A grand welcome to the world from Sydney

Sydney Gay and Lesbian organizers hope that their human flag will help spread the message of welcome ahead of the World Pride 2023 in Sydney. Photo: Daniel Boud.

With Sydney WorldPride 2023 getting closer every day, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has invited the community to welcome global visitors with an enormous human Progress Pride Flag, writes Brandon Bear

Nearly one thousand volunteers, Mardi Gras members and queer community converged on the steps of the striking Sydney Opera House to form a human flag in the colours of the Pride Progress Flag to set a welcoming tone for visitors from across the country, and the globe who will join us for World Pride celebrations in 2023.

The three-week program in February and March of next year will be the first time the event will run in the Southern Hemisphere, and after years of hard work, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and Sydney World Pride are beginning to share information on the variety of human rights events, parties, arts and theatre. All of this will be bookended by an Opening Ceremony and Closing Ceremony rumoured to be full of local talent and international superstars.

The Human Flag project is just the beginning of a series of events on a scale that our city has never seen before. We spoke to some of the participants who were part of the event about their experience, their place in Sydney’s queer community and what World Pride means to them.

Elaine Czulkowski

Elaine was waiting at the base of the stairs before the flag formed when we spoke to her. Elaine has a long involvement in Mardi Gras.

“It started in 1998 and I didn’t even know what Mardi Gras was! I was a volunteer at Start and I loved it so much that it all went on from there,” Czulkowski said.

“I have been part of the marriage equality campaign, organising their floats throughout the campaign – so that’s a huge part of Mardi Gras for me.”

Elaine jumped at the chance to be involved with Sydney World Pride, involving herself in the Human Rights conference and the Sports Program, so WorldPride is especially important for her.

“It is incredible to be here in front of the iconic Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, bringing all the members of our diverse community today. We are coming together to send a message to the world,” she said.

“At least in Australia we are lucky that we have made inroads into a lot of LGBTQ+ challenges. Just to see this happen on the steps of the Opera House is incredible.”

The human Pride flag on the steps of the Sydney Opera House. Photo: Daniel Boud.

On what she is looking forward to next year, Elaine is excited about the Pride March.

“Walking across the Harbour Bridge is going to be a very strong visual message to people around the world.”

Ruby Hudson

Ruby has been a volunteer with Mardi Gras for nearly a decade after her brother and friends got involved and she saw what she was missing.

“I had come back from living overseas and had always just known Mardi Gras as an event to go to and have fun before I left,” Hudson said.

“When I came back, so many of my friends were involved in the planning and the night, and they were all having so much fun. I started volunteering with the Parade team and I loved every minute.”

Some long-term volunteers were part of the human flag in recognition of their contributions. Hudson was excited to take up the offer.

“This is something that you don’t get to do every day. I was part of the Spencer Tunick nude photoshoot here a few years ago, so it’s great to be part of something big and to keep my clothes on.”

The human flag event was meaningful for Hudson, who recognises the significance the pride flag has on the community, along with WorldPride being brought to Sydney.

“Even as an ally, I want to show that our community here in Sydney is proud and resilient and strong. My brother is gay, so many of my friends are gay, and this symbol just means so much to them, and to me,” she said.

“Bringing the world to Sydney is exciting. I can’t wait to get into everything there is to offer. I am looking forward to meeting people from around the world and showing them the love that Sydney has to offer.”

The human flag could be seen clearly from above. Photo: Getty Images.

Josef Garrington

Josef Garrington might be familiar to many in the queer Sydney community. He has had years of involvement in Sydney and around regional New South Wales in community engagement roles and was recently a face of the community in a Beresford campaign.

Garrington explained to the Sentinel why he was excited to be part of the human flag project.

“I wanted to be involved cause it’s a historic moment. World Pride coming to the Southern hemisphere for the first time is really going to put Sydney and Australia back on the map,” he said.

Being part of a huge community moment makes sense for Garrington, who gets a real sense of joy from giving back to the broad LGBTQ+ communities in Sydney.

“I’ve been a regular volunteer during Mardi Gras for ACON. I get a lot of fun and satisfaction from that and get to meet new people and welcome them into the community,” he said.

With the launch of the full World Pride program being launched at the human flag event, Garrington is excited to get stuck into the full range of offerings.

“There’s so much on the lineup for the WorldPride program. There’s something for everyone, whether you want to go out with your family, or party all night and meet some great new people.”

The colourful display marks the 44th anniversary of the very first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and sends a message of welcome to the world as Australia gears up to host WorldPride in 2023, with the hotly-anticipated tickets going on sale from 15th July.

Brandon Bear is the queer editor of the Sydney Sentinel.

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