Quiet Pride Tim Abbott Mardi Gras
Photography: unSplash

I ATTENDED MY FIRST Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade 10 years ago. In the decade since, it’s become an unmissable event in my calendar; a loud, fierce, and fabulous day that preaches diversity, self acceptance, and love within our LGBTQI+ community. It’s also a time for our allies to show their welcomed support, which is vital for our community achieving wider acceptance and equality. However, in the spirit of authenticity, this year I’m celebrating Pride a little differently.

I want to preface this by saying that I am an avid consumer of queer culture and history. I feel spiritually connected to those who came before me, such as the ‘78ers, whose actions and bravery have helped to form a safer Australia. I try to live my life in a way that respects their bravery and the potentially life-threatening risks they took to be visible and vocally queer during times when being openly gay in Australia could have resulted in a prison sentence, or worse. 

More than forty years on, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras organisation, festivities, and in particular the Oxford Street parade, hold incredible importance for our community. Attending my first Mardi Gras was a pivotal experience; it made me feel comfortable about revealing a part of my identity I once considered shameful, in a very accepting public forum—something I do not take for granted. The Mardi Gras weekend has evolved over time much like our society’s perception of queerness, which is reason alone for us to celebrate. Even in my short decade of attendance, so much progress has been achieved; we’ve gained the legal right to same sex marriage, conversion therapy has been outlawed in Queensland, Victoria and the ACT, and there has been a noticeable evolution in the demographics of parade spectators. 

But despite this noticeable progress, in more recent years, I’ve been unable to reconcile feelings of loneliness, alienation, and disconnect at these large scale queer events. 

Beyond the parade, I’ve seen firsthand the darker side of Pride celebrations that I don’t prescribe to. These are the things you don’t see publicised; everything you can imagine falling under the umbrella of ‘bendering’ carries on for days on end, with the only hetero-equivilant coming to mind being a weekend long bucks party or ‘Mad Mondays’. Pride marketing campaigns also typically showcase the most extravagant members of our community—who are fabulous, don’t get me wrong—as well as the most excessive events. As someone who lives a fairly low-key lifestyle, this often leaves me feeling ostracised. In my opinion, it can perpetuate a narrative that queer people must have a larger than life personality or visual appearance in order to be valid within the community. I hear this sentiment frequently among my peers, and many say they feel as though they have to show up in order not to offend others, or be seen as “a bad and or boring gay.”

I believe we are at the dawn of seeing more subtle and quieter LGBTQI+ representation integrated into the mainstream. The 2023 American Express campaign ‘With You &Proud’, which showed a lesbian couple feeding a child at the dining room table and a gay couple reading a book on the couch, was groundbreaking in promoting pride and queerness in ordinary environments and mundane moments. I remember watching the Barbie movie, and thinking how it did such a brilliant job of showing an extensively diverse depiction of women and women’s roles in modern society, from journalists to judges to diplomats, and, of course, the ‘stereotypical’ (there’s nothing wrong with that).

Tim Abbott.

I’d love to see this same, all-inclusive formula applied to Pride campaigns; from celebrating the ordinary moments just as much as the extraordinary events. 

And so, this year I’ll be commemorating the anniversary with what I’m affectionately referring to as my ‘Quiet Pride’. I’ve been a non-drinker for five years now, which hasn’t slowed down my social life, though it makes being around excessive drunkenness in crowds sometimes insufferable, and at times unsafe. For added context, I live metres away from where the parade will be held, so to simply stay at home on the night of the parade feels kind of antisocial. 

To turn this into a positive, I’m doing something very different: I’m travelling to Rottnest Island in Western Australia. No doubt, the crystal blue waters and quokkas will make for a stark contrast to my previous Mardi Gras experiences. I’m hoping that during this down time I can pinpoint my personal disconnect from the event and perhaps even return to it in years to come. 

With a community as diverse as ours, I will acknowledge it’s not surprising we’re unable to have a one-size-fits-all weekend that pleases everyone’s uniqueness. I appreciate that’s nearly an impossible task to achieve. This ‘Quiet Pride’ is certainly not a boycott, but merely a time-out. For everyone else attending Mardi Gras this year, I hope the parade serves as it was originally intended; a source of self empowerment, acceptance, and love for all. For myself, and perhaps others, this moment presents an opportunity to commemorate queer culture and history in a way that’s true to our nature—whatever that might look like. Pride continues way beyond the party, the weekend, and Oxford Street. It’s something we subconsciously embody every day. So whether you’re dancing in a sea of rainbow flags, or nestling into the sofa with a book, or taking a selfie with a quokka—I think the most important display of pride is making it authentic to who you are.

Tim Abbott is an Australian content creator, podcaster, presenter, writer, LGBTQI+ activist and proud Sydney Swans Ambassador.


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