So, Sydney’s Biggest Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras EVER Happened

This past weekend was the biggest event on the Australian queer calendar – The 2011 Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras.

The Mardi Gras is an annual gay pride parade that has been protesting inequality and celebrating the LGBT community since the early 80s. The Mardi Gras may be held in a very small country, but in fact it’s one of the largest Pride event of its kind in the world.

For one night the city closes down to allow for thousands and thousands of cheerful drunk people to dance or march through the streets in various states of undress. Every queer and queer ally should attend the Mardi Gras at least once in their lifetime. 

This year’s Mardi Gras Parade was likely one of the biggest ever, with 135 floats, 8,500 marchers and thousands upon thousands of spectators lining the streets. Following the Parade was the official Mardi Gras Party, which attracted approximately 13,000 people in itself. This year there was a strong focus on legalising same sex marriage because, while the government are happy to allow the queer community to throw a party that generates $30 mil for the local economy, they still won’t allow us to get married.


Australian queer website Same Same has captured the Mardi Gras spectacle in a rather brilliant photo gallery, check it out here.

I’ve compiled all the news and gossip from the night, courtesy of both credible news sources and the Morning After Lesbian Phone Tree:

– Leading the Parade for the very first time were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. US actress / out lesbian Lily Tomlin was also out on the front lines.

– The Mardi Gras Parade was commentated by queers and queer allies including Australian Drag stars Miss Penny Tration, Tora Hymen & Candy Box. Also reporting from the sidelines was Olympian Matthew Mitcham, and various celebrities including Louie Spence, Charlotte Dawson & Ruby Rose. Ruby allegedly kept welling up with tears over all the bare-chested glittery Pride marching by. Aw.

– Entertainment was provided by US artists Alexis Jordan and Wynter Gordon. Apparently they were a hit. GUESS WHERE ELSE WYNTER GORDEN IS GONNA BE A BIG GAY HIT THIS YEAR?  That’s right, Girlbar’s Dinah Shore Weekend! You should come.


Rihanna attended the Mardi Gras and reportedly ruffled some feather(boa)s by choosing not to perform. Apparently she “wasn’t feeling it,” or something. Ke$ha was also rumored to be at the party. There were no reports of either pop star making out with cute girls and/or each other on the night, which is where my interest in their attendance ends.

Amanda F*cking Palmer was there too. I’m only mentioning it because she looked fierce.

– A few weeks ago, Christian Democrat Party candidate Peter Madden tried to ban the Mardi Gras because it “incited all kinds of lust, filth and moral depravity.” There’s always one, isn’t there. So it was nice to hear reports that John Madden, Peter’s less-ignorant brother, protested Peter’s views by marching in the Parade.


– During an interview with Mardi Gras Co-Chair Peter Urmson, Channel 10 morning news anchor Ron Wilson referred to the Mardi Gras as “disgusting.” I’m really quite shocked that this happened, anyone else?

Ron Wilson has released an apology/statement: “As a journalist my job is to present an issue from different perspectives. If anyone took offense at anything I said during the interview I apologise. I fully support the gay community in its campaign to promote the issue of gay marriage and I congratulate the gay and lesbian community on the success of Mardi Gras.”

– Have you been watching the new Australian lesbian reality web series, Generation L? We have. The girls were filming during Mardi Gras and promise to give you a little taste of their evening will be posted shortly. Keep an eye on the Generation L YouTube page.


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Founding member. Former writer. Still loves Autostraddle with her whole heart.

Crystal has written 320 articles for us.


  1. “Rihanna attended the Mardi Gras and reportedly ruffled some feather(boa)s by choosing not to perform. Apparently she “wasn’t feeling it,” or something. Ke$ha was also rumored to be at the party. There were no reports of either pop star making out with cute girls and/or each other on the night, which is where my interest in their attendance ends.”

    i love you crystal

  2. Umm…so apparently I do not have nearly enough “moral depravity” in my life. I am strongly considering attending this next year when I am finally done with grad school. Australia is tops on my list for places to visit so it seems like a perfect fit.

  3. The Mardi Gras festival is definately a calendar highlight in this huge beautiful country, along with a festivals in each State, such as Pride (Perth) Midsumma (Melbourne) and Feast (Adelaide) to name a few.

    Australia is diverse and it’s people are more accepting of LGBT folk than many truely know. Controversy needs to happen for subject to remain in highlight or it gets swamped by stories of Charlie or Lindsay. !!!

    Come to the land down under …. it’s not all bush!

  4. NOW I know exactly what time of year my partner and I will be visiting this amazing country!! MARDI GRAS! How awesome that would be! :)
    And I love, love, love that Peter Madden showed his brother what being a true “Christian” is all about!! :)

    • Actually, Peter Madden said the really nasty shit about gays and wanted the Mardi Gras shut down, his brother John that apologized for his comments and said that he personally supports gays. Peter is the bad one in all this.

      Also, soooooo going next year.

  5. Ron Wilson did not say Mardi Gras was disgusting at all, only some aspects of it. the over reaction by the gay community to an opinion is hypocrisy. Also if they cannot take criticism of a public event then it should not be a public event.

  6. There is nothing quite like the disappointment of thousands of drunk/pinging shirtless gay men when Rhianna fails to show up at her rumoured 3am timeslot…

  7. Wow, I had no idea that Australian Mardi Gras is Pride Central. That’s awesome.

    Incidentally: Amanda Palmer is indeed fierce.

  8. Pingback: Autostraddle — So, Sydney's Biggest Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras EVER … | MyGaySpot

  9. Ron Wilson’s comments were a surprise followed by a pathetic attept at a back-track and using the excuse of playing a journalist devil’s advocate —> fail

  10. Man, I wish I could have been in two places at once. As awesome as Hawaii/getting hitched was, I love me some Mardi Gras!

  11. I was there, had a great party with some good-lookin’ women :) First time (which is a bit slack at 30 years old!!), but awesome! Still bopping along at work!

  12. I stood in Taylor’s Square for 4 hours before the parade even started. It was a great time for people watching ;)

    The only downside to this year’s Mardi Gras was the weather. The on and off rain was annoying, but not like that stops anybody from partying it up.

  13. It was my first Mardi Gras and I was in the parade! In the Trikone queer South Asians group dancing Bollywood all the way down! Being in the parade & hanging out with the parade marchers was so much fun, we had our own party before the show. Also my boobs apparently made national TV. Woo!

    Less woo: hardly any support for post-parade marchers, which meant having to walk a zillion miles on your own and being open to harassment, and also people tokenizing you (esp if you’re female and/or a minority; I got “Pocahontas” comments). Mostly from straight revellers. I wwas quite charmed by this tiny girl in a suit who was so pleased that someone else responded with “Happy Mardi Gras” that she kissed my hand, hehehe.

    • You should report your post Parade experiences to Mardi Gras. Not sure quite what they can do but awareness of potential problems is always a good start.

      • Thanks for the reminder, I did write up about it on my blog but will send them a note.

        • I just tried it, the contact email box opened fine. Is it not submitting? You could try sending them a message on Facebook as well.

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