Goodbye yellow brick road: the post-Mardi Gras blues

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is over for another year. Pictured are revellers at Mardi Gras Fair Day, Victoria Park, Sydney, Saturday, 22 February, 2022. Photo: Ann-Marie Calilhanna.

The post-Mardi Gras blues are real and they’re being felt more than ever this year. Travis de Jonk reflects on why.

As the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras draws to a close, I’m really feeling the post-Mardi Gras blues. It’s been a while since I felt so strongly about the festival period and it has got me wondering why.

I’ve felt a sense of expectation and excitement right from the beginning at Fair Day – the first event of the Mardi Gras season. Like some meteorological miracle, a week of torrential rain gave way to a perfect summer day in Sydney. To get to Fair Day, you didn’t any need signs guiding your way through the suburban streets; you merely had to follow the trails of glitter, thumping music and gaggles of bedazzled rainbow folks making their way to the event.

Last year’s Fair Day was cancelled and the year before, the event was somewhat dampened by an impending health threat, which had only been officially named Covid-19 five days earlier. In that context, it’s not hard to see why there was so much more expectation and energy about it in 2022.

Fair Day participants getting into the Mardi Gras spirit at Victoria Park, Sydney, Saturday, 20 February, 2022. Photo: Ann-Marie Calilhanna.

Colour, creativity and diverse splendour was everywhere at this year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival. There weren’t just people there from Sydney, but from all over Australia and the world. It amazed me that so many people persevered despite the Covid hurdles and anxieties that are still very much present in the travel landscape. Mardi Gras served as the magnet that brought them here.

As a community, we have all needed this so much. There were so many hugs and kisses, laughs and love, celebration and revelry, as Sydney’s queers and their allies came together and reconnected properly for the first time in two years. We swapped Covid horror stories and caught up with each other and our families. How much we had all missed each other, being out and being free.

People put aside their differences as they prioritised connection and celebration. I mean they really made it a priority. Regardless of any battle lines we might have had in the past within the community, the people of Sydney had spoken: ‘Mardi Gras is back, baby!’

CHECK OUT OUR PHOTOS OF 2022 SYDNEY GAY AND LESBIAN MARDI GRAS EVENTS

MARDI GRAS LAUNCH – RAISING OF THE PROGRESS PRIDE FLAG https://www.facebook.com/thesydneysentinel/posts/622879252452098

MARDI GRAS FAIR DAY
https://www.facebook.com/thesydneysentinel/posts/624480028958687

QUEER SCREEN MARDI GRAS FILM FESTIVAL – OPENING NIGHT https://www.facebook.com/thesydneysentinel/posts/628798575193499

QUEER SCREEN MARDI GRAS FILM FESTIVAL – HATING PETER TATCHELL SCREENING
https://www.facebook.com/thesydneysentinel/posts/628798575193499

MARDI GRAS PARADE – PRE-PARADE/MARSHALLING AREA
https://www.facebook.com/thesydneysentinel/posts/632994794773877

MARDI GRAS PARADE
https://www.facebook.com/thesydneysentinel/posts/633189034754453

Photos by Ann-Marie Calilhanna.

Few cities embrace their pride events so thoroughly as we do in Sydney. Markers of Mardi Gras are everywhere, from the Hunter, through the Northern Beaches to the Illawarra and west to the Blue Mountains. Mardi Gras imagery is found in supermarkets, apartment buildings, shopping centres and public spaces, in buses and trains, town halls and libraries. It’s on TV and all over the internet and social media.

This year, I’ve had my own experiences of how much Mardi Gras is embraced and respected. In my second job in customer service at a supermarket, the company offered all its staff double discounts for the Mardi Gras weekend. Such things only ever really occur during big public holidays such as Christmas and Easter.

I served a customer with an adorable little kid, who told me that their day care had a little Mardi Gras party for the pre-schoolers. That kid was dancing around and was on top of the world. The shopping centre where I work has been decked out in rainbow lighting, rainbow events for all ages and captivating mirror ball installations. Everywhere I go in my Zetland neighbourhood, people greet me with such an open welcome.

The reality is that people make this happen. They put money, thought, energy and creativity into every rainbow and mirror ball to be part of this amazing pride celebration and make each and every one of us – queer or otherwise – feel welcome.

Even if, in some cases, it is an opportunistic pinkwashing gesture, it is still a powerful testament of how far the LGBTQI community has come and our value to the society we are part of.

Sydney sure knows how to put on a show and make you feel special. As a proud member of the LGBTQI community, I cannot begin to express how deeply significant that visibility, acceptance and experience is, and what it does to my psyche to not just be seen, but welcomed and celebrated. Even the most cynical part of me can’t ignore the power of Mardi Gras – or ‘Gay Christmas’ as some refer to it.

‘Gay Christmas’ is a term I’ve always loved and found incredibly appropriate in relaying the sense if its significance to us. While reflecting on this, it hit me. Like Christmas, or Easter – this is now an event that is important enough to Australia to make a big deal about it. They mark it with special events, decorations and perhaps most importantly, acceptance. It is so loved and enmeshed into our cultural fabric.

And with WorldPride 2023 coming to Sydney, to be held in conjunction with next year’s Mardi Gras, we have acknowledgment that Mardi Gras is an internationally recognised and celebrated beacon of pride, acceptance and love of significance not just to our nation but the world. Wow!

Travis de Jonk (centre) enjoying the Mardi Gras Festival with his partner (right) and a friend (left). Photo: Travis de Jonk.

As my partner and I walked away from the parade, I started to feel waves of sadness build up. I didn’t want that uplifting feeling to end. I’ll miss seeing everyone together. I’ll miss the rainbows, glitter and personality everywhere I go. I officially have the post-Mardi Gras blues.

But you know what? Those blues are already dissipating. Because I’m already eagerly anticipating next year’s and WorldPride. I’m already preparing for next year. I’m going to get even more involved and share even more love. Happy Mardi Gras, everyone – here’s to Mardi Gras 2023!

Travis de Jonk is the features editor of the Sydney Sentinel, and the producer and co-host of the Sentinel Speakeasy, the official podcast of the Sydney Sentinel.

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