Therein lies the wrath: these aren’t just businesses. They’re (supposedly) community organisations. Mardi Gras is a charity. The dominant voice complaining online (mainly because party tickets sold out so quickly) is cis, gay, male, gym-toned and cashed up.
From this, an uncomfortable narrative of privilege emerges about an event putting Sydney on the global stage. “Diversity” filters down to a narrow cohort.
Rearing its head is an age-old debate about what Mardi Gras actually is. The ’78ers will tell you that it began as a protest. Others say the celebration aspect is equally important: just as gay bars are more than just pubs, pride parties are more than just festivities; both places are sanctuaries that create rare safe spaces where LGBTQ people can truly be themselves for a few hours.
The group Pride in Protest say: “WorldPride has clearly demonstrated who they want by attending the conference: cashed-up, pink-washing corporates” in it “for the PR”.
WorldPride counters that concessions such as pensioners and Indigenous Australians can attend for $49 a day and 100 scholarships are available for low-income people to attend free.
In the commercialization versus community debate, it’s worth noting that Mardi Gras went bankrupt in 2002, and you don’t get to host one of the world’s biggest free night-time parades on a shoestring.
The other thing to note is that just 11 events have so far been on sale. WorldPride’s full program, to be revealed in November, will have 300.
Organizers insist the Mardi Gras party venue/dance floor capacities – increased since renovations during COVID – are in line with the number of tickets available for attendees, and that the 2020 party was a “big learning experience”.
It’s also possible to attend Sydney WorldPride for free – including major events such as the Oxford Street parade, fair day and the “Pride March” over the Harbor Bridge.
Sydney’s gay community – and the city more broadly – has tried to shake off its reputation as a vacuous, shiny and shallow place in recent years.
An event of this scale has the opportunity to broadcast recent progressive wins to the world – yet those astronomical prices set it off to a shaky start.
Perspective and humor will help our city weather these woes and host something world-class. With the parties, heed the words of my favorite meme: “Whoever said ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ has clearly never met a homosexual slightly inconvenienced.”
Gary Nunn is a finalist at the upcoming ACON Honor Awards for his journalism on LGBTQ issues.