Readers of this fine publication, I suspect, are not giddily counting the sleeps until the commencement of Sydney WorldPride 2023, the international LGBTQIA+ festival which begins on Sunday.
The two weeks of rainbow-themed revelry, which includes both the World Gay Boxing Championships and the Progress Pride Flag Raising Ceremony at Town Hall, will soon come to seem like an eternity rather than a fortnight, I reckon.
In fact, with all the pre-event celebrations and general chirpiness around the place, it’s easy to get the impression that WorldPride is already underway. Supermarkets and store fronts, it’s hard to avoid noticing, are bedizened with the latest iteration of the pride flag.
You may have been happily unaware that the new version features a sop to the preachers of intersectionality: black and brown stripes represent — come on, have a guess — marginalised communities of colour within the rainbow coalition. The transgender banner has also been incorporated into the Progress Pride Flag, as part of a chevron pointing onwards, signifying that there is, as ever, so much more still to be done.
Anthony Albanese echoed these sentiments last week when he officially opened Pride Square, yet another assault on the eyeballs in the inner western suburb of Newtown. After gushing that he would be the first Prime Minister to march in Mardi Gras, Albanese channelled Justin Trudeau at his most vapid and platitudinous by admonishing those who would be content with mere toleration: “We need to celebrate our diversity, not just tolerate it, because our diversity is what gives our society strength.”
Such genuflections — along with those to inclusion, equality and pronoun declarations — are going to get quite the workout in coming weeks, dear reader. But it’s not just the glorious gay future in their sights; the past, too, deserves devotion and piety.
Qtopia, I’ve just learned from the Daily Telegraph, will be Sydney’s newest museum, a permanent space to celebrate and preserve a record of the city’s rainbow history. If you thought that the LGBTQIA+ narrative began in 1978 with the march down Oxford Street, and then the follow-up marches through the institutions until its recent arrival at marriage equality and gender-fluid madness, you’re embarrassingly in need of remedial education. A centrepiece of the museum’s exhibitions for the pilgrims — I kid you not — will be 60,000 years of First Nations queer history.
Right about now, I’m sure a few readers will have already started plotting the ways in which they can make themselves scarce during all this merriment, perhaps by tuning into some diverting sports.
Yeah, nice try.
Both the men’s and women’s A-League divisions are launching the inaugural Pride Celebration Round to mark the occasion. You may recall that the NRL attempted something similar last year, but a few inadequately pride-filled Manly Sea Eagles (those traitors!) declined to wear the rainbow uniform and ruined the mood for everyone.
This time around, the ABC informs us, the league has been conducting its re-education policy for the last 18 months, which, I assume, has identified potential wrongthinkers and set them on the right course. There is also greater freedom for teams to choose their Pride symbols for the match — jerseys, armbands, colourful nets etc — so long as, you know, they do indeed choose.
And should you be in the stands and witness any behaviour not in the spirit of inclusion and diversity, you are encouraged to dob in your fellow fans by calling the hotline number posted at various locations around the stadium.
All right, soccer is out, but what about a refreshing dip at the local swimming pool to escape this particularly balmy Sydney summer? Well, be sure to check the day and location during WorldPride season, as some councils are reserving pools for trans and gender-diverse people only, although their allies may be able to tag along. This caused a bit of tension, allegedly, at Ashfield Aquatic Centre last weekend, when hordes of cisgender families registered for the event online, stormed the facility on the day and — by their mere presence, I gather — threatened the safety of queer swimmers.
I offer here a gloomy reminder that the festivities haven’t even officially begun yet, so we can look forward to a lot more of these acts of inclusion and goodwill. Nevertheless, the examples I’ve cited lead me to my main theme: the occasion of WorldPride — and I admit that some readers will find this comparison uncharitable — provides Sydneysiders with a good idea of what it’d be like to live in North Korea or some other one-party state.
That may raise a sceptical eyebrow, but think about it: we are now in a period of mandatory or even coercive cheer, where those clapping along with insufficient vim are viewed with suspicion; the party slogans — you know, love is love, trans women are women — are ubiquitous and serve as a test of one’s commitment to the revolutionary cause; try to find a politician or corporate entity not taking part in the Pride action — whether it’s out of true belief, fellow travelling or existential fear, it hardly matters.
Before the end of WorldPride, I predict, some good little Pavlik Morozov-figure will denounce his parents as enemies of the LGBTQIA+ regime.
For further proof, consider the manner in which dissenters have been treated so far. I’d argue WorldPride had its unofficial launch in Melbourne last week, when American singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers performed before eager and largely female concertgoers at Margaret Court Arena. At one point, Miss Bridgers directed a fairly lengthy and expletive-heavy hissy-fit at the tennis champion before she averred: “I think hate is undervalued.”
In politer moments, she led the crowd in the chant, “F*** Margaret Court!” The “iconic” star, as her Twitter groupies have dubbed her, has since repeated the ritual at various stops on the tour. For the most part, both Miss Bridgers and her fans have been applauded for their stunning and brave stance against the 80-year-old Margaret Court. It all adds up, obviously, to a pride-inspired version of Orwell’s Two Minutes Hate.
Although the thought police may not break down your door in the middle of the night, they’re always watching via social media. Dean Wells, a former contestant on Married At First Sight, took to Instagram to question the appropriateness of Manly Library’s WorldPride initiative: Drag Queen Story Time, an event for three-year-olds and up. The drag queen in question, Charisma Belle — also DIVA’s 2013 recipient of Bitch of the Year — huffed about his hurt feelings until Mr Wells’ talent agency unpersoned him.
Sure, you may agree that all this has a whiff of totalitarianism about it, but at least it only lasts a couple of weeks; the sound advice would be to keep your head down, recite the slogans, and you’ll make it through unscathed.
My rejoinder, which I prepare as I check the calendar with dread, is that it never seems to bloody end. Pride Month is just around the corner and Transgender Awareness Week is scheduled just after that; every other Tuesday there’s something like Pansexual Day of Visibility, or the latest addition, which is — trust me, don’t ask — Omnisexual Awareness Day.
If there is hope, it lies in these groups’ propensity to beat each other up, especially as the initialism overcrowds and becomes utterly risible to a greater number of the public. (The aforementioned Canadian PM likes best the 11-character mouthful — take a deep breath — 2SLGBTQQIA+.) Who knows? Perhaps there will be a schism, with a few sensible Ls and Gs forming an alliance to boot out the Ts, who everyone agrees is the screechiest and most troublesome.
There is also hope, I believe, in the underground resistance of students and workers who every day fight the urge to scoff at they/them pronouns or the prospect of yet another Diversity and Inclusion Training Day. Some years ago, many such people happily voted for marriage equality, mistakenly thinking that the work was done and everyone could go home. They were unaware that what the activists wanted next would be a real test of tolerance.
To give a few examples, to remain on the right side of history and dodge the charge of the latest phobias, you now have to: deny biological reality and affirm that men can get pregnant, applaud dangerous and untested medical experiments on children, and welcome the intrusion of men into female bathrooms, prisons and sporting categories.
Resisters to this insanity need to cast off their timidity and find strength in their growing numbers. Of course, my preferred method of fightback is the one I’ve modelled in this essay, though I accept that not everyone is ready to compare Sydney’s WorldPride to Pyongyang.
At the very least, should you receive an invitation to attend the upcoming festivities, be ballsy about it and impolitely decline, perhaps with a sustained rolling of the eyes. You may even feel quietly proud of yourself for doing so, and that, for the time being, is something worth celebrating.