where have all our allies gone? Where for that matter have all the gays gone?! For two splendid weeks Mardi Gras opens up a new world of exploration and freedom. Where holding hands is met with warm smiles rather then disgust. Where dressing boldly is met with enthusiasm instead of judgment, and the world seems to be more open and loving. Yet gay Christmas ends and suddenly the world is a cold dark uninviting cesspit of judgement once more. Where did our allies go?
Look, I get it, Mardi Gras is fun! It’s a time where you can finally wear that rainbow-sequined top with gold hot pants on a casual night out just because it’s actually what you really want to wear. You can cover your self in glitter and live your dream of becoming a real life disco ball. Maybe you just finally have permission to fully be your self, that primal sexual undertone of your self that you have been passively hiding as it isn’t acceptable in your daily life. I get it. Its great to be able to express who you truly are with out fearing judgement. The reason I get it is that for two weeks of the year that’s how most people in the LGBTI community feel. We can openly love who we love and dress how we want to dress but then it ends and we are expected to pretend we are no longer those people.
Two weeks of freedom comes to an abrupt end and we go back into our closets. We may still be openly queer but that doesn’t mean we don’t go back to dressing in a way that makes you feel more comfortable. Or toning down the “Gayness” because it “a little too much” Making sure we don’t hold hands in public or kiss our partner goodbye because to be honest we are just sick of the stares. While you continue your normal life. Sure it sucks that your work no longer thinks that rainbow skirt is acceptable office wear and your gay besties aren’t having the best parties ever. Is that the worst thing to happen to you? Probably not, so you move on. No biggie.
For the LGBTI community though it’s almost a rude reawakening to how much we truly are not our selves or accepted for being our self once the partying finishes.
Are you joining in this party because it gives you freedom to express your true self? Or are you taking a step back and recognising that this celebration started as a protest. To stand up for rights that had been taken (or never given) from the LGBTI community. For most of us Mardi Gras is a celebration as well as a memorial. Filed with great highs and lows as we battle with the way our world has evolved yet is still distinctly the same as it was over forty years ago when the women and men boldly stood up and carved the path for the rest of us.
It is great to have straight people stand with us. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when you can speak up for us in ways we can’t. When you hear a gay joke from a straight person and call it out it doesn’t come off as just another gay person being offended. It comes off as a call out of someone’s biases. But do you stop that joke? When the time comes that a college thinks its funny to call someone gay because they believe they aren’t being masculine enough do you call it out as wrong? Do you call out the person that says “they look like a big fat dyke” or “ is that thing a man or a women, because I can’t tell” Do you judge the person that comes into work dress flamboyantly? Do you wish that gay man would just talk a little straighter? Or that lesbian would be a little less masculine? Do you feel completely comfortable questioning LGBTI people on there sex lives when you have only just met them?
We all grow up with biases. We can’t help it. From the ideas our parents give us to social media. LGBTI have just as many biases of there own. The difference is seeing those biases and challenging them.
Deep down, in the pit of your stomach, that dark place that you never really want to linger in you know you went to Mardi Gras because One: you love gay people, they are sooooo much fun. Two: because you actually wanted to be your true free self. Hey who doesn’t love a night filled with glitter and dancing?
Should you feel bad for wanting to have a great night out? Of course not. Honey, come join the party, you are welcome any time. It’s more fun with us any way. But don’t leave the party once the two weeks are up. Continue our conversations. The war is not won, we may have pushed the front line back but we have not conquered the land. When you hear someone degrading the LGBTI community, loudly speak up. Speak up loud enough that those around you hear it too. Make it clear. Create spaces where LGBTI people feel safe. That person who walked in dress flamboyantly, compliment them. That couple you see holding hands, don’t stare, but don’t look away in avoidance either, brush over there hand holding as if they were a straight couple. Do you notice straight couples holding hands?
Challenge the ideas that you have grown up with. Extend your circle of friends. Are they all straight? How can you get out of your bubble? When you meet an LGBTI person don’t ask them about their sex lives, or their relationships, or where they party. Instead ask them what its like to live in their shoes. Every day we face the choice of being loud and proud about who we are and facing the judgement or fitting in. A lot of the time it can be much easier to fit in. Its not that we want to hide who we are, we just don’t want to have to justify our selves to every Tom, Dick and Harry who is fascinated by our existence. We are not exotic creature’s sitting in a Zoo waiting for a Q&A to start.
And here lies a sleeping lesbian, watch as her hand moves across her partners back with loving strokes. Awe at her natural abilities to sooth her partner to sleep. Any questions?
Leave the rainbow flags up. Why does our city become over run with pride messages only in March? Why can’t they stay? Let’s leave the GAYTM's up all year. Let's keep the signposts wrapped in rainbows. Let's show the LGBTI community in a public way that you are seen now and always. We are with you. Heck the city sure looks a lot prettier with bright colours everywhere then its usual blanket tones of grey. We could all use a little more colour in our lives.
Let’s make a pact that the conversations don’t end after two weeks. Continue our fight with us. You don’t have to be on the front line. Your contribution can be as small as stopping one more piece of judgment being passed on. That is enough for us.
From a woman of the LGBTI community, I want to invite you to join us. Join our celebrations, our parties, our all around fabulousness and join our continued fight to stop the prejudice surrounding the LGBTI community.